Tips for Tasting Cognac
How to drink cognac is part art form and part personal preference. In order to learn how to drink cognac, you’ll need to learn the finer points and then apply them to suit your taste.
The Right Temperature For Cognac
Cognac should be drunk at room temperature. Do not heat Cognac as it destroys the flavors as the alcohol evaporates. If you have stored Cognac below room room temperature, perhaps in a cellar, take the bottle out at least an hour before drinking. If you forget or can’t wait, it’s best to pour your cognac in a brandy snifter and hold it with your palm. Good old fashion body heat will quickly heat the cognac to room temperature.
The best glass for sipping cognac is a tulip glass sniffer that has a wide bowl that narrows towards the top.
You may wish to keep a notebook or online journal with your Coganc tasting notes. As you approach a new cognac,take note of:
The label will tell you the producer, the rating (eg. VS, VSOP, XO or Napoleon) and the alcohol percentage. The label will also identify if the Cognac is Fine or Grande Champagne Cognac.
Cognac colors vary. Yours may be orange brown, bronze, golden amber, mahogany or copper.
The Nose (Nez)
The nose refers to the scent. Swirl the coganc in the brandy snifter, swirling as you sniff the developing aromas. Sniff from about 1/4 inch from the glass as Cognac is at least 40% alcohol and you’ll want to smell the aromas that waft from the glass, not the alcohol. Your cognac may have a floral bouquet scent with, perhaps hints of spices, cigar, faint vanilla,or fruits like apricots or oranges. Take note of as many scents as you can identify.
Mouth (En Bouche)
The mouth refers to the taste. Take a slow sip and allow the cognac to remain in your mouth a few second before swallowing. After swallowing you should be able to begin to discern the flavors. The flavors may differ from the scent. Your cognac may taste woody or of prunes and candied fruits, chocolate, gingerbread or even the scent of leather. Take note of the length or finish of the cognac after swallowing by timing how long the taste lingers on your tongue and in your mouth.
Should You Add Ice or Mixes to Your Coganc?
Generally, the greater the age and price of a Cognac, the more imperative it is to taste and drink it straight. After all, the cognac maker’s artistry in blending different eaux de vie and aging can best be appreciated in its pure form at room temperature in a tulip glass.
Despite the purist pleas to drink Cognac straight, there are many who take their Coganc with water or Fine à l’eau. International Man of Mystery James Bond references Fine à l’eau in a disparaging manner in the movie “A View To Kill” “A fine a l’eau is fairly serious, but it intoxicates without tasting very good, ” scoffed Mr. Bond when considering which drink to order in a Parisian cafe.
Before venturing, if ever, into blending cognacs with water, ice or other mixes, we recommend tasting them straight.