Top 7 Best Cognac Brands
The luxury liquor market has welcomed a few relatively new entrants in recent times. Having largely been the domain of wine and whiskey connoisseurs for a long time, it now accommodates a growing number of cognac enthusiasts.
To meet the rising demand and interest in this twice-distilled brandy that hails from France, several longstanding and reputed cognac houses or “maisons” are crafting high-quality products for the discerning palate of a cognac lover.
Top 7 Best Cognac Brands
Cognac houses maintain brand distinctiveness by following a consistent recipe for blending varieties of eau de vie to develop their most recognizable and sought-after concoctions. Several brands jostle for prominence in a burgeoning market and a few have made a longstanding and indelible impression on aficionados.
These are a few of the leading cognac brands.
If one cognac house were to be chosen as the most recognizable name in the market even among those who may not be die-hard cognac enthusiasts, it would be Hennessy.
Since its birth in 1765 when it was founded by an Irish military officer, it has completed an interesting and sometimes tumultuous journey that made it synonymous with luxury, thanks to its merger with brands like Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior. After a series of corporate mergers and takeovers, it is currently owned by the two conglomerates Diageo and the parent company of Louis Vuitton, and commands forty percent of the global cognac production.
Its universal appeal is largely due to the fact that it churns out a varied selection of cognac to cater to the tastes of the casual drinker or the discerning collector. Its offerings range from VS or Very Special to XO or Extra Old categories of cognac.
While Hennessy has created a wide variety of smooth and delicious blends, one that stands out among seasoned enthusiasts with experienced palates is the Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 3 Limited Edition cognac. It is a single-batch cognac, which carries distinct notes of toasted hazelnuts and praline along with a lubricious and supple body.
2. Remy Martin
A well-known and hugely respected brand, Maison de Remy Martin is a cognac house that originated in France in the commune of Cognac and dates back farther than Hennessy.
It is most noted for its cognac fine champagne. Cru is a French wine district that is defined by a collection of vineyards that produce high-quality grapes owing to the soil quality and impeccable cultivation practices.
Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne are two such crus that boast fertile and suitable terrains or terroirs for grapes destined for wine and cognac. Remy Martin sources its grapes from these regions to ensure the highest quality and brand consistency and to fulfill the promise to its loyal following of cognac aficionados. Remy Martin’s offerings span the entire spectrum of ages, prices, and levels of interest in cognac.
Remy Martin XO is a much-desired cognac that is crafted by marrying four hundred different eaux de vie. It carries a and a floral aroma and a smooth and velvety texture along with an intricate blend of flavors comprising candied citrus, plums, smoky nuts, and spicy cinnamon.
3. Louis XIII
When the Remy Martin family settled in the Cognac region of France, Louis XIII was the reigning monarch. He was also the first to recognize cognac as a drink that deserves its own classification. As a tribute to the king, Remy Martin has named what is possibly their most exclusive cognac after him.
Louis XIII is a cognac that exudes pure luxury and a sense of French history even at first glance, because of the incredibly eye-catching crystal decanter that holds it. Modeled after a metal flask that was retrieved from a battlefield dating back to the sixteenth century, each exquisite bottle is intricately etched by hand at reputed French crystal craft houses including Baccarat.
For centuries, cellar masters have created Louis XIII from the oldest and best vintage of eau de vie, making it Remy Martin’s most exclusive creation. With a finish that persists on the palate for more than an hour, it initially issues forth notes of spices, candied fruit, and flora, which smoothly segue into an exotic melange of ginger, passion fruit, roses, honey and sandalwood.
A collector’s item or a gift for a very special occasion, this cognac is the embodiment of indulgence.
A prestigious cognac house, Hine crafts a range of cognacs to suit varying tastes and budgets. H is a VSOP, or Very Superior Old Pale, which is a blend of around twelve batches of eau de vie, the youngest of which is at least four years old. It carries fruity and floral notes with a lasting finish.
The Hine Antique XO is a premium blend that is aged for twenty years. It carries notes of vanilla, spices, and fruits and has been a popular cognac for a century.
Moving into the space of sheer opulence, Hine offers Talent de Thomas Hine, a loving tribute to its founder. Its luxurious packaging includes an exclusive humidor fashioned from precious varieties of ebony, a crystal carafe signed by Baccarat, and tulip glasses designed by a member of the Hine dynasty.
