It is now nearly three centuries since the ‘connoisseurs’ – all right, aristocratic drunks – of fashionable London decided that the brandies from the valley of the Charente River in western France were the finest in the world. Not all of them, though: the region’s products were divided into three classes.

It is now nearly three centuries since the connoisseurs – all right, aristocratic drunks – of fashionable London decided that the brandies from the valley of the Charente River in western France were the finest in the world. Not all of them, though: the region’s products were divided into three classes. They were headed by ‘Champagne brandy’ from the ‘Champagnes’ – the chalky slopes south of the river opposite the little town of Cognac – as well as what are now the ‘Fins Bois de Jarnac’ north of the even smaller town, a few miles east of Cognac. Then as now, it was the combination of the capacity to age, plus the complexity of the aromas and flavours of the drink, that made – and make – it unique.