For many, the Cognac region of France, located 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 businesses, the world of Cognac truly offers something for everyone.
What is brandy?
Cognac is brandy made in the Cognac region, which is made up of six small regions called “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 bear the name Cognac if it is not produced in the region.
The spirit is distilled white wine. This dry and sour wine is specially made for the production of Cognac and is based on the Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc varieties. Almost undrinkable as a wine, it is distilled twice through copper pot stills and aged for a minimum of two years in French oak barrels. Cognac is only produced between October and March, following the annual grape harvest.
10 Cognac Brands Worth Trying
For those looking to expand their spirits collection, we’ve put together a list of the best Cognac brands you can buy today, from traditional producers to newcomers challenging the old guard. Each guarantees 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 the producer of some of the region’s most fragrant and vibrant brandies. Camus has long been a favorite among Cognac connoisseurs and exudes class.
One for sale: Camus VSOP Borderies
This beauty is made with only grapes grown in Borderies, the smallest cru in Cognac. This delicious brandy is packed with notes of citrus blossom, milk chocolate and baking spices.
Our first of the four great 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 ad created to be screened for the movie Avatar.
One for sale: Courvoisier XO
An elegant and refined Cognac that undergoes a long maturation to add depth and complexity. This multiple award winner used a delicious blend of vanilla, caramel, orange zest and nutmeg.
This family business is one of the relatively new players in the cognac field and was founded in 1992 by former distiller Jean Grosperrin. Grosperrin specializes in small batch and boutique cognacs that are fully traceable from vineyard to bottle. Be warned – they are hard to come by and therefore come with a high price tag.
One for sale: Grosperrin Fin Bois L’Eponge
A sublime and very old Cognac with only five barrels and released at its natural strength of 55.4%. Dark chocolate, juicy dried fruit and lots of wood spices make for a fantastic marriage.
As the largest distiller of Cognac in France, Hennessy accounts for more than 40% of all production. Founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy, this big four house boasts some of the oldest maturing stocks available. A wide core range extends from the very affordable to the eye-wateringly expensive.
One for sale: Hennessy VS
One of the world’s most popular Cognacs and perfect for the Cognac beginner. Excellent and consistent quality combined 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 and was founded more than 300 years ago by Jean Martell in 1715. He established the custom of using a high percentage of grapes from the Borderies region and this continues today enforced. The result is a very fragrant and aromatic spirit.
One for sale: Martell Cordon Bleu
The flagship brand of Cognac since it was first released in 1912. Super stylish and velvety with notes of tropical fruit, plum, orange peel, caramel and chocolate.
A 19th century Cognac house of Russian origin. Cognac was the favorite drink of the Russian tsars, so in 1862 two brothers – Auguste-Christophe and Gustav Merkow – were sent to France to supply the royal family and set up offices. Their legacy: a Cognac with a good reputation that wins prizes all over the world.
One to buy: Merkow VSOP
A beautiful specimen that has matured longer than legally required. It comes in a beautiful decanter style bottle complete with the company’s panther logo and is packed with raisin, orange, vanilla and nutty notes.
This wonderfully quirky and small family run business runs on just 11 acres of vines in the region. Pierre Navarre founded the company in 1868 and is currently run by Jacky Navarre, the fourth generation to do so. They don’t add any extra sugar or food coloring and they bottle from the barrel, which is rare.
One for sale: Navarra Vieille Reserve
This Cognac is a marriage of different vintages from the same Navarra vineyard. The youngest included is 35 years old. Wonderfully deep and rich with notes of nuts, vanilla and tobacco leaf.
This small family business dates back to the 1730s. Pasquet, operating with just 14 hectares of vines, went organic in the mid-1990s and released one of the world’s first all-organic Cognacs a decade later. Today, the range of this innovative house is bottled as naturally as possible and pushes category boundaries.
One for sale: Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic 04 VS
It’s unusual for Pasquet to show an age on some products, and this organic four-year-old is packed with tropical, apricot and peach notes with a pinch of oak spice. Also available at seven and ten years old.
The last member of the big four, this famous Cognac house was founded in 1724 by Emile-Rémy Martin. The spirit has long been produced only from grapes grown in Grande and Petite Champagne. The brand’s lavish range of Cognacs is known for their exquisite and consistent quality.
One for sale: Remy Martin VSOP
The world’s best-selling Cognac in the VSOP category. Launched in 1927, this classic comes in its famous matte green bottle and is delicious whether served neat over ice or in the heart of a cocktail.
Another family business managed by descendants of the founders. The distillery was founded in 1850 by George Vallein. His sister later married into the Tercinier family to begin the partnership. Now regarded as one of France’s leading artisan cognac producers and highly regarded among connoisseurs.
One for sale: Vallein-Tercinier Napoleon
A multi award-winning Cognac aged for 15 years in French oak barrels. Notes of vanilla, apricot and toffee mingle with citrus and baking spices. Delightful and great value for money.