WAYS AND MEANS OF THE CELLAR MASTER
A know-how transmitted from generation to generation.
Cognac making follows a very complex process.
It is rarely born of a single eau-de-vie or a single growing area, but generally from a blend of different ages and crus, sometimes up to a hundred of them.
The blending, or 'marriage' is conducted under the watchful eye of the cellar master who upholds the brand's taste.
In Cognac, he or she is a great alchemist of style. Each Cognac house guards its own secrets regarding the blending and assembling of eaux-de-vie fiercely.
With a great deal of expertise, combined with intuition and method, the cellar master holds the key to this secret and transmits his know-how from generation to generation. He is responsible for the purchase of eaux-de-vie, he follows their elaboration until their maturity, decides their transfer from young to old wooden casks and oversees the blending. His role is essential in reaching the consistency of each product.
Most large houses have hundreds of sources whose spirits they blend to achieve a constant taste.
The final blend is made by the master blender who, as in armagnac, has four groups of permitted additives at his disposal.
Water is the most natural additive, normally used to cut excessive alcohol or heat (essential for double-distilled products) but also to sell and lower duties and taxes.
Boisé is a second permitted additive, created by boiling wood chips in water, then removing the chips and slowly reducing the remaining liquid. What one is left with is a dark brown liquid that is replete with wood flavor and tannin. The reasons for using boisé are simple. It basically gives the impression of oak aging to a final spirit. An aged-boisé is also available to the enologist. It is less bitter than straight boisé, and offers secondary wood aromas like vanilla and grilled nuts, giving an impression of age to a spirit.
Sugar syrup is the third adjustment tool which is used to add sweetness. It is viscous, and can either be dark or light. Legally, 2% of a cognac's content can be sugar syrup.A final shortcut is caramel. Caramel is a liquid made from burned sugar. It is dark in color and slightly bitter in taste. It is not used to sweeten cognac, but to adjust its color and establish consistency or give the spirit the impression of being older and therefore smoother.
With a great deal of expertise, combined with intuition and method, the cellar master holds the key to this secret and transmits his know-how from generation to generation.