TOP 10 Cognac misunderstandings: From Conyak to Hennessey

Sometimes, some people get it wrong. That’s fine. Cognac Expert is the website which will help setting the record straight.

Cognac Misunderstandings

Here is a list of the TOP 10 misunderstandings regarding French brandy, the Cognac:

1. It’s Hennessy and not Hennessey.
First of all, Hennessy is French and should not be confused with American products. It is a Cognac and you write it without an “e” before the “y”.

2. It’s called Cognac, named after the town in the vineyard region of Charente in Southwest France. Sometimes people write Coniak, Coniac or even Conyak.. so this is how the word yak evolved.

3. “I have a Eastern European Cognac…” – No. There can’t be Cognac from Russia, USA or Japan – because Cognac is a protected trademark and must come from the region around the town of Cognac. It is true, Cognac is a brandy but not every brandy is a Cognac.

4. The Cognac is really dark and tastes slightly sweet, wow, that’s round and so mellow. It must be a brandy which aged for a long time.
Attention, attention!
There are Cognacs which are manipulated: Some producers add caramel to make the color darker, which is the code for older and matured Cognac, as the wood normally takes influence on the spirit. At the same time caramel makes the Cognac sweeter, but only at the beginning and normally not at the finish.
5. A XO is a really old Cognac. Well, that is somehow true and in a way it’s not. Do not forget that basically one could create a blend with a little tiny drop of really really old XO (let’ say 30 years old) and fill the rest of with ‘just’ 6 year old Cognac (which already qualifies as XO) – and you could call the bottle a “XO with eaux-de-vie up to 30 years old”. Of course, this can lead to a bad reputation of the producer/brand or cognac house because it will be recognized.

Read more about the age in our section What is Cognac?
6. Very Special is a really good Cognac grade.
Ahm, no – not quite. VS means Very Special and is the minimum age of a Cognac. So it is the youngest and in a way the cheapest Cognac one can make.

Read more about ageing and maturing in the section What is Cognac?
7. Hennessy Pure White is made from white grapes. That is true. But every Cognac is made from white grapes.

See our article on the white “Henny” here.

8. Ludacris crafted his own Cognac. Now people, that’s a marketing gag. He is not able to because only master blenders can do that because they developed an extremly fine nose to actually smell and taste Cognac. If you want to become a real blender, then you would have to taste Cognac every day for 5 years.. and perhaps 10 different eaux-de-vie every day in different stages.

Read more about Ludacris’ Conjure here.

9. The bottle and the design is so classy, it has to be something very special.
Well, “Very Special” yes, because it can be a VS (see point 6) but it’s all about bottling, packaging and selling for the eyes and the imagination of the customers. Do not trust your eyes but your brain.

10. Old Cognac, like from 1800, must be so very good, so mature, so round and aged.
No, that is not necessarily true. While wine actually ages in bottles, transpires through the cork – Cognac can’t. The moment you put a Cognac into a bottle, the spirit stops ageing and stays exactly like that. It is more the idea, the phantasy, which makes people buy older Cognacs. And the very early Cognacs weren’t that good compared to very old Cognac (50 years and older) one can buy today.

That means, you can find a really old bottle in your cellar.. and discover it’s a VS (it was aged in a wooden barrel for at least 2 1/2 yerars): So it’s a young, old Cognac. If you are interested in old Cognac bottles, check out our section “You’ve go a bottle?


Comments (4)

  1. Igor October 20, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Your point #3 is not correct. Armenian Ararat won grand-prix award in Paris in 1900 and was allowed to be legally branded as a cognac. But this is the only exception I’m aware of.

  2. Peter February 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Advice Request

    I’d be grateful for your advice.

    I have very little knowledge of wines and I’d like to buy a gift for someone who has an encyclopedic knowledge of wine as it has been their passion for 40 years.

    I wish to purchase a 1951 Cognac or wine.

    Do you think this is a good idea and if so, what could you recommend?

  3. Captain awesome August 17, 2012 at 11:25 pm

    I have some bottles of congacs of different but noble make. Some are in thier bottles for the last 10-15 years. Will that make them any better ..?

  4. il farmacista goloso November 11, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    @ Igor : point #3 IS correct… the armenian brandy got the right to call itself cognac in 1900 after the Universal Expo of Paris, but after WW2 it mantained its name only in Soviet Union countries; nowadays it can legally be called only brandy.

    There’s actually only one exception worldwide, and really not very well known: a type of brandy made following the french rules in URUGUAY may still be called cognac, as it got permission by the French authorities; this name will be withdrawn in 2015, upon decision of the European union.

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