The Good Life

Cognac's Top Tier

Exploring the exquisite expressions that secure Cognac’s place as the world’s foremost brandy
By Jack Bettridge | From Arnold Schwarzenegger, November/December 2019
Cognac's Top Tier
Photo/Jeff Harris
Three of Cognac’s finest. From left, Louis XIII Black Pearl, L’Essence de Courvoisier, and Hennessy Paradis Impérial.
Entering the underground sanctum known as the Chai du Fondateur, or Founder’s Cellar, at Cognac giant Hennessy, makes a visitor feel as if he has opened a door on a long-closed vault, or a room where Indiana Jones might explore, whip in hand. For here, in a dank space not far from the Charente River in France, are ancient casks, chalk-marked with dates from well over 100 years ago. Dust sits on the containers, which sleep in the shadows of cobwebs. Other nooks hold demijohns—six-gallon glass vessels enveloped in wicker—of even older liquid. This is the place where the Cognac maker keeps its best stores of eaux de vie , the wine-based distillates that will be …
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