A fine brandy or cognac is a refined delight to be savored. Cognac conjures images of fireside gatherings where fine appreciation of the aromatic liquor is appreciated in elegant surroundings. It has been enjoyed for more than four centuries by such notable figures as Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill.
Brandy has always been associated with its own distinctive glassware, from square crystal glass decanters to tulip glasses and balloon snifters. Unlike a fine wine which may require decanting to remove residual sediment there is no reason to decant brandy beyond the aesthetic appeal of its enhanced presentation and as a personal preference to pouring the brandy directly from the bottle. Brandy decanters tend to be square only because of tradition but the liquor can be decanted into any shape of glassware.
Modern decanters experiment with different shapes and the ship decanter has become a popular alternative. Brandy decanters exist simply to display the contents with a visual appeal and any shape will suffice providing the decanter has a secure stopper to prevent evaporation. Decanters can be used to conceal the fact that the contents are an inexpensive choice when the host is seeking to impress.
Traditionally brandy decanters were fashioned from lead crystal glass which was heavy and refractive. While vintage lead crystal decanters may look amazing there is a risk of the lead seeping into the contents so they should be used with caution, perhaps by decanting only enough to be drunk on one occasion rather than for storage. A safer choice is a lead free glass decanter which is lighter and less refractive yet still serves the purpose of displaying the contents in a sophisticated manner. Decanters make great gifts for gentlemen and are a popular choice to be engraved to mark special occasions such as retirements and birthdays.
Cognac drinkers are split over the merits of drinking this fine beverage from tulip or snifter glasses. The ultimate cognac connoisseurs and the most acclaimed sommeliers lean towards the tulip as their ultimate choice of glassware. Balloon snifters have a larger bowl and a shorter stem and experts believe the aroma and flavor of the liquor is more concentrated in a tulip glass than in a snifter, though there is a great appeal in holding the latter. The Vinum Hennessy tulip cognac glass is considered one of the best, while the snifter most appreciated by experts is the Schott Zwiesel pure cognac glass. Both the tulip and the snifter would be perfectly in place in any home where the art of brandy drinking is appreciated and a fine crystal decanter is on display.