Is there anything better than drinking Cognac? Well, if there is, surely it has to be reading about our favorite drink. Whether it’s learning more about the intricacies, discovering little known brands and houses and the art of tasting, or a combination of all of these, there’s a surprising amount of books to choose from. Cognac Expert has come up with a list of 10 books about Cognac that you simply have to read.
1. Cognac: The Story of the World’s Greatest Brandy by Nicholas Faith
If you only ever read a single book about Cognac, you have to make it this one. First published in 1986, it’s since been revised three times to ensure it’s fully up to date, with the last revision being done in 2016. Written by the man who’s perhaps known to be the eminent authority on all things Cognac, Nicholas Faith, who sadly passed away at the end of September 2018, aged 84.
The first edition of the book won the Veuve Clicquot award in the US, and the Deinhard/Wine Magazine in the UK. In 2005, the second edition won the Andre Simon Prize, the most coveted wine and spirits writing award in Britain.
There can’t be anything more infectious than the enthusiasm that comes across from someone who is completely besotted with a subject. Here’s an inspiring interview with Nicholas Faith conducted by Max from Cognac Expert. It gives you a wonderful sense of the author, who was not only perhaps one of the world’s leading experts on Cognac, but had the most amazing talent in putting his thoughts and opinions down on paper. This led to a book that’s thoroughly enjoyable and engaging, and simply makes it a must-read for anyone who has even a fleeting interest in Cognac.
The book covers the history of Cognac, the production and maturation process, as well as some amazing and unique insights into the world of our favorite spirit. The latest version includes Nicholas’s personal tasting notes, a section on mixology and Cognac cocktails, and some great information about food pairing. If you, or any Cognac aficionado doesn’t already own this book, then this is truly a gap in your knowledge (and enjoyment) of Cognac.
2. Cognac: Terre de Passions by Credit Agricole
It seems like an unlikely publisher, but the French bank Credit Agricole published an excellent book about Cognac. Terre de Passions is in French only, and assembles an extensive range of Cognac houses and families.
We particularly appreciate the intricate portraits of the people behind the brands, and their stories. The publication features beautiful photography and has a very generous amount of information about every Cognac house. Credit Agricole is proud to represent the majority of Cognac houses, farmers, and suppliers in the region. This book shows the bank’s strong engagement with the culture of Cognac.
3. Hennessy: A Toast to the World’s Preeminent Spirit by Glenn O’Brien
Another talented author who sadly passed away this year, this is the first book published that pays homage to the great house of Hennessy. And before we mention anything else about it, we have to talk about the amazing illustrations. In short, this really is the ultimate in coffee table books, providing a wonderful visual reference that you’ll have you itching to invite guests round to stimulate great conversation.
But let’s not run away with the fact that this is a book all about pictures. Because it’s also a highly entertaining read. Glenn O’Brien certainly knows how to keep his readers captivated, and he honestly has the most endearing sense of humor.
The words cleverly lead you on a discovery through the history of a house that is, without a doubt, the most famous of them all. Leafing through its multitude of pages brings to life some amazing anecdotes about the world’s favorite Cognac. We love that there are contributions from famous artists and performers that have recently collaborated with Hennessy to create some of their limited edition bottles. These include Nas, Futura, Ryan McGinness, and Shepard Fairey, to name but a few. Once again, we have to applaud these great partnerships as they truly are ambassadors for the wonder that is Cognac.
Read more about Hennessy and purchase their globally acclaimed Cognacs in our online shop.
4. Cognac: The Seductive Saga of the World’s most Coveted Spirit by Kyle Jarrard
Jarrard’s book skilfully combines the history of the region of Cognac with Cognac, the drink. This exquisitely detailed portrait certainly makes for compelling reading. It’s unique in the fact that it details not just our favorite drink, but the historical, and sometimes bloody, events in this tiny corner of South West France that’ve made it what it is today.
The telling of Cognac’s history in the book begins in the 1500s. And there’s certainly no attempt to beautify some of the more grisly facts. From the decimation of the regions vineyards to Nazi occupation, challenges have been a constant thread throughout the tale of the region. There’s also some great behind the scenes information about some of the largest houses, and some wonderful anecdotes from the author himself.
5. Brandy: A Global History by Becky Sue Epstein
Becky Sue Epstein’s book might not be solely about Cognac, but that doesn’t mean that the aficionado shouldn’t spare it some of their precious time. This knowledgeable editor, broadcaster, and consultant in all things wine, spirits, and food, details the story of brandy from the alchemists of the Middle Ages right through to the current trend of Cognac cocktails.
Image courtesy: ecproof.com
There’s also some great advice on buying, storing, and serving brandy, as well as some wonderful Cognac cocktail recipes. As well as covering Cognac, there’s some interesting insight into other specialty brandies, such as Armagnac. If ever you wanted to understand the real meaning behind the saying, ‘All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac’, then this book goes a long way to providing an explanation.
