Sunday, July 30, 2017

What is Happening in the Barrel: Part 3

Barrels Stacked in a Aging Bodega
      Jordan Bushell from Hennessy speaks about the meticulously planned aging process of Cognac.  "The first flavor concentration is through distillation. The second concentration is through the angel's share".   Hennessy uses two types of aging warehouses to manipulate brandy in different ways. The company's dry cellars have an annual angel's share 4% on new barrels, while the angel's share in its humid cellars can be as little as 0.5%. The humid cellars, therefore, are where the very old Cognacs are kept, maturing at a slow rate without too much of the precious liquid evaporating away.  

Classic Aging Bodega
Filling the Barrels
     Hennessy also groups its barrels into categories depending on how long they've held maturing brandy and how much impact they'll have on spirits aging in them.  Barrels used for up to one year are in Category A, while Category E indicates barrels that have already been in use for 20 to 35 years. Different marques of Cognac will age through different combinations of barrel categories and placement in different cellars. Furthermore, Hennessy does not simply age a VSOP Cognac a little longer to get the XO marque; it ages the spirit in a different combination of barrels and cellars for each blend.

Good Labeling of the Barrels

     Overall, these three articles give you an idea of how complicated the chemistry of aging spirits can be, how advanced the scientific understanding of it is, and how much data can contribute to the decision-making in spirits production. But at the end of the day, someone with a trained palate rather than someone trained in chemistry will make the final decision on which products make it to market. Like I said at the end of yesterday’s edition, people will be buying these spirits, people looking for sensory experiences and not real interested in scientific data.