Distilling with our local Charentais still
Once the alcoholic fermentation process is done, the resulting white wine can be distilled. The distilleries remain active throughout the long winter months, day and night. We carry out this fundamental process ourselves in our 16.5 hl (436 gallon) capacity still following the dual distillation method. The still, in the form of an onion, is heated over an open flame. Made entirely of copper, a lengthy hat tops the boiler followed by a “swan’s neck,” which transforms into a coil that passes through the cooling condenser.
The Distillation Process
A slow process for a distinctive eau-de-vie
The unfiltered wine is placed in our small Charentais still along with its lees. Distilled with the wine, the lees actually bring out more of the cognac’s round body and aromas.
The open gas flame boiler allows us better control and more flexibility in the heating process. The heat from the boiler brings the wine to the boiling point. The alcohol fumes slowly rise, accumulate in the hat and then flow into the coil. Within contact of the cooling condenser, the fumes condense and flow into the porte alcoomètre (alcohol indicator) and we thus obtain the resulting first distillation called “brouillis,” or the heart.
The heart taken from the first distillation is then distilled a second time in the boiler. This second distillation, called the “Bonne chauffe”, is a very delicate process that requires significant attention. The first condensed vapors, or the “heads,” are still impure and must be removed, and then the last vapors, “the tails,” are removed as well to ensure only the “heart” remains, as we commonly call it. The “heart,” or spirit of the wine, encompasses all the elements that give cognac its incomparable bouquet and aromas.
This fundamental distillation process must be done slowly and with constant surveillance.
The family method
Knowledge passed from one generation to the next
The price of this constant devotion, born out of respect for the traditional method and knowledge of our ancestors, is the unique fragrance and great delicacy of our eau-de-vie.
If you have the opportunity to visit the estate during the distilling period, François Bouju would be happy to show you the art of distillation as practiced by Grande Champagne cognac producers.