The Cognac-making region is four times bigger than the Napa Valley.
A portion of Eau-de-vie evaporates during the maturation, poetically known as ‘the angel’s share’. The percentage is around 2% of total inventory, which amounts to 22 million bottles per year.
The Big Four brands (Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin, and Courvoisier) cover 90% of the Cognac market.
Only 3% of Cognac is sold in France. Almost all of it is exported, mostly to the United States, Singapore, and China.
Cognac had its Dark Ages, too. In the 1870s, insects wreaked havoc in French vineyards, prompting the Italians and Germans to flood the market with fake Cognac. It took the industry almost seven decades to recover.
The zenith of Cognac exquisiteness is that funky, umami flavor only the finest Cognacs achieve, called ‘rancio’ (rancid in Spanish). "It's close to caramel, but a little bitter; it tastes a little like a bitter nut," said the Master Distiller at Ragnaud-Sabourin.
Famous cocktails that now require Whiskey (Sazerac or Mint Julep) were created with Cognac in mind
The priciest Cognac so far is 1858 Cuvée Léonie, which was bought for almost $157.000 in 2011 at an auction in Shanghai.
The words ‘Hennessy’ and ‘Cognac’ appear in over a thousand rap songs by artists such as Notorious BIG, 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Nas, and Kanye West.
One of Cognac’s greatest fans was Edgar Allan Poe. A mysterious figure dubbed Poe Toaster visited his grave in Baltimore every year on January 19 between the 1930s and 1998, and toasted to the King of Macabre with a glass of Cognac.
Traditionally, wood is sourced in Limousin forest (wide grain wood with more tannins) and Tronçais forest (fine grain wood with less tannins and more aromatic compounds). Cognac-makers decide on wood based on what style they’re aiming for.