16.11.2023

Should you decant cognac?

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    Should cognac be decanted?

    Cognac is revered for its enigmatic flavours and its unique depth of colour. Its rich amber hues are the embodiment of elegance, sophistication, prestige, and refinement. Many connoisseurs choose to use a cognac decanter to better display its warm, luxurious tones. If such is the case, keep the following in mind to correctly pour and store cognac in a decanter.

    Does decanting cognac enhance its taste or aroma?

    Wines are often decanted to release aroma, develop flavour, and separate sediment. Although cognac is distilled from wine, there is no sediment to be separated. Strictly speaking, it is not necessary to decant cognac, as decanting will not improve its aroma or deepen its flavours. Putting cognac in a decanter is done purely for aesthetic purposes. In a professional setting, occasionally a cognac that has spent a long time in the demi-john may be decanted for an eau-de-vie tasting.

    Some aficionados find that decanting cognac enhances the experience of pouring and enjoying a glass of this exquisite spirit. Alongside a set of fine cognac glasses, a decanter accentuates the rich colours of fine cognac and adds a touch of drama and sophistication to the pouring process.

    Storing your cognac in finely crafted decanters can make more of an aesthetic impact more than simply having a line of bottles on your bar shelf. It must be said that many high-end cognac bottles are works of art in their own right, a prime example being the artful arc-shaped design of the Martell XO bottle.

    What decanter is best for cognac?

    Decanters are usually made from ornately cut glass or crystal and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. While the type of decanter you choose for a wine can alter its taste and aroma, choosing which decanter and cognac set to use is largely a matter of personal preference.

    Although the size or shape of crystal or glass cognac decanter is one of personal preference, it is imperative the stopper is airtight and seals the decanter completely. This will prevent your cognac from becoming oxidised.

    Good to know: be cautious when using crystal decanters

    Leaded crystal was often used in older crystal decanters. Over time, the lead from the crystal can leach into the liquid that is stored in it. It is recommended to only keep cognac in a lead crystal cognac decanter for a short amount of time.

    How to decant a cognac correctly?

    Decanting is the act of pouring a wine or a spirit from its original bottle into another vessel. Pouring a fine cognac into a decanter is usually done for presentation purposes.

    Can you put cognac in a decanter? Yes, but cognac is an extremely sensitive spirit so due care must be taken during the decanting process:

    • Ensure your chosen cognac decanter is clean (it has no dust or debris settled in the bottom or on the sides).
    • Your decanter should have a stopper that fits precisely into the neck to stop air from leaking in.

    As with wine, cognac is susceptible to oxidation, which can negatively impact its taste and aroma. When decanting, it is crucial to pour your cognac from the bottle into the decanter slowly and methodically. A gentle, even, slow pour will prevent too much oxygen from mixing with the cognac and ensure it retains its flavours. Fill your decanter to the top, as this will also help to prevent oxidation.

    How to best store cognac in a decanter?

    If you do choose to decant your cognac, it must be kept properly to preserve its taste. Keep the following points in mind:

    • Temperature variations can cause cognac to deteriorate.
    • A cognac decanter should be kept at an even room temperature that is mild, constant, and not too humid. Between 15-20°C is best.
    • Always store decanted cognac in a dry and dark place, as too much sunlight can degrade cognac over time.

    Good to know: store cognac vertically

    Whether it is kept in a bottle or a decanter, cognac should always be stored in a vertical position. This is to prevent to cognac from becoming contaminated if the stopper or cork becomes degraded.

    How long will cognac last in a decanter?

    Spirits such as cognac can be stored for an indefinite period. Unlike wine, cognac does not continue to age once it has been bottled. It can be kept for many years and still be eminently drinkable.

    Care must be taken to store the decanter properly. Cognac will begin to deteriorate once it has been exposed to air, so it is best to minimise the unused space in the decanter. Be aware that a decanter may not seal as tightly as a bottle.

    With the correct method, a suitable vessel, and proper storage, you can safely decant cognac, marvel at its wondrous colours and enjoy its sublime taste.

    The History of decanting

    The word ‘decant’ has its roots in medieval Latin and was first used as an alchemical term that meant to pour a liquid from the edge of a vessel. The history of decanting spirits stretches back to the 1700s.

    Decanters were originally used to store spirits that were poured directly from a barrel. The decanter enabled people to serve their spirits at the table without having to continuously return to the barrel or send a servant for refills.

    At first, decanters were simple objects with handles and crude corks that were used throughout every level of society. Gradually, decanters became more refined and were used to present spirits elegantly and beautifully.

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