Cognac, a type of brandy made by distilling wine, is another French product named after its place of birth. And like Champagne – which can only be produced in the Champagne region of France and under exacting rules of the appellation – the same holds true for Cognac. This is the only place in the world where Cognac can be produced and called that. (Oddly, it was originally created to avoid a tax on wine.)
Our bus trip to the riverside town of Cognac delivered us to the door of the House of Camus, the largest Cognac house that still remains family-owned and independent. In a stunningly contemporary, museum-like setting, we learned about the process of making Cognac, from harvesting to distillation to aging.
Then we were led to a room with a long table. Each place setting had a flask, measuring cylinders, funnels and glasses – tools we would use to experiment and determine our individual tastes and preferences. With the humor and presence of a stage entertainer, Master Blender Frederic Dezauzier dispensed his expert knowledge and introduced us to the art of Cognac tasting.
We sipped, sniffed and tasted Cognac with different food pairings before we were left to blend our own unique libations. We were able to bottle ‘‘personal blends” that were labeled with our names and sealed carefully in a wooden cask to survive the trip home. We also came away with a more refined taste for Cognac.