What is difference between Cognac, Armagnac, and Brandy?

The principle difference between the above three not so much their style but rather the regions in which the fortified wine are originally made.All three are made from distilling wine (usually white) and placing the pale spirit in oak barrels for several years to age. Cognac more specifically is a French city regarded as being the finest for producing ‘top shelf’ brandies and is located some 500 km south of Paris, 120 km north of Bordeaux, and 60 km from the Atlantic Ocean (see www.le-cognac.com). Not too far away, more to the interior in the Gascogne region lies Armagnac, also within the southwestern part of France (www.armagnac.fr). If it should come from anywhere else it is simply referred to by the more common term: brandy.

Letters corresponding to the bottles’ aging process and their quality designate its status. For example, if the letters VS (very special) are on the bottle it means it has aged for 5 to 7 years. VSOP (very special old pale) means it has undergone 8 to 12 years of aging and the word Napolean signifies 15 to 25 years of aging. Similarly, the XO (extra old) label guarantees a premium quality product with around 40 years of aging invested.

The Big 4 Cognacs Telephone Location Visting Hours/ Fees


Tel: (+33) 05 45 35 72 68

Fax: (+33) 05 45 35 79 49

Rue de la Richonne, Quai Richard Hennessey-Cognac 16100 Open 7 days a week from March to December 10-5pm. Fee


Tel: (+33) 05 45 35 76 66

Fax: (+33) 05 45 35 77 86

Domaine de Merpins (Rue de Pons/5km from Cognac) -16100 Open April to October from Mon to Sat-RSVP only


Tel: (+33) 05 45 35 55 55 2 Place du Chateau, Jarnac 16200 Open 11 am to 7pm, 7 days a week from May to September (except Saturdays in May and September). Free


Tel: (+33) 05 45 36 34 97 Place Edouard Martell, Cognac 16100 Open June to Sept. from Mon to Fri 9:30 to 17:00 & Sat/Sun 12:00 to 17:00. Fee


Spirits of Europe

  • a pony is .75oz of liquor (half a jigger)
  • a shot is  1 oz. of liquor
  • a jigger is 1.5 oz. of liquor
  • a fifth of liquor equals one-fifth of a gallon or 750 ml.
  • to determine the proof of a liquor simply multiply the percentage of alcohol(by volume) by two. For example, liquor that is listed as 40% alcohol (by volume) is 80 proof
  • an aperitif is a before dinner drink designed to heighten the appetite
  • a digestif is an after dinner drink designed to aid in digestion

the Bloody Mary, a vodka and tomato drink, was based on the nickname for Mary I, who was the Queen of England from 1553-1558 and notorious for her bloody persecution of Protestants (it was not named after Mary Queen of Scots as many believe).