Napoleon’s Favorite Cognac

While I was working as a Comptroller for a large sugar mill in Aguadulce, I received a bottle of Cognac as a Christmas present from one of the companies which had business with us.  Hard liquor was never my cup of tea.  My inclinations were more toward cold beer, so the box containing the fine liquor was squirreled away into one of closets and obliterated from my mind.

Two days ago, while my wife was looking for our stored Christmas decorations, the forgotten box was found in an obscure corner of our master bedroom closet.  In an act of curiosity, we opened it up and everything was in perfect order, as if it had been bought that very same day.  Twenty-seven years had passed since we stashed away the Cognac in a closet.  It’s amazing how fast time passes.

People in Panama are more inclined to drink rum and beer than anything else.  Brandy or Cognac is too hot for our Tropical climate.  Any wine which has alcohol content of more than 15 percent is considered a Brandy or Cognac.  Cognac is a type of brandy that is produced only in the Cognac region of western France, the agricultural district of the Charente-Maritime about 100 miles north of Bordeaux on the coast of France.  It is commonly recognized as one of the finest and most elegant liqueurs in the world.

Brandy or Cognac was introduced to Northern Europe by Dutch traders in the 16th century.  The name “Brandy” comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn” meaning “burnt wine”.

A classic Cognac is matured between 8 and 12 years in a selection of Troncais and Limousin oak barrels.  The VSOP Cognac produced by Courvoisier is a “Fine Champagne” meaning it is a blend of Cognacs from the top growth Grande and Petite Champagne regions in France.  It can be had for about 31.41 British Pounds.  I don’t know its price in Panama, but I do know it is not a cheap liquor.

V.S.O.P. (very special or superior old pale) is a common terminology to choose a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least for year in a cask, but the average wood age is much greater.  While there are close to 200 cognac producer in the world, a large percentage of Cognac comes from only four main producers, (e.g., Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Rémy Cointreau).  Pale refers to the color of the Cognac which is very light, highly diluted with white depending on its age.

Legend has it that Napoleon held Emmanuel Courvoisier’s cognac in such high esteem that he took with him hundreds of bottles to enjoy during his years in exile. This reserve became known as “Le Cognac de Napoleon”, a description still proudly borne today on all Courvoisier Cognac.

Although no evidence has been found to indicate that Courvoisier cognac was the favorite drink of Napoleon Bonaparte, who died in 1821, before Courvoisier was officially established by Felix Courvoisier in 1835, the company website claims the following:

“The origin of our history goes back to the beginning of the 19th century with Emmanuel Courvoisier and his associate, Louis Gallois, running a wine and spirit merchant company, in the Parisian suburb of Bercy. In 1811 Napoleon visited their warehouses in Bercy and he was hosted by Louis Gallois, the Mayor, and Emmanuel Courvoisier. Legend has it that Napoleon I later took several barrels of cognac with him to St Helena, a treat much appreciated by the English officers on the ship who named it ‘The Cognac of Napoleon’.”

Below are several pictures of a bottle of the preferred Cognac of Napoleon, the Emperor of France, after the French Revolution.  We don’t plan to drink it in our lifetime.  Probably it will be passed on to The Twisters so they can dispose of it as they please.  Here we go.

Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
The box includes several names of battles fought by Napoleon during his military campaigns. Marengo and Austerlitz stand out as two of his most brilliant military triumphs. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
If you look closely, you will identify the name “Courvoisier” embedded in the glass cups.  Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Notice the name of the package of cookies on your left. Orly is a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, France. It is located 12.7 kilometers (7.9 miles) from the center of Paris. The name blends in well with the French origin of the Courvoisier Cognac. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

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