It is crafted from fifty eaux de vie dating back to more than a century and sourced from Grande Champagne grapes. Redolent of the east, its fascinating notes consist of candied dates, sun-dried figs, cloves, gingerbread and currants.
One of the oldest cognac houses, it was established in 1809 in Paris s a cognac trading company and later relocated to Jarnac in the Cognac region to become a producer.
Its rich heritage includes the distinction of being the preferred brand of cognac with which Napolean Bonaparte treated his troops during the Napoleanic Wars. It was later designated as the official supplier to the Imperial Court by Napoelan III.
As pioneers in marketing, they were the first cognac brand to advertise on television and also the first to release a 3D advertisement.
Bottled in the iconic Courvoisier bottle with the narrow neck that gracefully expands into the curve of a wide base, the Courvoisier XO is a premium blend that is aged from eleven to twenty-five years. Its luscious notes include iris flower, candied citrus and creme brulee.
One of the very first cognac houses to be established, Martell dates back to 1715. Holding the status of the most exclusive brand of cognac during the mid-nineteenth century, it was served aboard the Queen Mary and the Concorde.
Its most recognizable cognac is the Cordon Bleu. Martell XO is a premium blend with a spicy aroma and dried fruit flavors.
7. Pierre Ferrand
What sets Pierre Ferrand apart from most exclusive brands of cognac is the location of their vineyard in the Angeac-Champagne terroir, which is considered part of the Golden Triangle region of Grande Champagne. The fertile region yields grapes of the very best quality for premium cognac production.
The Pierre Ferrand Cognac Selection de Anges offers an indulgent blend of spicy and floral notes that consist of chocolate, curry, honeysuckle and jasmine.
The Journey of Cognac From Grape to Glass
Cognac is the eponymous name given to the variety of brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France and in adjoining regions that border the Charente river. While brandy is produced all over the world, cognac can only be branded as such if it is produced in this region under strict rules of production.
The rules are stipulated by the appellation d’origine controlee, a French government certification system for wine, cheese, and a few agricultural products. The system certifies that the product originated in a particular geographic territory.
Cognac is developed from a substance called eau de vie. Eau de vie is the general term for fruit brandy and literally translates to “water of life”. When fruit is fermented and distilled twice, the result is a clear distillate that carries the strong, pure flavor and aroma of the parent fruit. Eau de vie is distilled from many types of fruit like raspberries, apples, plums, pears and peaches. Cognac springs from the eau de vie that is made from specific varieties of grapes.
The grapes are fermented to convert sugar to alcohol and then distilled in distinctive copper stills. Distillation elevates the alcohol content from seven to seventy percent. The resulting liquid is aged in French oak casks from two specific regions. The aging process refines the flavor of the fruit nectar and sharpens its essence.
A master blender then applies and intricate process of tasting and blending eau de vie of varying ages to create the final concoction, which makes its way into another barrel for further aging and ultimately into the bottle. The age mentioned on the bottle is the age of the youngest vintage of eau de vie in the final blend.
Single-batch cognacs are crafted from the eau de vie of a single vintage for a more distinct flavor that especially appeals to the seasoned cognac drinker. Blending various batches and vintages gives rise to a complex amalgam of sumptuous flavors and aromas.
The rules that govern the crafting of a bottle of cognac are clear and stringent. The source grape from which the juice is extracted can be one of only three varieties of white grape.
Ninety percent of the composition of the juice should be Ugni blanc, Folle blanche, or Colombard. The remaining ten percent has to be sourced from yet another permissible list of varieties. This juice is fermented by natural yeast that inhabits the air in the region. Sugar and additives are not permitted but coloring agents can be added before bottling.
The fermented grape juice has to be distilled twice in copper alembic stills of specific dimensions. The distillate has to be aged in casks fashioned from oak that is native to the Limousin or Troncais regions. The aging process has to last a minimum of two years but cognac producers age them for up to ten years and sometimes more.
The procedural and regional protectionist stipulations lend cognac its exclusivity.
Eaux de vie that are carefully selected and blended by experienced and painstaking cellar masters are aged in specific casks that are placed under exact temperature and humidity levels. This is carried out to acquire the desired final result of a delectable drink that maintains consistency across batches.
