A long history is often very important to a family-run cognac house, particularly if earlier generations have taken care to hide away some special selections of Eau de Vie each year.
The blending is performed by a Master Blender, and it is the secret of the blend that assures each cognac house its specific flavor, and a Master Blender will seek perfection in making his cognac the best imaginable. The Braastad family’s cognac is rather dry on the palate, and it is produced in accordance with ancient laws and the traditional manner.
At the end of the 19th century, a young man from Norway, Sverre Braastad, arrived in Cognac. In 1899, he was given work in the export department of the Biscuit cognac house where his uncle, Halfdan Braastad, was already ensconced as financial director.
Fourteen years later, Norwegian Sverre married Edith Rosseau, heir to the Tiffon cognac house. Building up the company, he made excellent use of his connections in the Nordic countries and quickly established stable markets. We now know the Tiffon cognac house as Braastad, the source of the best-selling cognac in the Nordic countries.
The Braastad family has been living at the Chateau de Triac for four generations. Around the Chateau de Triac itself, the family owns 40 hectares of vineyards.
Around 11,000 farmers grow vines in the Cognac district, and the actual date of the harvest is determined by the sweetness in the grape – a lot of fine weather means an earlier start to the season.
The large machines shake the grapes from the stalks, which are left on the vine. The entire harvest is completed in just a few days. It’s a labor-intensive time, and tractors shuttle ceaselessly between the vineyards and the wine presses along the district’s narrow roads. After about a week, the wine is ready. The result is a rather acidic, low-alcohol white wine. Now the distillation process itself can begin.
The distillation season begins on the 1st of November, and continues, day and night, until the 1st of April. The first heating produces “Brouillis”, a distillate containing around 25 – 30% alcohol: ”Eau de Vie” – the Water of Life – produced by the second heating, has an alcohol content of around 70%.
Now it is time for the 70% distillate to be drawn off and placed in oak casks. Cask production too is a traditional, very strenuous occupation. Only oak from the oak forests of Limousin and Troncais in the heart of France is used in the production of casks. Casks to hold the noble drops are charred. This process too is crucial if the Eau de Vie is to be aged to perfection. Quite a lot of the alcohol evaporates through the cask in the course of the ageing process, thus altering the alcoholic strength of the Eau de Vie. It is this process, the oak cask storage, which makes cognac the world’s finest spirit.
With an annual production of around 2.5 million bottles, preparations and ongoing work continues throughout the year. Braastad currently has a cellar of around 15,000 casks of various vintages, which are meticulous taken care of by the 15 members of staff who work intensively to produce these noble drops.
The honourable title of Cognac may only be used of distilled wine produced within a particular district of France, around the town of Cognac.