One thing that’s super important when it comes to our favorite drink is the presentation. And this encompasses a multitude of different products. From the bottle or decanter it comes in, to the glass you drink it from, Cognac glassware is a hot subject.
In general there are two different styles of glass from which to sip your eau-de-vie. These are the tulip glass, favored by the connoisseur, and the balloon glass or snifter, often referred to simply as a, ‘brandy glass’. Find out more about glasses in our article, Cognac Glasses: The two basic types and their differences. We also discuss the subject further in, Which Cognac Glasses and Snifters are the Best?
In addition, there’s a contemporary take on the traditional balloon style brandy glass, known as the ‘wobble glass’. Made by Normann Copenhagen, it’s a great looking vessel from which to drink, and is certainly a talking point around the dinner table.
But interestingly, there have been moves over recent years by some Cognac producers, notably, Frapin, to, in their words, ‘boycott the balloon’. So what’s the reason behind this? After all, it’s been tradition to drink Cognac and brandy from a big old balloon style glass for centuries?
It’s all about the Aroma
Drinking Cognac is a sensory experience. It draws the eye, teases the nose, and delights the palate. And the whole reason Cognac glasses, such as the tulip glass, are the best to drink from, is that they accentuate the aromas, and drive them upwards. This means you then luxuriate in the stream of different fragrances as they’re directed strategically where they need to go. In other words, up your nose!
The big balloon snifter doesn’t do that. It simply accentuates the smell of the alcohol, according to Frapin Export Director, Bertrand Verduzier. His sentiments are echoed by the, ‘Crazy Cognac Lady, Michelle Brachet. In fact, she feels so strongly about this that she’s declared a campaign against the poor balloon glass that she’s entitled, ‘Smash the Snifter’.
The ultimate Cognac Glass
Is there an ultimate glass from which to drink Cognac? Many a connoisseur would tell you there is. The winning shape is definitely that of the tulip glass. And there’s none better in the art of glass making than the Austrian crystal maker, Reidel. Cognac Expert carried out an interesting tasting experiment using four different shaped Reidel glasses. Check out the results here and prepare to be surprised at the difference that the shape of your glass can make.
To decant? Or not to decant?
Cognac is a complex drink. It doesn’t age in the bottle, and once uncorked there’s a finite amount of time before the quality will start to deteriorate. This is simply down to physics, and is because the Cognac is in contact with air. Decanting into a smaller container can make this air to liquid ratio smaller, and assist in slowing the deterioration process. Find out more about keeping Cognac in our article, How to Store a Cognac Bottle.
Other reasons to decant are simply down to personal preference. While many people love the look of a lead crystal decanter full of their favorite brown, there is no need to separate sediment or aerate, such as with wine. Of course, today it’s not necessary to choose lead crystal if you don’t want, as there are other substances that don’t have the health issues of lead. It’s not harmful in a decanter you only use for short amounts of time. But if you choose to leave your Cognac in a decanter for an extended period, then the lead can leech into the liquid over time. And we’re talking weeks and months here, not hours or days. So there’s no need to ditch your precious heirloom just yet.
For those who choose to decant their Cognac, tradition has led to many of us using square shaped decanters. But today there’s no hard and fast rules as to your choice of decanter. You can go as traditional or funky as you choose.
In general, decanters are more of a showpiece than a necessity when it comes to Cognac. But as we’ve already said, it’s all about the presentation. And when it comes to bling and razzmatazz, no one does it better than the artistic creators who dominate the world of Cognac.
The Beautiful, the Sublime, and the Crazy
In some cases, the only way a bottle or decanter can be described is as a work of art. And over the centuries the glass and crystal makers have certainly given us some delights to feast our eyes upon.
Of course, there’s the beautiful staple by Remy Martin, in which they present their unmistakable Louis XIII Cognac. Who could fail to recognize its timeless curves, topped with the iconic Fleur de Lys stopper? Made by Baccarat Crystal, the dear old Louis 13 continues to be one of the most sought after Cognacs in the world today.
But it doesn’t need to be flashy to be stunning. For instance, the Martell Premier Voyage, launched in 2014 in a limited edition, is contemporary, simple, and a real masterpiece. This decanter was created by French artist, Bernar Venet, and is certainly a sought after addition to any collection of fine liquor.
Another wonderful example of how simplicity is gorgeous is the Hine 250 by Andree Putman. This classic square crystal decanter style is the perfect showcase for what is, as we can personally attribute, a tasting masterpiece.
Combining precious crystal with 24 carat gold can only lead to a delight for the eyes. And the Frapin Cuvee 1888 Cognac is certainly that. Containing Folle Blanche eau-de-vie, this bottle is a unique creation by the French crystal house, Cristalleries Royales de Champagne.
A showcase for Artistic Flair
More recently, the annual Cognac auction, La Part Des Anges, has become a world stage for some of the most crazy, innovative, and eye-catching Cognac decanters.
From the ABK6 Spiritu, with its symbolic vine and soil sculpture, to Renault Cognac’s, Age du Temps delicate hour glass decanter, this is where the weird and wonderful are brought out to play in a superb display of Cognac artfulness.
Renault Age du Temps
Discover more of these beautiful, charismatic, and sometimes eccentric bottles and decanters designed over the last few years in our series of La Part Des Anges articles, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018.
When it comes down to it, the glassware surrounding the art of Cognac creation is as important as the brown liquor itself. From the simple, traditional style Cognac bottle, right through to the decadence of the most intricate decanter, not to mention the vessel from which you sip your ‘yak’, it seems that the only limitation that exists is the infinity of human imagination.
And long may it continue.
Sources: thedrinksbusiness.com, lapartdesanges.com