Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 430 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GENUINE COGNAC BRANDIES. (Excepting the alcohol, results are expressed in grammes per too litres of absolute alcohol.) I Age, &c. Alcohol Total Non-volatile Esters " Higher Aldehyde. Furfural. IIII % by vol. Acid. Acid. . Alcohols." r. New 1904 61.7 45 5 82 125 8 2.3 12. New, still heated by steam coil . 56.3 22 4 61 too 3 1.2 3. New 67.7 51 . . 158 152 6 I.3 4. Five years old, 1900 vintage 57'7 92 37 125 . . 5. 1'875 vintage, pale 46'7 144 37 177 261 55 1•o 6. 1848 vintage, brown . 38.5 254 109 190 488 32 2•I Note.—In the above table the acid is expressed in terms of acetic acid, the esters are expressed as ethyl acetate, and the aldehyde as acetaldehyde. The " Higher Alcohol " figures do not actually represent these substances, but indicate the relative coloration obtained with sulphuric acid when compared with an iso-butyl standard under certain conditions. middle ' seventies to the 'nineties of the 19th century—the cognac industry was, owing to the inroads of the phylloxera, threatened with almost total extinction, but after a lengthy series of experiments, a system of replanting and hybridizing, based on the characteristics of the soils of the various districts, was evolved, which effectually put a stop to the further progress of the disease. In 1907 the area actually planted with the vine in the Cognac district proper was about 200,000 acres, and the production of cognac brandy, which, however, varies widely in different years, may be put down at about five million gallons per annum. The latter figure is based on the amount of wine produced in the two Charentes (about forty-five million gallons in 1905). Brandy is also manufactured in numerous other districts in France, and in general order of commercial merit may be mentioned the brandies of Armagnac, Marmande, Nantes and Anjou. The brandies commanding the lowest prices are broadly known as the Trois-Six de Montpellier. In a class by themselves are the Eaux-de-vie de Marc, made from the wine pressings or from the solid residues of the stills. Some of these, particularly those made in Burgundy, have characteristic qualities, and are considered by many to be very fine. The consumption is chiefly local. Brandy of fair quality is also made in other wine-producing countries, particularly in Spain, and of late years colonial (Australian and Cape) brandies have attracted some attention. The comsumption of brandy in the United Kingdom amounts to about two million gallons. Brandy, in common with other potable spirits, owes its flavour and aroma to the presence of small quantities of substances terrhed secondary or by-products (sometimes " impurities "). These are dissolved in the ethyl alcohol and water which form over 99% of the spirit. The nature and quantity of all of these by-products have not yet been fully ascertained, but the know-ledge in this direction is rapidly progressing. Ch. Ordonneau fractionally distilled too litres of 25-year-old cognac brandy, and obtained the following substances and quantities thereof: Grammes in 100 Litres. Normal propyl alcohol 40.0 Normal butyl alcohol 218.6 Amyl alcohol . 83.8 Hexyl alcohol . o•6 Heptyl alcohol I.5 Ethyl acetate . 35.0 Ethyl propionate, butyrate and caproate 3.0 Oenanthic ether (about) . 4.0 Aldehyde . 3.0 Acetal . traces Amines . traces Most of the above substances, in fact probably all of them, excepting the oenanthic ether, are contained in other spirits, such as whisky and rum. The oenanthic ether (ethyl pelargonate) is one of the main characteristics which enable us chemically to differentiate between brandy and other distilled liquors. Brandy also contains a certain quantity of free acid, Storage and Maturation.—Brandy is stored in specially selected oak casks, from which it extracts a certain quantity of colouring matter and tannin, &c. Commercial cognac brandies are generally blends of different growths and vintages, the blending being accomplished in large vats some little time prior to bottling. The necessary colouring and sweetening matter is added in the vat. In the case of pale brandies very little colouring and sweetening are added, the usual quantity being in the neighbour-hood of a to 1 %. Old " brown brandies," which are nowadays not in great demand, require more caramel and sugar than do the pale varieties. The preparation of the "liqueur," as the mixed caramel and sugar syrup is termed, is an operation requiring much experience, and the methods employed are kept strictly secret. Fine " liqueur " is prepared with high-class brandy, and is stored a number of years prior to use. Brandy, as is well known, improves very much with age (for chemical aspects of maturation see SPIRITS), but this only holds good when the spirit is in wood, for there is no material appreciation in quality after bottling. It is a mistake to believe, however, that brandy improves indefinitely, even when kept in wood, for, as a matter of fact, after a certain time—which varies considerably according to the type of brandy, the vintage, &c.— there is so much evaporation of alcohol that a number of undesirable changes come about. The brandy begins to " go back," and becomes, as it is called, " worn " or " tired." It is necessary, therefore, that the bottling should not be deferred too long. Sometimes, for trade reasons, it is necessary to keep brandy in cask for a long period, and under these conditions the practice is to keep a series of casks, which are treated as follows: The last cask is kept filled by occasionally adding some spirit from the cask next in order, the latter is filled up by spirit taken from the third cask from the end, and so on, until the first cask in the row is reached. The latter is filled up or " topped " with some relatively fresh spirit. Brandy is much employed medicinally as a food capable of supplying energy in a particularly labile form to the body, as a stimulant, carminative, and as a hypnotic. Adulteration.—A good deal has been written about the preparation of artificial brandy by means of the addition of essential oils to potato or beetroot spirit, but it is more than doubtful whether this practice was really carried on on a large scale formerly. What undoubtedly did occur was that much beet, potato or grain spirit was used for blending with genuine grape spirit. Prosecutions under the Food and Drugs Act, by certain English local authorities in the year 1904, resulted in the practical fixation of certain chemical standards which, in the opinion of the present writer, have, owing to their arbitrary and unscientific nature, resulted in much adulteration of a type previously non-existent. There is no doubt that at the present time artificial esters and higher alcohols, &c., are being used on an extensive scale for the preparation of cheap brandies, and the position, in this respect, therefore, has not been inproved. Where formerly fraud was practically confined to the blending of genuine brandy with spirit other than that derived from the grape, it is now enhanced by the addition of artificial essences to the blend of the two spirits. (P. S.)

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