Jenolan Caves

In Beer there is Freedom, In Wine there is Health, In Cognac there is Power ~ Anon

August 28, 2020

The History of Cognac.

Generations of Aussie families have fond memories of Jenolan Caves. Father’s Day is the perfect excuse to reconnect with family, and treat your Dad to something special.  This year, we are offering 5 tempting deals. For example, you can save 10% if you buy a gift voucher for accommodation or accommodation and meals on or before Father's Day, September 6.  And if you come to Jenolan for Father's Day lunch in Chisolm's Restaurant, you can save 10% on single malts and also on cognac

Someone wise once said, “In beer there is freedom, in wine there is health, in cognac there is power.” So, what exactly is cognac? What makes it so special?  It is a type of brandy, but the very best type. It is to brandy what Champagne is to sparkling wine. Cognac is only made in the Charente and Charente-Maritime regions in France. The grape varieties from which cognac can be made are extremely limited. Ugni blanc is the most widely used grape variety. Cognac must be distilled twice. The distillation is done in special copper pot stills, whose design has not changed in 400 years. The distillation must take place between October 1 and March 31. Cognac must be aged at least 30 months in oak barrels, which can only come from Limousin or Troncais. During the aging process, the cognac passes through 3 different oak barrels. For the first 6-12 months it is stored in a new oak barrel where it gains a lot of its spicy aromas. Next it goes into an older seasoned cask that imparts more texture, suppleness and complex aromas. Finally it is aged in an old 10-20 year barrel that refines the final product. The finished cognac is graded according to their aging:

  • VS ( Very Special) or *** (three stars): aged at least 30 months in oak
  • VSOP (Very Special Old Pale): aged at least 4 years in oak
  • Napolean or XO ( Extra Old): aged at least 6 years in oak

For such a refined drink, Cognac has humble history. It was created out of necessity in the 16th century, when Dutch settlers travelled to France to purchase salt, wood, and wine. The merchants could not preserve their wine on the long journey back, so decided to distil it into ‘brandwijn’ or burnt wine, hence the name ‘brandy’. It was then watered down to try to recreate the taste of the original wine. At the start of the 17th century, double distillation started to appear, creating what is called ‘eau-de-vie’, highly concentrated brandy, around 70% alcohol. Delays in handling of ship cargo lead to the realisation that extended time in oak casks improved the taste and reduced the alcohol content to around 40%. The result was cognac.

Chisolm's Restaurant serves Hennessy and Courvoisier cognac.Half of the world’s cognac is produced by Hennessy, which although made in France, was first created by an Irishman from County Cork. Although Richard Hennessy came from an aristocratic Catholic Irish family, The Penal Laws had stripped Irish Catholics of their land, persecuted them for their religion and removed every right of citizenship. So along with thousands of Irish soldiers, Richard went to France to fight in the army of King Louis XV. After being injured at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, he settled on the banks of the Charente River, where he began distilling wine to produce brandy. Thus Hennessy cognac was born.

Another enormously famous brand of cognac is Courvoisier. In Paris, in the French suburb of Bercy, in 1809, Emmanuel Courvoisier started a wine and spirit company with Louis Gallois, then the mayor of Bercy. Originally, Emmanuel and Louis were traders for the best cognacs of the region. Eventually the two decided that the only way they could guarantee the very finest cognac was move to the region and become producers themselves. The 200-year-old crafting process has not changed since 1809.

Courvoisier became associated with Napoleon Bonaparte, who visited Bercy in 1811. He wanted his artillery companies to have a ration of cognac during the Napoleonic Wars. Legend has it that Napoleon 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". In 1869, Napoleon Bonaparte's heir Napoleon III personally requested Courvoisier, and bestowed the honourable title of "Official Supplier to the Imperial Court".

Upstairs in Caves House, at Chisolm’s Restaurant and Jeremiah’s Bar, for our 10% Father’s Day discount, we offer both Courvoisier VSOP and Henessey VSOP.

Magnificent Chisolm’s Restaurant was built in the fashionable Art Deco style of 1926. Lofty columns, high bay windows and imposing ceiling, deeply embossed with strong geometric patterns, mark it as a place where important people dined. Today’s 21st century guests still enjoy all the refined ambience of those architectural features, which, along with a warm open fireplace, are still there.

Picture your Dad on Father’s Day, enjoying a 3-course lunch or dinner, and topping it off with a glass of cognac or one of our range of single malt whiskeys. 




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4655 Jenolan Caves Road, Jenolan Caves, Blue Mountains NSW. Ph: 1300 76 33 11 or +61 2 6359 3911

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