Of course, there are other books about brandy and liquor that contain some great information about Cognac. But the above are probably the most specialized in the subject. If you feel we’ve missed out one of your favorites, then be sure to let us know in the comments section below.
6. The World of Cognac by Michelle Brachet
Not so many years ago it was commonly agreed that Cognac was a drink reserved solely for stuffy old men, squirrelled away in a dark, oak panelled library, having just stuffed a cholesterol raising meal. And there were definitely no women invited! At Cognac Expert we’ve been on a mission for nearly a decade to prove that this really is not the case any more. Hence the reason why Cognac writer Michelle Brachet asked Sophie and Max to write the foreword to her much anticipated book The World of Cognac.
Young, British, and female, she couldn’t be any further removed from what used to be the ‘typical’ Cognac drinker. But today, thankfully, no such profile exists. Now those who enjoy Cognac come from all walks of life—just the way it should be. The World of Cognac is, to steal a quote from within its pages, “A carefully researched study about the history and culture of Cognac – the most revered spirit in the world”.
It’s a wonderful read, and a great choice to display on your bar or coffee table. Inside you’ll discover everything you could ever hope to know about Cognac. This includes in-depth information about from where it originates, how it’s made, how to taste it, the different qualities and age classifications, how to choose Cognac, how to store Cognac… The list goes on and on. In addition there’s a comprehensive list of pretty much every Cognac house there is, and some great overviews of selected brands.
In short, Brachet’s book is a breath of fresh air in a world that is still somewhat male dominated (although thanks to some of the most influential women in Cognac, that status quo is now being addressed). An amazing read, and a gift that any man or woman who enjoys Cognac would love to receive.
7. The Art of Martell for 300 Years
Perhaps the ultimate coffee table tome, this wonderful book takes us through the centuries of history of the Cognac giant. It’s bound in wood, and the pictures within its pages are absolutely jaw-dropping. This is, without a doubt, a wonderful example of how images make a story come to life. Even for the person who might not be a Cognac geek (like us), this book makes for a captivating read. If you appreciate art, luxury, and enjoy the tale of a history in the making, then this book is definitely one you have to own.
8. Cognac: A Liquid History by Salvatore Calabrese
Award winning, world renowned bartender, Salvatore Calabrese is perhaps another unconventional Cognac connoisseur. And we can definitely count him in the ambassador list as to helping the public at large fall in love with Cognac once again. Italian born, he began honing his skills at a young age, whilst working in a bar on the Amalfi Coast. After moving to London, England, he worked at Duke’s Hotel, and so began his love affair with rare and extremely old Cognacs. The phrase, ‘A Liquid History’ was born, and his star began its stratospheric climb.
Now famous for his creation of the world’s most expensive cocktail, The Salvatore Legacy, he’s perhaps even more infamous thanks to the moment one of his customers smashed his $77,000 bottle of 1788 Cols de Griffier Vieux Cognac. As you can imagine, a man with a life filled with anecdotes such as this leads to a book that’s a very fascinating read indeed.
Cognac: A Liquid History, doesn’t simply tell the tale of the history of eau-de-vie. Calabrese cleverly entwines this with little told stories of politics and intrigue that weave a controversial tapestry that unfolds throughout the centuries, decades, and years. The backstory of sin and seduction makes for a read that’s as captivating as it is educational. If it were made into a movie, this one would definitely warrant an ‘R’ rating.
9. The Cognac Companion–A Connoisseur’s Guide by Conal Gregory
Less of a tome than many in this list, The Cognac Companion is, nonetheless, a good little read. And it’s as ideal for the Cognac connoisseur as it is for those who’re just beginning their journey into the wonders of our beloved brown spirit. Former UK Member of Parliament, Chairman of the International Wine & Spirit Competition, and Panel Chairman for the International Wine Challenge, Conal Gregory is certainly well placed to pen such a book.
The book covers the history of Cognac, production techniques, and tasting guides. In addition, there’s a great list of some of the major Cognac houses, their different styles, what to expect from such a brand, and even whether or not they welcome visitors with open arms. Of course, you can always check out our brand pages if you’re wanting to visit a particular Cognac house. Or why not read our blog on Free vs Paid Visits for further inspiration.
10. The Little Book of Cognac by Christian Pessey
Whilst we wouldn’t rate this as a book for the Cognac connoisseur, it nevertheless makes it onto our list thanks to its succinct explanation about Cognac history and production. This makes it the ideal book for anyone at the beginning of their love affair with eau-de-vie.
Now, we could criticise it for the fact that this book was originally written in French, and, we have to say, the translation isn’t all that it could be. However, for the novice Cognac drinker, or for anyone who simply wants an concise overview, then it’s an easy read. It doesn’t pretend to be an authority, nor does it proclaim to delve deep into the intricacies of the world of Cognac. It’s a ‘little book’, and does exactly what it says in the title. In our humble opinion, it’s a great introduction for anyone wanting to build the foundation blocks of their Cognac knowledge.