We’ve created an accessible guide to help you discover the art of tasting cognac. If you’re hosting a very special night, this is something you could do to round off dinner with your guests.
HERE'S WHAT YOU'LL NEED
- Martell VS
- Martell VSOP
- Martell XO
- Water- to cleanse the palate
- 3 glasses per person
We recommend around 10-25ml of each cognac per person. You can pick up a Martell discovery pack which contains miniatures of Martell VS, VSOP and XO (RRP £15.00 available from Ocado). One for two people should be enough.
STEP 1: THE GLASS
A good tasting glass is important, ideally tulip or balloon-shaped. The glass should narrow towards the opening because this concentrates the cognac’s aroma by your nose. If you don’t have a specialist glass then substitute with a wine glass. It is better if the glass is thin enough for the cognac to be warmed by hand as this releases the aromas. It’s a good idea to set out all your glasses before you start tasting. You should use a clean glass for each different spirit, so for this tasting you require three per person.
STEP 2: THE COGNAC
We recommend tasting in the following order: VS, VSOP, then XO.
This is a flight tasting: where you taste Cognacs from the same house but of different ages, leading your guests from the lighter to the more intense tasting cognacs. To remember which Cognac is in each glass, place the glasses in a line in front of each guest and pour from left to right.
STEP 3: APPEARANCE
Hold the cognac up to a light to see the clarity, viscosity and colour. To test the viscosity gently swirl the cognac around and up against the sides of the glass. As the liquid runs back down to the bottom it will leave trails behind, these are called the ‘legs’. The longer it takes for the legs to disappear the greater the age of the cognac.
STEP 4: NOSE
Hold the glass about 1-2 inches away from your nose and swirl to help release the aromas. Don’t sniff too hard as the alcohol vapours will obscure the subtle scents of the cognac. It depends on each person’s sense of smell so experiment and try a few distances until you discover the notes of fruit, flower and spice. Strong fruit aromas indicate a young cognac and spicier aromas indicate age.
STEP 5: TASTE
Now the good part! Take a sip of cognac, enough that you can slowly roll it over the tongue and the back of the mouth allowing it to coat all the key sensors on your tongue. Taste at the tip for sweetness, the back for bitterness and at the sides for saltiness and sourness. Keep the cognac in the mouth for about ten seconds to release as much of the flavour as possible. What flavours can your guests taste - fruit, flowers or spice? Repeat for each cognac, sipping water between each one to refresh the palate.
Tip: It might intensify your guests’ sense of taste if you blindfold them.
STEP 6: SELECTING YOUR DRINK OF CHOICE
Do your guests have a favourite from the three cognacs? Finish the evening by crafting a drink for your guests. For recipes visit our cocktail page at martell.com/Cocktail