Straddling the River Charente and decorated with winding roads and rolling hills, Cognac is the promised land for those searching for the perfect digestif. With some cognac houses dating back 400 years, taste test your way through Cognac’s vineyards and distilleries to immerse yourself in the rich history of this amber firewater.

1. Courvoisier

From James Bond to Napoleon III, Courvoisier has won the hearts of countless cognac lovers. Located in Jarnac, the centre of the region, Courvoisier has been making the drink since 1809. Aged in barrels made from 200-year-old oak trees, even Busta Rhymes is asking you to “Pass the Courvoisier”.

2. Hine

With over 250 years of experience, it isn’t hard to see why Hine is the only cognac house to have received a royal warranty. Along the banks of the Charente River, Hine uses grapes grown across the estate’s 174 acres of vineyards in the famed Grande Champagne cru area.

3. Rémy Martin

One of the oldest and largest producers in the region, Domaine Rémy Martin has been making premium cognac since 1724. While tradition lies at the heart of this distillery, Rémy Martin proved its progressive outlook when it became the first major Cognac house to hire a female cellar master. Tour the estate to learn about its 300-year-old history, or take a mixology class to create your own cognac-based cocktails.

4. Martell

Despite evoking memories of the Dornish family in Game of Thrones, House Martell dates back far beyond the time of George R. R. Martin. Founded in 1715, this distillery makes cognac with grapes grown in the Borderies vineyards and aged in Tronçais oak casks.

5. Hennessy

Perhaps the most popular of all cognac brands, Hennessy is the world’s largest cognac producer, dominating over 40% of the market. The relatively light eaux-de-vie is made exclusively with Ugni Blanc grapes picked from vineyards along the Charente river. It’s a popular cognac for cocktails, often paired with coca cola – a serving suggestion courtesy of Snoop Dogg (see: “Hennessy ‘n’ Buddah”).

6. Gautier

In a quaint, rustic area known as the Little Venice of Charente, Gautier cognac house stands in Aigre alongside the Osme River. Using an 18th-century water mill, cognac is aged in carefully selected wood harvested from the Tronçais Forest, inside cellars with high humidity. Sip for notes of warm, rich oak.

7. Baron Otard

Once a royal castle, today the ancient stone crypts of Baron Otard are used as barrel-aging cellars. The Otard family have run this cognac distillery for eleven generations, ensuring the secret to perfectly aged cognac remains safe. Also known as Chateau de Cognac, wander round the historic building, pop into the Baron Otard Museum, and learn about their unique cognac production method.

8. Frapin

In the heart of the Grande Champagne cru, the Frapin estate owns over 300 hectares of land. The largest single vineyard in Grande Champagne, the Frapin family have been cultivating these lands since the late 13th century. Primarily using the Ugni Blanc grape, the family legacy lives on in the distinctly floral, fruity notes of their cognac.

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Wake Up Here: Rathfinny Wine Estate, UK

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