How to experience cognac

Tasting the spirit

In order to discover all the subtleties of a Cognac, a taster will take much pleasure in collecting many bits of information with his eye and nose alone.

General tasting principles

To best awaken your senses and taste like a pro, let these few pieces of advice be your guide:

  • Pour Cognac in a tulip glass whose shape was especially designed and is recommended by professional tasters. Such a glass retains aromas and reveals them with great delicacy during the tasting.
  • Fill the glass with about 1 oz of Cognac. Hold it by its foot and rotate the Cognac easily, slowly and gently to reveal all its aromas. Hold the glass in the same manner during all the steps of the tasting experience.
  • For a successful tasting, make sure the temperature of the Cognac is the same as the ambient temperature.

Visual examination

This is the first contact with the Cognac and it is paramount:

  • Raise the glass to your eye. Look carefully at the colour and its nuances preferably against a white background.
  • Tilt the glass carefully to appreciate the intensity and brightness at the surface of the Cognac. Doing this makes the Cognac “cry” : its tears slowly run along the inside of the glass.
  • You can now describe the Cognac according to its colour, its clarity and its viscosity…
  • Cognac can display a multitude of different hues.
  • Its clarity can be cristaline, brilliant, dull, cloudy. – Its viscosity can be described as watery, syrupy or oily.

On the nose

There are two ways of perceiving aromas : directly through the nose, or indirectly through the mouth (retro-olfaction). The nose examination is the most important phase of the tasting. It is a two-step process:

  • 1st nose : bring the glass to your nose without stirring in. This is the “rising”, by which you slow down the release of the most volatile and delicate elements.
  • 2nd nose : rotate the glass in order to aerate the Cognac and speed up the release of the aromatic compounds in it. The specific shape of the tulip glass helps the process.

On the palate

With its sensory receptors or taste-buds, the tongue is apt to detect sweetness (on the front), saltiness (on the back side), aci- dity (on the side) and bitterness (in the back). (This can vary from person to person.)
In order to assess the taste and aromas of the Cognac, take a mouthful and suck in a small amount of air over it. The Cognac will reach most of the taste receptors in the mouth. It will also release aromatic vapours in the olfactive bulb via the retronasal passage.
Here is a list of the sensations that appear in the mouth : Aromatic (retro-olfaction), Tactile (fluidity, onctuosity, stinginess,…), Taste, Chemical (astringency,…), Warmth