The Brandy and Cognac category traditionally sees its biggest uplift during the Christmas period. Consumers are willing to extend the meal and purchase an after dinner drink as an extra indulgence in the run up to Christmas.
Giving your staff a basic knowledge of the brands available in your outlet is a prerequisite. Knowing the difference between a French grape, Brandy and Cognac as well as ageing and styles, will help outlet staff to upsell and offer the correct drink for the occasion and style of drink being prepared. Well trained staff can certainly help create a great experience for consumers who have chosen to spend a more costly evening in the on-trade instead of staying at home with a bottle.
So what’s the difference?
Well, all Cognacs are Brandies but not all Brandies are Cognacs. The Cognac region is a controlled appellation of origin which requires producers in the area to prescribe to a framework that preserves the authenticity and uniqueness of Cognac, from vineyard to market. However, largely it’s the quality of the finished product that sets it apart. Cognac is seen as a luxurious drink and the experience should focus on the indulgence and creating a memorable encounter.
In Aigre, the ‘Little Venice’ of Charente, the cellars of Maison Gautier are above the river Osme in a former watermill. This gives the cellars unique ageing conditions: due to the moisture in the air, there is a humidity level of 75-80% all year round, comparable to a cigar humidor. This leads to much slower water evaporation than in drier cellars and consequently a more rounded, harmoniously aged cognac.
Recognition that these unique ageing conditions yield cognacs of supreme quality has been achieved by Gautier in 2015. VS and XO were the champions of their respective classes, with Gautier XO Gold & Blue overall winner of the prestigious ‘World’s Best Cognac’ accolade from the World Cognac Awards in May. Further, XO and VSOP were both winners of ‘Gold Outstanding’ at IWSC 2015.
We asked Product Marketing Manager – Spirits, Stuart Westwood what Cognac brings to an outlet; “Consumers purchasing Cognac in the on-trade are often after an experience as well as an indulgence. They are looking for something memorable and special and are willing to pay more for it. Although consumers are likely to limit the occasions during which they consume spirits, when they do, they will increasingly opt for more sophisticated drinks. This makes Christmas an optimum time to capitalise on increased footfall in outlets”.
Using cocktails to bring Cognac to new customers in an accessible way could be one way to drive sales, especially with entry level products. Popular choices are the Sidecar and Brandy Alexander, very different cocktails that offer unique flavour profiles. Maison Gautier has also worked closely with its team of mixologists to create a range of innovative serves.
With dark spirits on the rise it’s important we don’t forget Cognac as whisk(e)y and rum lead the way. A quality pub should be looking to include a VS, two VSOPs and an XO as well as all the correct glassware such as a balloon (or snifter). Heating the glass can increase the taste profile of the drink as well as enhancing the consumer experience. Above all though. Providing your customers with the opportunity to experience and engage with Cognac by simply offering after they have finished a meal and using visual marketing to assist where they are placed on your back bar for maximum sales opportunity is what will drive sales.