Anyone who does not already know what Cognac is about will quickly nose its quintessential air as they stroll about the medieval lanes of the town’s riverside quarter. For here is the greatest concentration of chais (warehouses), where the high-quality brandy is matured, its fumes blackening the walls with tiny fungi. Cognac is cognac, from the tractor driver and pruning-knife wielder to the manufacturer of corks, bottles and cartons. Untouched by recession (eighty percent of production is exported), it is likely to thrive as long as the world has sorrows to drown – a sunny, prosperous, self-satisfied little place.

Cognac has a number of medieval stone and half-timbered buildings in the narrow streets of the old town, of which rue Saulnier and rue de l’Îsle-d’Or make atmospheric backdrops for a stroll, while picturesque Grande-Rue winds through the heart of the old quarter to the chais, down by the river. The attractive hôtel de ville is set in pleasant gardens just to the east.

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