Courvoisier was my final stop on the Cognac tour and the House of Courvoisier is prepared to make all visitors feel like its most famous former guest -- the Emperor Napoleon.
It was back in the 19th century. Emmanuel Courvoisier and Louis Gallois were running a wine and spirit merchant company in Bercy, a suburb of Paris. Napoleon visited the warehouse and took several barrels of their cognac with him on a journey. And the very appreciative English officers named the product the "Cognac of Napoleon." In 1869, Napoleon III actually presented Courvoisier with a certificate that deemed it their cognac "Official Supplier to the Imperial Court."
Just outside the the town of Cognac, Courvoisier has a visitor's center in Jarnac, which not only displays cognac and its historical connection to Napoleon, it encourages guests to "sense" it. Courvoisier stressed the senses throughout our tour, as they do in company's description of their Napoleon cognac:
(Hear) Blending-Matured Grande and Petite Champagne, at their peak;
(See) Colour-Deep golden-amber;
(Smell) Aroma-Cigar box, liquorice, hazelnut, old port wine, ginger bread, orange blossom;
(Feel) Body-full bodied, mellow, round;
Taste-Very complex and elegant -- rich -- supple -- tender -- stylish.
It was as complete a definition of cognac as one could give. Cognac is not one liquid, it is a blend of tastes and aromas that you need to feel. And it followed me through the day.
The distillery tour brought us through the making of Courvoisier, before the tastings of V.S., VSOP, Exclusif, Napoleon, XO Imperial and Intiale Extra filled my senses.
At the Chateau Courvoisier, there was a special tour of the Privi (Paradise) Cellar, where I saw bottles and barrels dating back centuries. The finest of the vintage are stored right there, in a dusty dungeon worth its weight in gold. And then -- with a dinner fitting of an emperor -- we sipped our Napoleon and bid adieu to Cognac.
For more information on Courvoisier, their products and their visiting them in Cognac, go to their official website, or contact them at +33 (0)5 45 35 55 55 by phone.