Luxury Cognacs – the Ultimate Indulgence

Cognac has always been popular in bars; whether served straight, long or made into an extravagant cocktail.

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Cognac is currently experiencing a boom in the international bar scene, whether pure or made into an extravagant cocktail with the finest ingredients.

Cognac has always been popular in bars; whether served straight, long or made into an extravagant cocktail.

© North America / Getty Images

Cognac is brandy, not all brandy is Cognac. Brandy dates back to the 16th century and we have the Dutch to thank for creating this most alluring spirit. A great naval and trading nation, their boats were able to dock at the dozens of ports along the 470km Charante-Maritime coast line trading salt, timber and wine. The fragile local white wines from Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche and others were fortified with spirit so they could be transported back home in a drinkable state. In fact, the word brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, which means burnt wine.

Cognac

Cognac has been a drink that has been in and out of fashion for centuries, but it has always endured.

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The world famous AOC of Cognac lies just north of the equally renowned wine region of Bordeaux. Cognac has been a drink that has been in and out of fashion for centuries, but it has always endured. New markets and new wealth in China has greatly increased recent demand. The USA has embraced Cognac in its affluent and fashionable bars and the millenial craze for cocktails has enveloped it too. Gone is its 20th century image of the crusty, private members' postprandial drink, consumed in smoky, dimly lit lounges that were largely the domain of men.

Cognac has always appealed to the wealthy, no surprise then that the traditional base of the much loved classic champagne cocktail is not just brandy, but Cognac. Now, once again is getting the attention it deserves from bartenders but compared to whisky and rum cocktails, it can be sinfully expensive.

D'Artagnan

Made with one of the most expensive Cognacs, the 'D'Artagnan' cocktail created by Stefan Wasserl, long-time bar manager of the Bristol Bar, Vienna.

© Herbert Lehmann

Superlative cognac

Like Champagne, Cognac has the ability to age with style, finesse and grandeur. And just like the top Champagne houses, the great Cognac maisons appeal to uber-wealthy collectors with their extraordinary limited, aged blends made from Cognacs dating back a hundred years or more. Always exquisitely packaged, some Cognacs are so exclusive they have their own private members' clubs.

Rémy Martin

Bottlings such as the Rémy Martin Louis XIII are a visual expression of the highest elegance. The decanter alone is a work of of art; designed by Christophe Pillet, hand-crafted from the finest European crystal glass with a 20 carat gold neck, each bottle is individually numbered and comes in a magnificent red coffret with an integrated mirror for display purposes. A Cognac of superlatives, for which customers pay around €3,000 / £2,700 per bottle. Almost all large and well-known cognac brands have such ultra-premium products in their range. And they are currently more in demand than ever.

Among top Cognacs, Rémy Martin's Louis XIII is probably the best known. It is a homage to the monarch Louis XIII, father of the Sun King, Louis XIV, who went down in history as 'Louis the Just'. The origin of this exceptional cognac goes back to 1874, when Paul-Émile Rémy Martin, the son of the company's founder, started blending very old distillates - called eaux de vie - in a single decanter.  

Today's decanter is an exact replica of a lily-adorned metal bottle that was lost on the battlefield of Jarnac in 1569, only to re-surface 300 years later. The eaux de vie used for Louis XIII Cognac are aged for between 40 and 100 years, all produced from the soils of the Grande Champagne region, the most valuable growing area in Cognac.

Cellars-Rémy-Martin

Cellars at Rémy Martin

© Photo provided

Hennessy

The largest Cognac producer, with 250 years of history and the seventh generation of the same family of Master Blenders at the helm, is Hennessy. More than 1,600 winegrowers supply their eaux de vie to the cognac giant. 

Hennessy offers two luxury products; Paradis Impérial and Hennessy Paradis. At the pinnacle of the Hennessy art of selection is Paradis Impérial.  Only 10 of the 10,000 individual eaux de vie from a given vintage are used in this supremely rare Cognac, some of which are more than a century old.  

Hennessy is the largest Cognac producer in the world

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Courvoisier

Courvoisier came from humble beginnings, as the embers of the French Revolution glowed, Emanuel Courvoisier and the Major of Bercy joined forces to open a wine and spirit shop on the outskirts of Paris. Emperor Napolean visited their warehouses and indeed later insisted that all artillary companies were to be offered "wine in the evening and cognac in the morning".

It was Emanuel's son who moved the business from Paris to the sleepy town of Jarnac in the heart of the Cognac region, where they are still headquartered today. L'Essence de Courvoisier is made from the best matured eaux de vie, some of which date back to the early 19th century.

Courvoisier

A bottle of Courvoisier Cognac 

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Hine

In 2013 Hine released a cognac to celebrate their 250th year. Just 250 bottles were made from a single barrel of Grande Champagne Cognac laid down in the Hine family reserve in 1953. An outstanding but difficult vintage, it was the driest year of the 20th century.

The decanter was made by Baccarat crystal in the shape of a rough cut diamond and was presented in an opulent wooden presentation box. It was initially offered at £9,000 per bottle, but now trades at around £13,000 per bottle, should you be lucky enough to find one. Hine was founded in 1763 by Englishman, Thomas Hine, and is the only Cognac house to have a been awarded a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth II.

A very special edition of Hine's Triomphe Cognac in a Baccarat crystal decanter

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Camus

Founded in 1863, Camus is the largest family-owned Cognac house still in operation. Fifteen years after the release of their prestige Cognac Extra Élégance, the Camus Extra Dark & Intense came onto the market. Following an idea of owner Cyril Camus, cellar master Patrick Léger began to select the best barrels for a special maturation process. The selected barrels were emptied and burnt out again, barrel by barrel. After a special finishing, the result was just called Dark & Intense.

Cognac is a beautiful town in southwest France that is known for its luxurious spirits.

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Guinness World Record

In 2013 a world record for the most expensive cocktail was set in Melbourne. For US$12,040 you could buy a 'Winston' and its key alcoholic ingredient was Cognac — two shots of Croizet Cuvée Leonie single vintage Cognac from 1858 — eye-wateringly expensive at US$6,000 per shot. Named after Sir Winston Churchill it also included Grand Marnier Quintessence and a rare Chartreuse.

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