This year, National Cognac Day falls on Sunday, June 4, and of course, many folks will celebrate by imbibing in the popular brandy your uncles likely refer to as,”yac.”
Over the years, cognac has become an ingrained staple in American Black culture, but it actually has Dutch roots. Cognac was created out of necessity back in the 16th century when Dutch settlers traveled to France to purchase salt, wood, and wine. The merchants ran into trouble preserving their wine on the long journey back and decided to distill it into eau-de-vie, a colorless fruit brandy, to maximize its quality. The new version was hit. Next, they tried distilling it twice—the second distillation is what actually made it brandy— and realized the process improved its taste even more. Cognac, of course, is just a more luxe version of brandy. In fact, the word “brandy” comes from the Dutch word brandewijn which literally means burnt wine.
Over the years, cognac has become an ingrained staple in American Black culture, but it actually has Dutch roots.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that merchants expanded the market, evolving from hawking the spirit in barrels to refining the process and creating additional streams of revenue, such as bottle and cork industry. Fast forward to 1946 and France created the BNIC, Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, to uphold the spirits’ quality and reassuring its importance alongside other booze.
As the alcohol’s popularity continued to soar, Hennessy famously began to run ads in Ebony magazine,then the leading African-American lifestyle magazine, in 1951. To date, many credit that ad campaign as the beginning of Black culture’s affinity for the brand. The loyalty has held steadfast, with the drink even playing a huge part in hip-hop culture, from lyrics to events.
The only other cognac that has made a play to take over some of Henny’s Black market share would be D’Usse, which is noted for its sweeter taste and having received a stamp of approval from hip-hop mogul Jay-Z. And of course, there’s Courvoisier, which, at arguably the height of its pop culture cache, was the subject of a hit song by rapper Busta Rhymes.
Whether your cognac loyalty lies in Hennessy, D’Usse or you prefer to pass the Courvoisier, make sure you enjoy a glass of it this weekend. After all, it’s #NationalCognacDay.