Give me the Henny, you can give me the Cris
You can pass me the Remi, but pass the Courvoisier
-Busta Rhymes ft. P. Diddy, Pass the Courvoisier
Cognac: You’ve probably heard some of your favorite hip-hop artists rap about it, or you grew up seeing your relatives drink this amber-colored libation at family get-togethers and holidays. And when you became of-age, you may have started sipping on this sweet, warm liquor—whether it was on the rocks or in your favorite cocktails.
At the highest level, Cognac is a brandy made from white wine grapes in the Cognac region of France. All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. The Cognac region has several crus, tightly defined geographic denominations where grapes are grown. These crus serve as classifications of Cognac and have their own distinctive soils and microclimates that influence the characteristics in the liquor they produce. These subregions include:
- Grande Champagne & Petite Champagne: Soils characterized as shallow clay-limestone, over limestone and chalk.
- Borderies: The smallest cru of seven. Soil contains clay and flint stones from the decomposition of limestone.
- Fins Bois: Heavier and faster aging, making it ideal for establishing the base of some blended cognacs. The soil in this cru is predominantly red clay-limestone and stony.
- Bons Bois & Bois Ordinaires: Furthest regions out from the others. Poor soil.
- Bois a terriors: Sandy soil, spanning coastal areas and some valleys.
Before the production process even begins, the region and cru in which the grapes are sourced will have a big influence on the taste of the final end product and whether it’s better on its own or in a cocktail.
History of Cognac
Cognac is one of our favorite liquors here at Forty Acres. Even though it may have originated in France, our ancestors have adopted the liquor dating all the way back to both World Wars when black soldiers were stationed in southwest France. It’s believed that our ancestors were most likely introduced to cognac with the arrival of black musicians in Paris jazz clubs, where it was a popular choice of drink.
With racial tension still incredibly high during the World War era, the love and appreciation the French showed for black musicians and artists was obviously well-received by the black community—and so, black soldiers were happy to bring back their new favorite liquor to the states and share it with their brothers and sisters. The tradition continues today.
The distillation of Cognac is a rather involved and impressive process. We’ll break it down here without getting too deep into the details. Before Cognac becomes brandy, it’s classified as wine. The white grapes (either Trebbiano Toscano, Folle Blanche, or Colombard grapes), are first fermented into wine. Then they go through a second fermentation process called malolactic fermentation, where the tart malic acid in wine is converted to a creamier-tasting lactic acid.
Once the wine fermentation phase is complete, the Cognac is then double-distilled in a special kind of lambic pot still made of copper called a Charentais pot still. Distillation begins on November 1 of every year and must be completed before March 31 of the following year. The aging process begins on April 1 following the harvest, and can only be done in French Limousine Oak, which produces a flavor profile of subtle, spicy notes. Generally, the darker the Cognac, the longer it has aged.
Cognac is required to age a minimum of two years, and most Cognacs we're familiar with are blends. Here are the three primary types of Cognac on the market:
V.S. (Very Special)
Also known as Three Stars Cognac, the youngest brandy in V.S. brands has been stored for at least two years in cask. Flavor profile: flowers, fresh fruit, citrus
V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale)
Also known as Reserve Cognac, the youngest brandy in this blend has been stored for at least four years in cask. Flavor profile: dried fruits, flowers
XO (Extra Old)
Also known as Napoleón, XO currently designates a blend which was stored for at least 10 years. The storage requirement was changed from six years to ten in April 2018. Flavor profile: dried fruit and warm spices, toffee, nuts, chocolate, cigars
Hors d’age (Beyond Age)
A designation aged for longer than 10 years. These Cognacs are equal to XO, but is used by producers to market a high-quality product beyond the official age scale.
Forty Acres Soul Kitchen: Michigan's ONLY Cognac Bar!
Cognac is (and has been) such an important aspect in the unapologetic culture of African Americans for nearly a century. Sticking true to our Authentically American roots, Forty Acres Soul Kitchen is dedicating ourselves as the only Cognac Bar in the entire state of Michigan and even in the Midwest. With over a dozen different types of Cognac on our Beverage menu (divided into three tiers), we’ve created a Cognac-focused cocktail menu with 11 unique Cognac cocktails and Cognac flights.
Not sure which Cognac to order? Let us help you pick your flavor!
While we recommend trying a different Cognac brand each time you visit, we’ve all got our flavor preferences. Check our recommendations based on what you’re feelin’ below:
For a lighter Cognac that mixes well in cocktails, order off the V.S. menu, like Hennessy & Hennessy Black, Martell VS, and Courvoisier VS.
For a Cognac that’s meant to be sipped, order off the V.S.O.P. menu, like Hennessy VSOP Privilege, Remy Martin VSOP and D’usse VSOP
For a Cognac rich in deep, spicy flavors, order off the X.O. menu, like Hennessy XO, Remy Martin XO and Courvoisier XO
For something whose flavor profile changes with every sip, order off the Hors D’Age menu, like Courvoisier 21 Year, Hennessy Paradis and Remy Martin Louis XIII