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Breaking traditions in the Cognac category

Despite a highly regulated production process, Cognac has undergone an amazing renaissance over the past few years and is finally catching up with other spirit categories by offering small batch expressions with unique cask finishes.

While the BNIC (the regulatory board for Cognac) has strictly enforced the traditional Cognac production process since its definition in 1945, it’s no secret that Cognac producers have long been up for experimentation behind closed doors. Recent findings – like Alexandre Gabriel’s pre-war invoices for Chesnut Oak barrels – along with the recent push from several brands to “re-interpret” the appellation’s production norms got the conversation started again and opened new perspectives for the category’s future development.

From the use of non-traditional wood for aging to the integration of used casks for finishing, Cognac producers are openly experimenting with new things and leading the way toward a re-invented future. While I could spend hours reviewing the many ways all producers are innovating, here is my top 3 selections of Cognac brands challenging the status quo and breaking new ground within the category.


As one of the first brands to openly market and promote a non-french-oak-finished Cognac, Bache-Gabrielsen and its American Oak expression clearly deserve a shoutout and the first position in this article!

As a pioneer in re-interpreting the appellations’ production guidelines, the brand came up with new perspectives, not on “aging” but on “finishing” the Eaux-de-vie, and started both an earthquake and a renaissance within the category.

While there is not a lot of information available on how much time the Cognac spends in French Limousin oak for its first maturation, the finishing – which is clearly what makes this bottle unique – takes place for a minimum of 6 months in new American Oak from Tennessee, and the result is definitely interesting and different from your classic Cognac!

Our take: This Cognac showcases both the fresh and crisp aromas of a young VS (peach, apricot, pineapple) and the unique flavor combination of French and American oak aging (vanilla, bread dough, coconut), which makes it the perfect pick for many classic cocktails (think Cognac Old Fashion, Sazerac, Mint Julep).

Price: $40+

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When it comes to Cognac, Park is definitely one of my personal favorites and it’s no surprise that the brand made it to this list.

Between their Chai n°8 Single Cask Borderies and their Fine Champagne XO Cigar Blend, the brand has a proven track record of creating unique Cognac expressions that perfectly reflect their various terroirs and often offer new perspectives.

Their latest release, an amazing Japanese Mizunara oak-finished Cognac, is no exception and truly showcases the brand’s pioneering spirit and dedication to Terroir and Oak aging.

The 100% Borderies Eau-de-Vie is first aged for 4 years in French oak barrels (10 months in new barrels, then transferred to used casks) and then finished for 6 months in new Mizunara barrels.

Our take: Still quite young, this Cognac is marked by its soft, round taste and by its floral notes. The finish in Mizunara barrels although definitely too short to get the best out this very unique type of oak brings in depth and complexity, notably through an array of spicy notes.

Price: $55+

Where to getWine-Searcher Results


Writing an article on Cognac innovations without mentioning Pierre Ferrand would be like writing a book on the greatest American chefs without paying homage to Julia Child. Unconceivable, right? Well… here we are then!

Driven by Alexandre Gabriel’s pioneering spirit, I definitely consider Pierre Ferrand as a leader in category innovations and keep a close eye on what comes next.

While the owner has experimented extensively throughout his entire portfolio (Plantation, Citadelle, Curacao, etc), this article focuses only on Cognac and there is already a lot to say!

Since its first release of “Renegade Barrel” (showcasing both a Cognac & Sauternes casks maturation), Alexandre Gabriel has come up with many additional innovations including the Renegade Barrel #2 (a chestnut cask aged “Eau de-vie de vin” not allowed to bear the name Cognac) as well as their latest “Pierre Ferrand Reserve Double Cask” showcased here.

This Cognac, first aged for 7 to 10 years in French oak barrels, is then blended with 20 year old Cognac and finished for an additional year in ex-Banyuls casks.

Our take:While I haven’t tried it (yet), this is definitely a Cognac I want to put my hands on. Between the first, long maturation in French oak and the additional finish in Banyuls casks, I can only imagine all the amazing spices and rancio aromas it has to offer!!

Price: $60+

Where to getWine-Searcher Results


While these are my top picks for the article, there are many other brands worth looking into if you are looking for something different. Keep one thing in mind though: not all products can be labeled Cognac, and while the BNIC will leave the door open for special cask finishes, the “base” maturation MUST happen in traditional Tronçais or Limousin oak for the product to fit within the category.

For the curious, here are a few other brands and products worth looking into:

  • Martell Blue Swift – Finished in ex-Bourbon casks
  • Courvoisier Sherry Oak – Finished in ex-Sherry casks
  • Philbert Rare Cask Finish – Finished in ex-Sauternes casks

Feel free to share your thoughts on these specific references as well as on any other producer you feel is working on pushing the category forward !!

Cheers !!

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