Cognac: Spirit of Place

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Cognac. It’s a drink. It’s a place. It’s an experience to be savoured.

Or at least my summertime visit to the town of Cognac and vineyards sprawling across it nearby countryside was a memorably delicious trip. I was there to become better acquainted with the area’s eponymous spirit and the age-old traditions that have gone into making it such a distinctive drink.

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The Drink

Cognac (the drink) is perhaps the world’s most highly esteemed spirit – and its least understood. But the basics are as follows. Cognac is grape brandy from the Cognac area of Charente and Charente-Maritime in southwestern France. To claim the name Cognac that brandy needs to be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged for at least two year in French oak barrels.

Cognacs range from straightforward and good for cocktails to incredibly complex and shame on your for thinking of diluting it with anything else – and from nicely affordable to excessively dear in price. But whether you’re going for a VS (with the youngest eau-de-vie at least two years old) or a Vintage (usually reserved until quite hold with eau-de-vie from a single year) or (mostly likely) something in between such as a VSOP (youngest eau-de-vie at least four years old) or an XO (youngest eau-de-vie at least six years old) – it’s all good value for flavour delivered.

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The Place

Cognac (the town) is about 130k from Bordeaux (the nearest city of any size and the closet airport servicing flights from London). Set along the banks of the Charente River, the medieval town is surrounded by vineyards practically all of which provide to the Houses that make the famous local hooch. The town is also home to a handful of amazing restaurants and one of the coolest bars I’ve been to in years. But I’ll save the details of those for future posts about my time in Cognac.

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Hôtel François Premier Cognac Centre

During my visit I stayed at the Hôtel François Premier Cognac Centre. In the heart of town with incredibly helpful and polite staff, the four-star was a comfortable and convenient base for bopping around town and exploring the countryside and neighbouring villages. Bed, shower, breakfast etc all met my standards. I’d be glad to stay there again and can easily recommend this 150-year-old (but newly renovated) hotel for ideal no fuss accommodation. Find out more at http://www.hotelfrancoispremier.fr/.

Please keep an eye out for more to come in my Cognac: Spirit of Place miniseries. For lots more info about Cognac go to bnic.fr/cognac.

About tikichris

London-Based Writer/Photographer

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