Immersion in the Cognac "Bonnes Chauffes" - 2nd distillation
Following the advice of my twitter friend Agathe from Charentes at the beginning of January, I found myself off to discover the secrets of the distillation of Cognac and the famous charente copper pot still with its “bonnes chauffes“.. Did you know that the proper thing in Cognac making process is the double distillation? The second heating is commonly called "Bonne Chauffe" (good heating); it will result the "heart", which once aged under oak wood will be sold under the name of Cognac.
I set off to visit a property at Orignolles, very close to where I live – Les Barbins. The very kind owner was not put off by the numerous questions from someone eager to discover all – me !
I was over the moon to witness on this property an element which is so rare today – an alambic heated by woodfires and not by gas!
If you want to find out all about the double distillation of the charentais alambic/pot still – log on to the site of the inter-professional office of Cognac which has a very good animation of the distillation.
THE BONNE CHAUFFE (or good heating) OF COGNAC: what is it?
To make Cognac, the process called "double distillation" is mandatory. During the "first heating", the wine is introduced into the boiler and brought to a boil. The alcohol vapors rise (because the boiling temperature of alcohol is lower than that of water), and enter the swan's neck and then into the coil where they are condensed by cooling. They will then flow out into the form of "brouillis" and be collected to be distilled again. The brouillis is a cloudy liquid with around 30% alcohol and it goes back into the boiler for a second distillation, the famous "bonne chauffe"...
During this "Bonne Chauffe", the distiller will proceed to an operation called "la coupe" (the cutting) : the first liters that flow out, very rich in alcohol, are called the "heads" and put aside. Then comes the "heart", a clear eau-de-vie. Then the "seconds" (when the alcoholometer indicates 58% alcohol) and finally the "tails" at the end of the distillation process are discarded when there is very little alcohol left and the liquid becomes fatter. Most often (although each distiller has his own secret technique), the "heads" and "tails" are redistilled with the wine while the "seconds" will be redistilled with the "brouillis".
Only the "heart", this clear and limpid eau-de-vie will age in oak barrels to give birth to Cognac after legal ageing! To understand everything about the ageing of Cognac eaux de vie, I propose you this video on my Youtube channel... The video is in French (so sorry about ;-( but ensglish subtitles are available! )
In case you want a custom tasting tour to Cognac distillries, don't hesitate to ask for a free quote !