By virtue of its precise science, intricate craftsmanship, and rich heritage, the strictly regulated process of cognac production yields ambrosia that is a harmonious blend of luscious and exotic scents and tastes, which persist on the palate long after the first curious sip.
Is cognac the same as brandy?
The difference between brandy and cognac is a common question. When fruit is pressed to extract its juice, which is then fermented and distilled, the result is a brandy. Brandy can be made from fruits like berries, apples, plums, peaches, and many more.
Cognac is a type of brandy that comes from the Cognac region of France and is produced under strict regulations ranging from the source grape to the type of distillation apparatus to the material of the casks in which it is aged to the minimum aging period.
How should you drink cognac?
How to drink cognac is a question that could emerge from an avid enthusiast to a recent dabbler. Cognac is a type of brandy but contrary to popular belief, the best way to savor it is not necessarily from a balloon glass or brandy snifter.
The tulip glass has a narrower opening at the top and releases the aromas gradually instead of in one explosive rush. It is better suited for tastings and when you would like to thoroughly savor that special glass of premium cognac at leisure.
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
With cellphones so ubiquitous, your watch choice can be less about telling time and more about personal style. However, a watch is not ‘just’ a watch. For example, the vast majority are made for right-handed people, but a select few cater to the lefties among us. There is a wide range in functionality and size.
The wristwatch is also one of the few socially acceptable accessories for men, so why not have a small selection? If you’re not cashing a CEO’s paycheck just yet, here are the top 28 most handsome watches for men that retail for under $500.
Got a bigger budget? Then check out our guide to the best men’s watches under $1000 instead.
Top 29 Best Watches Under $500 For Men
1. Tommy Hilfiger Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
If you like the feel of a pliable, non-metal band but aren’t comfortable with genuine leather, this watch comes equipped with a handsome synthetic band. At 46mm in diameter, this watch is perfect for men of smaller stature, as it will not overpower your hand or make it look like you’re wearing your father’s watch. With bold Arabic numerals, a stainless steel case, and classic styling, this watch is an outstanding choice for an everyday watch and the man on a budget.
2. Nordgreen Pioneer – Black Dial
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Not everyone has an endless amount of cash to drop on a luxury timepiece. If you’re money-conscious but want something high-end, then why not consider the Nordgreen Pioneer.
An inspired take on a classic Chronograph, Nordgreen celebrates the Danish with what they call a timepiece “that captures the sustainable future.” Available in various dial colors from blue, black, and white. There’s even the choice of three case colors – gunmetal, silver, and rose gold. A perfect addition to the collection of any watch enthusiast.
3. Fossil Grant Brown Leather Watch
This lovely offering by Fossil features slim Roman numeral hour markers and delicate cut-out hands. The casing is stainless steel and is water-resistant to 165 feet, making it a great dive watch. The band is made of supple, soft calfskin leather and uses a buckle closure.
Of course, this timepiece also comes with the generous 11-year warranty and it’s own fun tin. This watch oozes class and is great for nearly every occasion in your life.
4. Citizen Sport Stainless Steel Men’s Watch With Brown Leather Band
If you don’t want to deal with changing out a battery in a digital watch, this watch is powered by either natural or indoor lighting. The mineral crystal face and stainless steel case make this watch water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for swimmers and snorkelers.
Handsome and utilitarian, this is a great watch for everyday wear. It’s one of the best watches for men who are always on the go.
5. Fossil Men’s Machine Chronograph Silicone Watch
This watch was designed with the active man in mind. The knurled silicone band stands up to sweat and oils without issue, and the timepiece itself is water-resistant to 165 feet.
The patterned bezel and quality craftsmanship of the black dial is excellent, as is to be expected from a Fossil watch. It even comes in the iconic and collectible tin!
6. Citizen Men’s Eco-Drive Watch
This men’s watch features Japanese quartz movement that charges itself indoors or out when exposed to light, making it a great choice for those who don’t want to change out the battery too often. The stitched canvas strap is soft against your skin and will wick away moisture, while the mineral crystal face stands up to the rigors of your everyday life.
Water-resistant to 330 feet, this dive watch is a classic and simple design you’ll be proud of for years to come.
