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World Spirits Report 2023: Cognac & brandy

It’s been a difficult 12 months for Cognac, but perceptions of the wider brandy category are shifting more positively.

Cognac or brandy on a black background

“I feel the brandy category is in transition,” says Joel Fraser, chief operating officer at Seven Tails Brandy, “from being perceived as the dusty old choice of our grandparents to a useful, tasty addition to any world-class cocktail. You only have to look at places like Soho House, which has an innovative brandy cocktail called the House Cooler at the top of its cocktail menu, or Three Sheets, the award-winning bar in Dalston [London] having a brandy drink among only nine cocktails it makes, to see that brandy is emerging – finally.”

It certainly feels like a pivotal moment for the category. In 2022, the brandy sector sold 163.4 million nine-litre cases globally, Euromonitor International data shows. That is expected to reach 169.2m cases this year, and to grow further in 2024 to 174.6m. In value terms, brandy sales are forecast to pass US$22 billion in 2023, a slight increase from US$20.99bn in 2022. Growth is expected to slow in 2024, however, to reach US$22.6bn.

For Seven Tails, the US remains its biggest market by volume – but Fraser is seeing huge demand from bars in London. “Eastern Europe has also been a great supporter of ours; we’ve seen impressive demand out there. It’s a place I’ll be spending more time in 2024 for sure,” he adds.

Brandies hailing from France, including Cognac, however, had a tougher start to 2023. Exports of French spirits fell by 20% during the first three months of the year, data from the Fédération Française des Spiritueux revealed.

Hardships were reflected in Rémy Cointreau’s half-year 2023/2024 results, which saw the company’s Cognac division plummet by 30.1% to €416.1m (US$440m) over the six-month period. The drop was attributed to a ‘steep decline’ in North America, where it is grappling with normalised consumption levels and an ‘intense’ promotional environment. While Latin America was ‘very strong’, recovery in China after the Covid-19 pandemic has been slower, the company noted.

Euromonitor International expects marginal growth for the category overall, however, by the end of 2023. Global Cognac sales are forecast to reach 18.2m cases, up from 17.4m last year. This is expected to rise slightly again in 2024 to 18.9m. The trend is similar in value terms, with sales expected to hit US$29.5 billion in 2023, up from US$27.5bn in 2022. Next year will see a slight improvement, if Euromonitor’s prediction is correct, to reach US$31.3bn.

Click here to read our World Spirits Report for the Tequila & mezcal category.

Cognac and brandy brands to watch in 2024

Larsen Cognac

Anora Group offloaded its Larsen Cognac brand for €54.1m (US$58m) in 2023, which is now under the ownership of ThaiBev’s International Beverage division. The company said it plans to bolster the Cognac brand’s position via its global network of distribution partners – with a keen focus on Asian export markets. International Beverage already distributes the brand in China and Hong Kong via its AsiaEuro International Beverage subsidiary. If all goes to plan, Larsen could take off in Asia in a big way in the coming year.

Uncle Nearest

Known for its namesake award-winning American whiskey, Uncle Nearest is expanding its spirits repertoire to include Cognac after acquiring a vineyard in France. Previous owners of the vineyard, Domaine Saint Martin, include the Martell family, and the site spans more than 40.5 hectares – half of which are in the Grande Champagne cru. Uncle Nearest has already made a global name for itself as a serious Tennessee whiskey producer, so can it replicate its success with France’s native spirit?

Burnt Faith

In early 2023, the first dedicated brandy distillery in the UK was announced: Burnt Faith. Its unique setup includes the only Charentais pot still to have been imported into the UK. The brains behind the business, Simon Wright, previously established Hawkes Cider, which was sold to BrewDog in 2018, making him no stranger to the world of drinks. The distillery’s ethos is ‘brandy without boundaries’, so eyes should be firmly fixed on the London distiller to see what it produces in 2024.

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