Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Jarnac - cognac and classic cars

Jarnac is a pleasant town on the banks of the Charente River in the new region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. It lies between Angoulême and Cognac and can thus be expected to be obsessed with brandy. It certainly is, having the Courvoisier factory located centrally there as well as other cognac houses.

It's a tourist spot which likes to promote itself as the birthplace of former president Mitterand. Having learned that, I was determined not to visit the museum celebrating what I consider an immoral and rotten politician. For starters, he signed off on the Rainbow Warrior bombing and then denied everything and imposed trade sanctions on New Zealand. Still, ignoring that part of its history, I enjoyed my time in Jarnac.

The mairie puts a big effort into beautification of walkways and municipal gardens. I loved the little free lending library box where anyone can leave a book and others can choose one to take away and read; the whole thing based on honesty and a sense of citizenship.

There's no mistaking we're in cognac country here in Jarnac. Some of the buildings have been warehouses for this alcohol and they bear the tell-tale signs - black mould. This mould arises from the vapours of this double-distilled brandy. Passing by one of these buildings (still in use) I could actually smell the brandy inside, the vapours escape from every crack and pore. This is, of course, a dangerous situation as they could combust so stocks of cognacs are spread here over 11 sites in case of a disaster. That way not all stock would be lost in an explosion.

The mould starts growing almost immediately and nothing can be done about it. It must have quickly identified hiding places in the past.

We visited the Tiffon Cognac house which now markets under the name of Braastad. It shares town space with other famous cognac houses such as Bisquit or Courvoisier. The brand Braastad was created when a Norwegian named Sverre Braastad married into the Tiffon family. We were given an impromptu tour of part of the premises and explored tastings in the shop. Cognac is normally far too fiery for me to drink but I enjoyed the creme liqueur version. It's very like Bailey's Irish Creme but with more of a kick at the end.

The distilling and storage information was interesting. I noted some smaller wooden barrels with fancy plaques on them. Two of them contained private cognac created for Prince Albert of Monaco, one each for his children and named for them. This is not uncommon.

Elsewhere in the town is a well-appointed public swimming pool. For the first time since my one and only dip in the Mediterranean in 2011 I donned my togs and enjoyed some cool widths. I'm a poor swimmer but it was a clean and pleasant break in a hot afternoon.  Drying off, it was time to check out the collection of classic and vintage cars assembled for the weekend.

This display piggy-backed on the car race that would occur at Angoulême the next day. I don't know anything about cars other than appreciating some of the aesthetics so I'll leave you with an assortment of images to enjoy, and maybe identify.


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