Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin
With plenty of alcoholic drinks available today, choosing the perfect spirit could be particularly challenging. Take Whiskey and Cognac, for instance.
When it comes to Cognac vs Whiskey, you’ll find that they differ in criteria like age terms, distillation process, and base product.
The team gathered resources for all things Cognac and Whiskey and pointed out the main difference. Let’s dive in.
Whiskey or Cognac: Which is Better?
Whiskey and Cognac are both distilled spirits. Both are created through fermentation and then matured inside oak barrels.
Whiskey is from fermented grain mash in which includes barley, rye, and corn grain. Bourbon is a type of Whiskey that is from corn.
Cognac is a particular type of brandy. The word brandy originated from the Dutch word “brandewijn” meaning burnt wine.
It comes from a unique group of berries named Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc.
The brandy is distilled twice in copper pot stills and stored in a French oak barrel. The minimum age for fermenting is two years.
Grapes vs Grains
The main difference between Cognac vs Whiskey is that Cognac is made from grapes and Whiskey from grain.
This grain is mixed with water and yeast then aged in barrels.
Cognac begins as fermented grape juice then turns into wine. After that, the wine is double-distilled and matured in wooden barrels.
The fact that it is from France is the most crucial. Whiskey, on the other hand, can be made in any country or region.
Closer Look at Their Differences
The base product is the most noticeable between the two spirits. Grains, typically barley, are the raw material for making whiskey.
Scotch whiskey and Scotch-inspired liquors are popularly known as whiskey. Whiskey can also be found in Japan and Canada.
Cognac is produced by distilling the wine. The juice is fermented to make an acidic wine later once the juice ferments for five days and then ages for years in oak casks.
Smell & Taste
The flavor and smell of Cognac and Whiskey are a bit similar. You will notice that some whiskeys have flavors of citrus peel, vanilla, and spices — which can also be found in Cognac taste.
However, because Cognac began as a grape, it typically has a broader range of fruit and floral aromas.
In a typical Cognac, you can smell banana, apricot, prune, fig, rose petal, and honeysuckle.
Whiskey and Cognac distillation can vary. In whiskey, manufacturers distill the spirit once.
On the other hand, Cognac undergoes the distillation process twice.
First, the distillation process happens when the wine is fermented. It becomes a colorless concentrate after the second fermentation.
After that, it is left to age, at which point it becomes brandy.
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When it comes to whiskey production, there are no geographical boundaries. Production can be done anywhere. But initially, it originated in Scotland.
On the other hand, Cognac can only be produced in the Cognac region of France and can only be named when it is according to the rules.
Aside from french wine – Bon Bois, Bois Ordinaire, Petite Champagne, Grande Champagne, Fins Bois, and Borderies are the authorized-only locations for production.
Whiskey brands and houses can be located in any country. That’s why whiskey brands are greater than Cognacs.
Because Cognac can only be done in a limited region, the number of whiskey brands is greater than Cognacs.
Cognac’s manufacturers can only produce within proper guidelines. Also, France is known for making delicious french wine.
The overwhelming majority of Cognacs are Eaux de vie from multiple decades, but Cognac vintage is a true treat.
The Old Ingledew Whiskey bottle is said to be the oldest Whiskey. 
The 1762 Gautier Cognac is said to be the oldest Cognac. It was purchased by a private collector in Asia.
There is also a new Cognac grade XXO (Extra Extra Old) for Eaux de vie aged in casks for more than 14 years.
Read: Crown Royal vs Hennessy
When it comes to age-specific whiskey, producers use numbers to indicate the age. The age of the spirit is opted by the number of years.
Inversely, words are used in denoting the age of Cognacs. VS is used if the brandy is stored for two years, VSOP aged for four years, XO matured for six years.
Now the new grade XXO for Eaux de vie aged in casks for more than 14 years.
Generally, both Cognac and Whiskey are experiencing sustained growth on a global scale.
Both spirits appeal to consumers at both ends of the spectrum, from the newest, least expensive blends to the most high-priced old vintage options.
Furthermore, the makers of both drinks are looking for new ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Whiskies finished in barrels are one such example. But is cognac an after-dinner drink?
Worldwide Sales Trends
According to the data provided by the IWSR, Cognac production increased by 8.2 %, from around 13,000 cases in 2015 to about 14,000 in 2016.
In the same period, whiskey sales increased by 1.7 %, from around 392,000 to roughly 400,000.
Surprisingly, Irish Whiskey recorded the most notable sales in 2016, with an 11.3 % gain. However, Scotch decreased sales by 1%.
But, what’s the real difference between Scotch & Irish Whiskey?
Which is more popular, Whiskey or Cognac?
Generally, both drinks are popular today. Whiskey is more popular because Whiskeys can be created in any country, and there are a lot of whiskey brands and types that are internationally available.
With Cognac, the production is within their area only and needs to follow strict guidelines.
Is Hennessy Cognac or Whiskey?
Hennessy is a type of brandy known as Cognac. Hennessy, contrary to popular belief, is not a whiskey.
Hennessy is from grapes rather than barley or wheat; both spirits are stored and aged in oak barrels.
Find out the difference between D’usse and Hennessy here.
Cognac vs Whiskey – Our Final Thoughts
Whiskey and Cognac are both prominent today. There are many similarities and differences when it comes to the two spirits. When it comes to age, both are aged in oak barrels or wooden casks, and the longer they age, the more delicious they become.
The base product, geographical boundaries, terms used in defining the age, and the distillation process vary between spirits. Whatever you choose, remember to drink responsibly.