For many the Cognac region of France, located to the north of Bordeaux, is home to some of the world’s finest brandies. From the famous names of the ‘big four’ houses to small organic and family-owned producers, the world of Cognac really offers something for everyone.
What is Cognac?
Cognac is brandy made in the Cognac region, which is made up of six small regions known as ‘crus’. The six crus are Bois Ordinaires, Bons Bois, Borderies, Fin Bois, Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne (not to be confused with the famous Champagne region further north). A brandy cannot carry the Cognac name if it is not produced in the region.
The spirit is distilled white wine. This dry and acidic wine is created especially for Cognac production and is based around the Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc varieties. Almost undrinkable as a wine, it is distilled twice through copper pot stills and must be aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Cognac is only produced between October and March, following the annual grape harvest.
10 Cognac Brands Worth Trying
For those looking to add to their spirits collection, we’ve pulled together a list of the best Cognac brands you can buy today, from heritage producers to up-and-comers who are challenging the old guard. Each is guaranteed to deliver on taste and refinement.
Five generations of the Camus family have been making Cognac since John-Baptiste Camus founded the company in 1863. This house is widely regarded as producing some of the most fragrant and vibrant brandies from the region. Camus has long been a favourite amongst Cognac connoisseurs and oozes class.
One To Buy: Camus VSOP Borderies
This beauty is made using only grapes grown in Borderies, the smallest cru in Cognac. This delicious brandy is packed with notes of citrus blossom, milk chocolate and baking spice.
Our first of the big four Cognac houses and founded by Emmanuel Courvoisier in 1809. Always at the forefront of fashion and advertising, Courvoisier has collaborated with designers such as Vivienne Westwood and was the first alcohol brand to produce a 3D advert, created to be shown before the movie Avatar.
One To Buy: Courvoisier XO
An elegant and refined Cognac that undergoes a long maturation to add depth and complexity. This multi-award-winner used a wonderful mix of vanilla, caramel, orange zest and nutmeg.
One of the relative new players in the Cognac game, this family-owned house was established by former distiller Jean Grosperrin in 1992. Grosperrin specialises in small batch and boutique Cognacs that can be fully traced from vineyard to bottle. Be warned – they are tricky to obtain and therefore come with a high price tag.
One To Buy: Grosperrin Fin Bois L’Eponge
A sublime and very old Cognac that features just five barrels and released at its natural strength of 55.4%. Dark chocolate, juicy dried fruits and plenty of wood spice create a superb marriage.
As the largest distiller of Cognac in France, Hennessy accounts for over 40% of all production. This big four house was founded by Richard Hennessy way back in 1765 and boasts some of the oldest maturing stocks available. A wide core range stretches from the highly affordable to the eye-wateringly expensive.
One To Buy: Hennessy VS
One of the world’s most popular Cognacs and perfect for the Cognac beginner. Superb and consistent quality combine with elegant notes of caramel, toffee and raisin.
Our third member of the big four. It is one of the oldest Cognac houses in France having been founded over 300 years ago by Jean Martell in 1715. He established the practice of using a high percentage of grapes taken from the Borderies region and this is maintained today. The result is a highly fragrant and aromatic spirit.
One To Buy: Martell Cordon Bleu
The brand’s flagship Cognac since it was first released in 1912. Superbly classy and velvety with notes of tropical fruit, prunes, orange peel, caramel and chocolate.
A 19th-century Cognac house of Russian origin. Cognac was the drink of choice for the Russian Tsars, so in 1862 two brothers – Auguste-Christophe and Gustav Merkow – were sent to France to secure supplies for the Royal family and set up offices. Their legacy: a Cognac of fine repute that wins awards the world over.
One To Buy: Merkow VSOP
A superb example that is matured for longer than legally required. It comes in a stunning decanter-style bottle complete with the company’s panther logo and is full of raisin, orange, vanilla and nutty notes.
This wonderfully quirky and small family-owned house runs off just 11 hectares of vines within the region. Pierre Navarre founded the company in 1868 and it is currently operated by Jacky Navarre, the fourth generation to do so. They add no additional sugar or colouring and bottle as from the barrel, which is rare.
One To Buy: Navarre Vieille Reserve
This Cognac is a marriage of several vintages from the same Navarre vineyard. The youngest included is 35 years old. Wonderfully deep and rich with notes of nuts, vanilla and tobacco leaf.
This small family-owned house dates back to the 1730s. Operating from just 14 hectares of vines, Pasquet turned organic in the mid-1990s and released one of the world’s first fully organic Cognacs a decade later. Today this innovative house’s range is bottled as naturally as possible and pushes category boundaries.
One To Buy: Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic 04 VS
Unusually, Pasquet show an age on some products and this organic four year old is packed full of tropical, apricot and peach notes with a pinch of oak spice. Also available at seven and ten years old.
The final member of the big four, this famous Cognac house was established in 1724 by Emile-Rémy Martin. Its spirit has long been produced only from grapes grown in Grande and Petite Champagne. The brand’s sumptuous range of Cognacs are renowned for their exquisite and consistent quality.
One To Buy: Rémy Martin VSOP
The world’s best-selling Cognac in the VSOP category. Launched in 1927, this classic comes in its famous frosted green bottle and is delicious whether served neat over ice or at the heart of a cocktail.
Another family-owned house operated by descendants of the founders. The distillery was established in 1850 by George Vallein. His sister later married into the Tercinier family to begin the collaboration. Now considered one of France’s leading craft Cognac producers and highly regarded amongst connoisseurs.
One To Buy: Vallein-Tercinier Napoleon
A multi award-winning Cognac that has been aged for 15 years in French oak barrels. Vanilla, apricot and toffee notes mingle with citrus and baking spices. Delectable and great value for money.