The changing face of cognac
Apr 09, 2019
Cognac was named after the town of Cognac in south-west France. Like champagne, it’s protected by law so it must adhere to strict production criteria and come from this specific region. The region ripples out from Cognac to just north of La Rochelle and down south past Chalais. Traditionally, it’s an after-dinner digestif, drunk neat or diluted with a splash of water like whisky. This is all part of the culture and even of its mystique. The perception is that it’s only old, rich people who drink cognac. But times are changing. Cognac’s biggest consumer is not France, as you might expect, but America, and African Americans account for a majority of these sales.
Black Americans were first introduced to the spirit on a wide scale during WWII when battalions were positioned in south-west France. They got a taste for it and, in the 1950s, Hennessy was one of the first brands to actively engage in marketing towards the black community. And it paid off. The spirit became part of the culture, but it wasn’t until the ’90s that it truly became the drink of choice for African Americans.
The late 1990s and early 2000s saw a huge upswing in sales, which can be attributed to rappers like Notorious B.I.G, 2Pac and Dr. Dre rapping about the drink. It became a marker of identity and success and reportedly Courvoisier sales spiked by up to 30% after the release of Busta Rhymes’ song “Pass the Courvoisier”. This changing image means that it’s no longer just a staple of stuffy liquor cabinets, only to be brought out on special occasions. It’s been given a new lease of life and traditional drinking rules no longer apply. Add it to a cocktail, mix it with juice or soft drinks, it doesn’t matter – cognac is cool again.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen on Flickr