Cognac Substitute? Try Rene Rye-Magnac

Introduction

The bolder spirits of whiskey, scotch, bourbon, and cognac are sought by many individuals for their complex flavors and smooth mouthfeel. Many famous cocktails rely on these spirits, ranging from sidecars, sazeracs, and eggnog. Unfortunately, supply chains have struggled to meet consumer demand, making obtaining a bottle difficult. Thankfully, there is a solution: substitute your Cognac with René Rye-Magnac.

 

Supply Chain and Shortage Issues

In 2017, Moët Hennessy announced that a possible Cognac shortage could occur by the end of the year. Sales growth between 15 and 20 percent impacted pre-existing stock availability, while climate change resulting in frosts and hail in April damaged vineyards from which Hennessy sources. (Hines, 2018) These impacts are still present this year as Ugni Blanc vineyards have yet to produce grapes, and two-year minimum aging for V.S. Cognac is hampering the rebuilding of reserves.

These issues are only part of what makes it challenging to find Cognac. In addition, Covid-19’s impact on worker shortages and new shutdowns in China, the ongoing decrease in driver availability, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict have created significant problems for supply chains. These issues make it difficult for some spirit manufacturers to obtain necessary supplies such as glass bottles, aluminum cans, and other materials for bottling their spirits. Add to these the fact that Cognac only comes from France and is therefore subject to import and export restrictions, and unsurprisingly, there is still a continued shortage of Cognac.

 

What is Rye-Magnac, and who is Rene

René Rye-Magnac blends American Rye Whiskey and French Armagnac, a full-flavored cousin to Cognac. Blending these two spirit styles may sound like they create an intense flavor, but the truth is quite the opposite. Rye Whiskey and Armagnac combine to temper one another, creating a harmonious blend with a smooth mouth feel. The smell of caramel, fig, and butterscotch is accompanied by candied orange, pecan, and leather, leading to a finish of spicy pepper, rye, and oak. Many relate it to a fresh, smoked pecan pie that mixes just as beautifully as Cognac.

The namesake for this spirit is French nationalist René Cassin. We named this spirit after René because of his efforts toward human rights that later became the Hague Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. His work on these two essential documents earned him a Nobel Peace Prize and recognition as the Father of Human Rights. (Glendon, 2001, 62-63) Because we use his likeness, we donate some of our proceeds to the American Red Cross. This organization supports human rights and assists people impacted by disasters, whether natural or otherwise.

 

History of Armagnac

Several beverages use bolder spirits. Among them are:

  • Old Fashioned
  • Coffee cocktails
  • Sazerac
  • Eggnog
  • Hot Toddy
  • Sidecar

While not all these beverages use Cognac, eggnog is one of the most recognizable beverages. Traditional eggnog is made from milk and eggs and includes sherry, brandy, rum, or other varieties of liquor. However, some recipes today call for a pint of Cognac to be added to homemade eggnog, the spirit providing flavor to the beverage and pasteurizing the raw eggs for safer consumption.

The supply challenges of Cognac make creating your eggnog and sidecars difficult. Fortunately, Armagnac does not fight the same difficulties as Ugni Blanc grapes are only a part of the recipe, with regional differences providing just as much impact. While Armagnac has been around longer than its younger counterpart, Cognac, by about 150 years (700 Years of History and Indulgence, n.d.) Cognac is better known internationally and therefore created in larger quantities.

The lesser-known Armagnac has had a different demand for it, draining less from its available reserves. This difference lends itself to the creation of whiskey armagnac blends, such as the René Rye-Magnac, that work in cocktails as effortlessly as Cognac.

 

Understanding Quality Ratings

When looking at bottles or barrels of Cognac and Armagnac, it is common to find labels reading V.S., V.S.O.P., and X.O. So, what does this all mean? Each of these are an age rating, showing the youngest brandy in the blend. The designations shared between Cognac and Armagnac are:

Rows of Wooden Barrels

Designations

  • V.S. – Very Special
    • The youngest brandy in the blend is at least two years old.
  • X.S.O.P. – Very Superior Old Pale
    • The youngest brandy is at least four years old
  • Napoleon
    • At least six years old
  • X.O. – Extra Old
    • It used to designate at least six years and was recently changed to indicate at least ten years old.

Other designations exist but are less common and less frequently seen except by collectors. They are:

  • X.X.O. – Extra Extra Old
    • Youngest brandy aged at least 14 years
  • Réserve
    • Aged an average of 25 or more years
      • This designation must be at least ten years old and is often higher than X.O. in quality.
  • Hors d’Age – Beyond Age
    • Aged at least 30 years and sometimes over 100 years

 

Glass of whiskey or cognac with bottle on vintage wooden barrel

The differing designations are part of what sets the price point. It is also possible to gauge the depth of flavors potentially produced based on the age designation. For example, a V.S. will likely provide typical notes from oak aging, while an X.O. found in René will be deeper and more robust.

Conclusion

While Cognac may have been the go-to holiday spirit, it no longer stands unchallenged. The introduction of René Rye-Magnac provides new alternatives to experienced and fresh imbibers alike. The full-bodied flavor and smooth mouthfeel allow René to delight whether consumed neat, on the rocks, or in a cocktail. Bottles are available for home delivery through our website or from the distillery. Whether for collectors or those replacing Cognac, there is something for everyone with René. So, grab a bottle today and let us know what you are mixing in the comments below.

References

Glendon, M. A. (2001). A world made new: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Random House Publishing Group. https://www.google.com/books/edition/_/PHI5XTOi4gUC?hl=en&gbpv=1&pg=PA62

Hines, N. (2018, January 17). There’s a Hennessy Shortage. Here’s What You Need to Know. Thrillist. Retrieved September 30, 2022, from https://www.thrillist.com/news/hennessy-shortage

700 years of history (and indulgence!). (n.d.). Armagnac.fr. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from http://www.armagnac.fr/700-years-of-history

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