Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/449

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433
THE PRODUCTION OF COGNAC BRANDY.

collecting the brandy into the shipping-houses in Cognac, and of the treatment it receives therein. It is bought up from the distillers by commission-merchants, or shippers, who have large storehouses, supplied with facilities for filtering, mixing, ageing, etc. The two largest houses in the trade are those of the celebrated English firms, Martel & Co. and Hennessy & Co.; next to these are Otard, Dupuy & Co., and Augier Frères, the oldest house in Cognac; and besides these are many smaller ones. The farmers generally sell their spirit while it is new, or immediately after distillation. In the second year it is classed "stale," and in the fourth "old." On its arrival at the magazine it is tested by a sampler, to see that it corresponds with the representations made for it. It is measured in large dépotoirs, about 265 gallons capacity, which have glass tubes on the outside to indicate the quantity of spirit within. This is said to give a fairer measurement than smaller vessels. The price depends on the strength. For the English market this is classed at 58° of Gay Lussac's scale, or about 1° above English proof. For the French market it is 60°, and for the American 61°. It may as well be stated in this connection that England takes nearly the whole supply—her portion in 1875 amounting to 4,500,000 gallons. A small part is consumed in France, and other small parts go direct to the north of Europe, South America, and the United States.

Sales of spirits are based on the French scale—or 60°. For each degree above that standard the shipper pays the producer 5 per cent. extra; while for each degree under he deducts 10 per cent. After measurement the spirit is placed in new oaken casks, of the proper seasoning, and its age, quality, and origin, are indicated thereon. The casks are stored in a series of chambers threaded with tramways for moving them about; and in a vast gallery, beneath, stand long rows of conical-shaped colossal white vats, each more than twelve feet high and nine feet in diameter at its base. These are for use in mixing. By mixing, the peculiarities of the different varieties of spirit are blended, and so the "brands" are multiplied. In this process the various kinds are emptied, first, into a copper-plated trough on the floor above the vats, and at the same time passed through a filter of flannel; then it is drawn off into the vat below, passing in its course through a second filter of white blotting-paper, surrounded by flannel. In the vats it is stirred by paddles—in some houses worked by hand and in others by machinery. This completes the mixing, and the spirit is drawn off into casks or bottles and stored for shipment. A part of the alcohol, estimated at 7 to 10 per cent., is lost by evaporation in the first year of ageing, and a considerably smaller part in subsequent years. The visible effect of this evaporation is displayed in the carbonized appearance of the walls and roofs of the older stone houses—a sootiness which the stranger is sure to attribute to the smoke of the distilleries, of which, however, there are none in Cognac.