7. Invicta Pro Diver Chronograph Men’s Watch
Another gorgeous offering by Invicta, this watch features a bold design with a slightly nautical feel to it. It will look at home whether you’re wearing a business suit or are going for a dive of less than 660 feet. This piece is also covered by a one-year warranty as a matter of course. The luminosity feature and magnified date window make it a great choice if you work or play in low light.
If you want something that looks like a Tag Heuer but without the luxury watch brand price tag, this is a good option!
8. Casio Edifice Multi-Function Men’s Watch
This watch has three sub-dials for 12 hour, 60 minute and 60-second displays, in addition to the standard time. It also features a fold-over, push-down clasp on the stainless strap, keeping it secure throughout your activities. If you’re looking for a classy timepiece that shrieks sophistication, this is a great choice.
9. Fossil Machine Three Hand Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This quality watch is a chameleon piece. It looks at home as a dress watch riding below the cuff of your best suit, and it also looks great paired with jeans and a t-shirt. Backed by Fossil’s 11-year warranty as a matter of course and beautifully crafted, this smoke-colored piece is guaranteed to become the go-to accessory for nearly every occasion.
10. MVMT Watches Black Face Men’s Watch
If you like the look of a simple watch, this minimalist offering from MVMT is right up your alley. With just a plain black face, tick marks to denote the hours and a single date window, there is nothing overdone or extravagant about this design. The is understated and suited to the simple design. It’s definitely a classy, low-key piece for the budget-conscious.
11. Timex Weekender Watch
If you’re looking for a fun watch to pair with casual outfits, this is a great option. The band is blue and yellow woven nylon, and the face features both civilian and military timekeeping. An Indiglo night light is also included. This watch is water-resistant to 99 feet, meaning it can withstand splashes of water or exposure to rain but you won’t want to submerge it.
12. PUMA Ultrasize Black Sport Men’s Watch
Boasting a 50mm diameter, this piece is perfect for the large-framed man or one who likes to wear his accessories oversized. A true fashion statement, this sports watch comes in eight different colors schemes to match your favorite hues.
Do be aware, however, that the dial knob is configure for left-handed men!
13. Timex Easy Reader Men’s Watch
Another dress watch designed with the older gentleman in mind, this watch features a white dial with generously sized numerals that do not appear comical to the casual observer.
It’s also an excellent choice if you take your contacts out at night and still want to be able to check the time. With classic lines and a simple white face, the watch would not be out of place at any casual gathering. It comes with Timex’s one-year warranty at no additional charge.
14. Fossil Nate Men’s Chronograph Watch
For men who like a more gritty, industrial feel to their accessories, this Fossil watch is right on point. The bezel is gear-edged and the face is utilitarian black and gray. Water-resistant to 165 feet, this watch is a great choice if you like your adornments to be understated yet add visual interest.
It’s definitely a stand-out piece, for those who would take notice!
15. Timex Expedition Field Chronograph Men’s Watch
Featuring an indigo night light, tachymeter, a date window and a buckle closure, this watch is perfect for men who like to work or play outdoors. It is also water-resistant to 330 feet, making it a great choice for snorkeling or swimming.
You won’t want to wear it for diving, however. With classic, black styling and a genuine crystal face, this is a timepiece that will stand the test of time in both form and function.
16. Seiko 5 Automatic Stainless Steel Men’s Watch
This Seiko automatic watch has all the bells and whistles you need, but presents it all in a plain and strikingly attractive manner. It features a date window in either English or Spanish, sword-shaped hands, a sweeping second hand and a mineral dial window. This is a great option for the man on the go. The canvas strap can be removed and hand-washed if sweat or other odors become an issue.
This watch is not water-resistant, so you’ll only want to wear it when you won’t be popping by the pool for a swim!
17. Invicta Pro Diver Collection Silver-Tone Men’s Watch
For those who prefer an all-metal timepiece, the stainless steel Invicta fits the bill nicely. It has a similar aesthetic to a Tag Heuer watch, but at a more affordable price. Equipped with a unilateral bezel and removable links, the band can be customized to fit your wrist perfectly. The face is flame fusion crystal and features a magnifier to highlight the date window.
It’s also water-resistant to 660 feet. If you’re looking for a gorgeous watch that stands up to an active lifestyle, this is an excellent choice.
18. Seiko Men’s Adventure-Solar Classic Casual Watch
This Seiko watch derives its power from either natural or indoor light and can withstand water depths of up to 330 feet. The supple brown leather strap and timeless brushed steel give this piece an attractive look, and the alarm chronograph is easy to set.
