Predominantly used, the balloon glass has marked generations of cognac consumers. Is it the best glass for tasting spirits?
It is said that Talleyrand, when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs, had to serve after a diplomatic dinner a cognac "Fine Champagne" of a great finesse and that he was outraged by the conduct of one of the guests swallowing in a trait the precious beverage. Approaching his guest, he pointed out to him that this quality alcohol was entitled to show consideration for.
The guest: "May I ask you to teach me to enjoy it?” inquired the culprit
Talleyrand: "Willingly" serving him a second time.
Talleyrand: "Take your drink in the palm of your hand, warm it, then after four to five minutes, give a light circular motion, finally lean towards it and smell the precious eaux-de-vie"
The guest: "And then my lord?"
Talleyrand: "Then? When we have accomplished all these rites, we lay down the glass and ... we talk."
Tulip glass and balloon glass
Talleyrand refers to the balloon glass, which characterizes the cognac glasses. In general, the balloon glass has a capacity of 6 to 9 cl, on a short leg which is held in the palm of the hand to warm the alcohol and to best free its aromas. In the minds of most consumers, it is a symbol that represents cognac.
Order your tulip glasses on the Cognac Prunier shop
The problem is that the balloon glass "concentrates" on a large area the alcohol that explodes in your nose and prevents you from smelling anything. Try the tulip glass, with the body narrowing to the top to concentrate aromas and gently releases them. The top of the glass is narrow so it distributes the arrival of aromas during the tasting. This goes against the use of balloon glass wide aperture, at least for an analytic tasting. For this type of tastings, the tulip glass is unavoidable. All Cognac houses recommend the tulip glass, including the Maison Prunier.
Baccarat Crystal Glasses from the 19th century designed for a Cognac Prunier 1797 cuvee
The great cognacs can also be appreciated in balloon glasses or other types of glasses for personal and festive use.
To complement the advice of Talleyrand:
Your Cognac must be at room temperature (16-20 C). You can gradually bring it to this temperature, heating it in the palm of your hand. To analyze the "first nose" you must not whirl the tulip glass. Cognac is volatile, and whirling the glass will bring out the alcohol. The distance between your nose and the glass is also crucial: it will allow you to find the aromas. You can return for a "second nose" to confirm your first impression. Then take a sip without oxygenating to find continuity between the "nose" and "mouth". Take time to smell the rich aroma that tells the story of the eaux-de-vie.
Prunier Cocktail glass from 1960
One can, of course, drink cognac differently. The mixologists are very fond of cognac and they develop cocktails exploiting its aromatic richness. The cognac and tonic at the base of the Summit cognac is much appreciated: the tonic does not alter the aroma of cognac.