Cognac is protected the same way as Champagne and can be produced only in the Cognac region in Northwest of France.
Grape varieties have a huge impact on the overall flavour of the finished Cognac and by the law large majority of the spirit production comes from three distinctly different grape varieties Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanch, Colombard.
Classification of Cognac
Cognac can be classified based on ageing, quality and style of Cognac and despite being clearly French, many English words are used on the label. After Cognac is double distilled in a pot still, aged in oak cask and blended then is labelled according to the period of time that youngest cognac has spent ageing in oak cask.
VS Very Special or *** – Aged for at least 2 years
VSOP Very Special Old Pale – Aged for at least 4 years
XO Extra Old – Aged for at least 6 years
Armagnac can be produced only in the specific region and has the same classification system as cognac. The difference is in the method of production. Armagnac is only distilled once and use slightly different grape varieties predominantly Ugni Blanc grapes.
Armagnac has a bold, robust and complex taste profile with ABV around 46-48%.
Pisco is unaged spirit made from grape juice(must) and the biggest producing countries are Chile and Peru. Pisco can be drunk neat but is probably the most famous for Pisco sour cocktail.
The Italian spirit made from Pomace (leftovers from wine production skins, stems, seeds of grapes). Grappa is excellent digestif (post-meal drink) drunk from a tulip shaped glass. Italians drink Grappa with a shot of espresso but can be also enjoyed in many contemporary cocktails or mixed with a prosecco.
We need to distinguish Eau de vie(France) which is clear, a colourless spirit made by fermentation and double distillation process. So the result is the pure light spirit. Most commonly available flavours in France are eau de vie de Poire (pear), eau de vie de Mirabelle (yellow plum) and eau de vie de pêche (peach).
There are other countries apart from France producing distilled fruit spirit such as Cherry(Kirschwasser), Apple(Applejack), or Plum(Slivovitz).
Some fruit brandies can also refer to a fruit flavoured liqueurs that are sweetened with sugar with the high concentration of fruit flavours.
Outstanding style of French Brandy is made mainly from apples and pears in the Normandy region with around 200 different apple varieties. Calvados is also classified based on ageing system similar one to those for cognac and Armagnac. Calvados is double distilled and has to be aged for a minimum of 2 years. Calvados can be associated with a production of cider.