If you’re looking for a watch that can serve as a backup for your wake-up call while traveling, stand up to the elements and look awesome, this casual wrist watch is a winner.
19. Nautica Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Blue Resin Band
Featuring a plethora of options and a smart, snappy style, this a great casual watch with a eye-catching blue dial. The hardy resin band is adjustable, and the face is protected by a mineral window. Whether for work or play, this bold blue design is handsome and substantial on the wrist. It comes with Nautica’s five-year warranty at no additional charge.
20. Citizen Sport Men’s Stainless Steel Watch with Black Leather Band
The black, red and white face of this piece eschews the traditional two-tone color scheme so often employed in other watches, and the contrasting stitching on the band adds creative flair. It comes backed by Citizen’s five-year warranty and will compliment any casual outfit.
21. Alessi Tic15 Analog Display Analog Quartz Black Men’s Watch
Another not-quite-round offering on our list, the curved square casing of this piece gives it instant visual appeal. Sleek and clean, this unfussy design will be a compliment to almost any occasion. It has quartz movement and is water-resistant to 99 feet, making it a great choice for everyday wear.
22. Invicta 1517 I Force Collection Watch
Another on our list designed for left-handed men, this watch is something special. Water-resistant to 330 feet and featuring oversize stenciled numbers and a sub dial, this watch is great for any casual outfit. The cloth band is extremely durable and stands up to dirt, sweat and grime.
If you lead an active lifestyle, this watch will be right at home in your collection.
23. TRIWA Blue Steel Nevil Canvas Watch
This watch comes in a whopping 14 color variations, all of them beautiful. You may decide to add more than one to your collection!
Designed in Sweden, this watch features Japanese quartz movement, a stainless steel casing and a strap made from Tärnsjö organic leather. TRIWA, which stands for Transforming the Industry of Watches, believes in the artistry of fine jewelry and it shows in their product.
24. Victorinox Swiss Army Alliance Watch
Another fine dress watch from the makers of the Swiss Army knife, this watch is emblazoned with the internally recognized cross and shield emblem. It has no sub-dials, tachymeter or other add-ons to detract from its simple and appealing style.
This watch will be at home with all but the most formal of outfits and carries a two-year warranty.
25. Ingersoll Automatic Stainless Steel Bull Run Watch
Again, Ingersoll remakes the classics and brings them into the present day. With a highly polished stainless steel casing, two sub-dials, a date aperture and arrow-shaped hands, this quartz watch is beautiful.
The band features contrasting stitching on the fine-grain leather, adding depth and detail to the workmanship. This watch will compliment any casual occasion and can be relied upon for years to come.
26. Tissot Quickster Chronograph Black Leather Men’s Watch
Made with scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and Swiss automatic movement, this watch is a smart and utilitarian choice. If you’re looking for a solid Swiss watch that isn’t flashy, this is an excellent option. It’s also guaranteed for two years.
27. Seiko Sport Solar Men’s Beige Watch
Are you getting tired of squinting down at your watch or holding it closer and closer to your face? Don’t worry, we all get a bit nearsighted with age, especially over the age of 40.
If you’re not quite ready for reading glasses or a comically huge watch, this is a great choice from Seiko. The numerals, indices and luminous hands stand out in stark white against a black background, and the numerals are generous in size. It’s a perfect casual watch for the older gentleman.
28. Seiko Men’s 5 Watch Blue Canvas Band
This simple and affordable watch has a clean, crisp aesthetic to it and doesn’t bog down its design with a ton of bells and whistles. It’s time and date, end of.
If you want a watch for casual wear, this Seiko is a shoo-in. The band is forgiving and comfortable against your wrist, and it’s blue color will likely compliment your existing wardrobe. The price is also extremely affordable.
29. Tommy Hilfiger Men’s Stainless Steel Watch With Brown Leather Band
Featuring the Hilfiger logo at the three o’clock position, this wrist watch is a statement piece. It is a bright, shiny stainless steel work of art that you’ll be proud to wear at all but the most stuffy of workplaces. The calfskin leather band uses a buckle closure and the date window is beside the logo at three o’clock.
If you’re a fan of Tommy clothing, cologne or luggage, you can complete your look with this stunning accessory.