Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/447

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THE PRODUCTION OF COGNAC BRANDY.

to a high degree, and afterward to a lower. At the end of several minutes a few drops of white, translucent liquid issue from the pipe of the worm, increasing soon to a little streamlet, which falls into a small cask. This liquid contains about half its weight of water, and is called the brouillis. It continues to flow until it becomes gradually less alcoholic, when a momentary pause occurs in the operation. A tap at the bottom of the retort is opened and the boiled wine, a brownish liquid, is either put back into the reservoir or allowed to run away. The wine from the reservoir is then turned into the retort until the latter is about two-thirds full. The same process is repeated, day and night, until all the wine has been converted into brouillis, which, being rectified, is then ready for delivery to the Cognac-brandy shippers as eau de vie. The proportion of brandy yielded by the wine is not fixed, but variable with certain circumstances. In a vintage of good quality it is one gallon of brandy to six or eight of wine; but in unfavorable seasons it is not more than one to seven and a half or twelve. Newly-made wine furnishes more spirit than wine twelve months old; and wine fermented in large bulk more, in proportion, than that fermented in small casks.

Cognac brandy is at first a colorless liquid, but it gradually acquires a pale yellow or amber color from the cask in which it is kept for ageing. With its natural appearance, however, it never appears to the consumer; public taste having become vitiated to the extent of requiring a rich brown or brandy color, which is imparted 'by a mixture of caramel or burnt sugar. Occasionally, too, a little red sanders-wood is used for coloring. The constituents are alcohol and water and small quantities of volatile oil, acetic acid, acetic ether, œnanthic ether, tannin, etc., and, as it reaches the consumer, coloring matter. The quantity of alcohol varies from 48 to 55 per cent.; the latter being the standard strength, or "proof." It is generally imported into England at 1 to 3 over proof, but the strength is lessened by age, so that, when taken from bond for sale, it seldom exceeds 3 or 4 under proof. The quality of the brandy depends not, as may be generally supposed, on the quantity of alcohol it contains, so much as on the minor constituents, notably the œnanthic ether, from which it derives its distinguishing smell and flavor. This fact becomes apparent when it is reflected that, while brandy, as is well known, improves with age, it loses thereby a part of its alcoholic strength. The very finest brandies, in fact, average from 5 to 10 under proof, and never rise above 2 under proof. In this connection, one or two interesting facts may be noted. It has already been stated that the grape from which the finest Cognac brandy is obtained yields at best an inferior wine. Now, the best wine-making grapes contain a comparatively large proportion of sugar, which varies from 12 to 26 and 30 per cent., and it is the sugar that in fermentation is converted into alcohol. The folle