Innovation is the beating heart of Cognac production and despite the spirit having first graced our palates more than 300 years ago, there are still those who are pushing the boundaries of eaux-de-vie to bring us groundbreaking new offerings.
Larsen Cognac is now the latest house to redefine the possibilities of production as it has crafted the world’s first Cognac to be aged in steam toasted barrels. The revolutionary new product is called Aqua Ignis A.I., translated to Water Fire, which speaks to the way in which these two powerful elements are combined in this pioneering process.
The method for aging Aqua Ignis starts much the same as with other Cognacs, as the eaux-de-vie are first aged in traditional oak barrels. Once the eaux-de-vie are extracted, they are then blended before being transferred to specially made Aqua Ignis III barrels to continue aging at an alcohol degree of 50%.
For this unique Cognac, the Aqua Ignis III barrels are handmade by Larsen from fine-grain French oak barrels of 225-liter capacity in order to undergo the steam-toasting process. The selection of fine-grain oak is deliberate and contributes to the final result. Not only does this specific wood respond perfectly to the Aqua Ignis method by bringing a significant contribution of vanilla, but the density of the oak also prevents the release of undesired tannins.
The Steam Toasting Process
Now, it is at this stage of the process that things really start to get interesting. In preparation for the second aging of the eaux-de-vie, the hand-crafted barrels have been exposed to Larsen’s triple brasero steam-toasting treatment. Larsen’s unprecedented and legally protected method involves plunging the 225-liter barrels into hot water for five to ten minutes before then toasting the barrels over a wood fire for 25 to 30 minutes, with this process being repeated three times.
With a standard brasero treatment, the oak fibers often become burnt, resulting in undesired tannic and smoky notes entering the blend, however due to the immersion in water and steam the fibers are protected and the blend will be untarnished.
As previously mentioned, the Aqua Ignis III barrels are of 225-liter capacity, which means the volume to surface ratio of the wood is 14% higher than in a traditional 350-liter barrel. These smaller barrels intensify the extraction of the aromas from the oak, welcoming new and more complex flavors to the Cognac.
A selection of eaux-de-vie from the Fins Bois and Bons Bois terroirs have been meticulously selected for the Aqua Ignis blend due to their intense fruit aromas. Larsen chose to include multiple eaux-de-vie in the Cognac in order to further contribute to its complexity and aromatic richness.
Every aspect of production has been considered to make this Cognac truly unique. It is a thrilling blend that defies typical age categories due to the unprecedented process it has undergone. The alcohol percentage has been purposefully reduced to exactly 42.3% as this is deemed the ultimate point of aromatic expression, where alcohol and taste come into perfect balance. Larsen Aqua Ignis is a spirit like no other in existence, it has the capability to cross boundaries, and delight those who would usually favor whisky or bourbon, as well as Cognac consumers who are searching for a new and exciting experience.
The End Result: Aqua Ignis
The production of Cognac has always involved the elements of earth and air, as the process begins with the vines that grow from the soil and ends with the eaux-de-vie’s exposure to air as it ages. However, Larsen has now become the first producer to unite all four elements with the combination of aqua (water) and ignis (fire) in its revolutionary steam-toasting treatment.
The end result is a one-of-a-kind luxurious Cognac that presents extraordinary aromas of vanilla, toasted bread, mocha and brioche, and concludes with a lingering silky finish. Larsen Aqua Ignis has changed the game of Cognac production and we can’t wait for our palates to play.