A smooth cognac is admired and enjoyed by cognac aficionados; yet smoothness is just as often sought-after when selecting the best cognac for beginners.
But what exactly does it mean to describe a cognac as smooth?
As with most questions of taste, the notion of smoothness is subjective. How one defines smooth, and what smoothness means in relation to cognac, is primarily a matter of personal preference.
Let’s start with the word itself. In its most literal sense, smoothness can refer to a lack of sharp edges. A cognac described as smooth might equally be considered round, velvety, plush, or even opulent.
What about the attributes of smoothness? When talking about cognac, or indeed other spirits such as whisky, smoothness usually refers to a variety of features. Commonly these include that the spirit be light on the palate, and easy on the finish.
Smoothness is not a question of age; cognacs both young and old can be equally smooth. Yet in different ways.
In a young cognac, smoothness is often perceived through the notes of fresh, cooked, and stewed fruits, as well as those of sweet spices or pastries. In Martell VSOP, for example, luscious fruit notes fuse deliciously with hints of wood and soft spices, for an effect that is subtle, elegant and balanced.
By contrast, in extra old cognacs such as Martell XO, smoothness and other superior qualities are often conveyed through the notes of candied or dried fruits, alongside those of Fins Bois terroir, wonderfully melded together.
From a technical standpoint, a smooth cognac is typically around 40% ABV, as any higher alcohol volume will overpower the other smooth qualities. Its flavours should also meld effortlessly, and evolve during the tasting.
In short, smoothness is essentially a reflection of individual perception. To determine which cognac is the smoothest, simply take account of the combination of different perceptions of the smell (nose), taste (mouth), sensations (nose and mouth) and finish.
The secret to smooth cognac is to enjoy it your own way.
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