Generally speaking, brandy and cognac are often lumped together. This is understandable, given the similarities between the two spirits, but their differences are worth making note of. Depending on the distillery or even the particular bottle, you might see a massive chasm between the two or virtually no difference at all. It’s a matter of degrees, defined by the people crafting the bottles in question.
Before we can even dig in to these differences, it has to be said that brandy in general and cognac in particular were on the ropes by the 1970s. Their audience of after-dinner sippers was shrinking rapidly. Distilleries were closing left-and-right all over France, Spain, and further afield. Then along came the burgeouning hip-hop industry — offering lyrical shout outs to their favorite brands. Everything changed. The American market opened up. Exports skyrocketed.
Rappers straight up saved the booze from extinction.
Brandies and cognacs have since become an integral part of the hip-hop game with a very long list of rappers endorsing their own bottles. Jay Z (D’USSÉ, Armand de Brignac), Nas (Hennessy), Ludacris (Conjure Cognac), DJ Khaled (D’USSÉ), and a long list of others have bespoke bottles or custom brands. The throughline? Almost all of these bottles are French Cognac.
We digress. Let’s get back to the matter at hand. What’s the difference between brandy and cognac? We take a look at each style and dive into where they overlap and where they diverge.