The origin of distillation in the region is thought to be tied to Dutch traders, who had ordered ‘burnt wine' or brandewijn
as early as 162; the Dutch word, then, is the origin of the word ‘brandy’. The first distillery to offer its brandy under the ‘brand name' of cognac was Augier in 1715. Now the word ‘brandy' in the EU is legally defined as any spirit distilled from fruit and through many regions of the world it is synonymous with alcohol of any type.
As the old saying goes, “All cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.”
During the 19th century, cognac was very popular in France and also in the colonies, in part because it traveled well. Phylloxera, the First World War, and the Great Depression crippled this industry as it did so many others.
During World War II, however, the industry was protected by the German invaders, and following this period, the trade became increasingly dominated by the big four houses that control the majority of it today.
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