The Charentaise method, also known as double distillation, is the traditional process used to distill Cognac and other brandies in the Cognac region of France. This method is named after the region’s iconic shoe, the “Charentaise,” which is known for its distinctive shape and quality.
The Charentaise method involves the use of copper pot stills, which are believed to be the best type of stills for producing high-quality Cognac. The double distillation process involves two separate distillations, each with a specific purpose.
The first distillation is called the “brouillis,” and it involves heating the wine in the copper still until it produces a distillate that is around 30-32% alcohol by volume (ABV). This distillate contains a mix of volatile compounds, including ethanol, water, and various flavor and aroma compounds.
The second distillation, called the “bonne chauffe,” involves heating the brouillis in the same copper still, which is carefully monitored and controlled by the distiller. This process is slow and deliberate, and the distillate that is produced is typically around 70% ABV. This second distillate is also known as the “eau-de-vie,” which translates to “water of life.”
The eau-de-vie is then aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two years, during which time it will continue to develop and mature. The oak barrels used in the aging process are typically made from a specific type of oak called “limousin,” which is known for its tight grain and ability to impart subtle flavors and aromas to the Cognac.
The double distillation process is essential to the production of high-quality Cognac, as it allows for the separation of the unwanted compounds from the desirable ones. The brouillis contains many of the unwanted compounds that can contribute to off-flavors and aromas, while the bonne chauffe produces a cleaner and more concentrated distillate that is essential for the unique character of Cognac.
The Charentaise method of double distillation in copper stills has been used for centuries in the Cognac region of France, and it is considered one of the most important aspects of Cognac production. This traditional method, along with the strict regulations on the production and aging of Cognac, ensures that only the highest quality and most authentic Cognac is produced in the region.