Getting to the essence of cognac: the distiller’s art

The deft hand of the master blender is critical to production

Getting to the essence of cognac: the distiller’s artAt first glance, cognac production seems straightforward. The local wine is distilled twice, aged in oak casks from a few years to decades and eventually bottled. In reality, it’s an exceedingly complex minuet where the subtle influences of terroir merge with the distiller’s art and ultimately flower under the deft hand of the master blender.…

Cognac: A spirit’s spirit to survive and thrive

The traditional cognac houses have had to overcome grape plagues, the rising popularity of Scotch whisky, counterfeiting and war

Cognac: A spirit’s spirit to survive and thriveAugier, the first modern cognac house, was organized in 1643. Today the brand is owned by French spirits giant Pernod Ricard. It recently relaunched the brand with a line of cognacs said to reflect the early style of the product. Over the two centuries following 1643, many of the leading cognac houses, including the big…

Cognac, a short history of an enduring spirit

What is the difference between cognac and other types of brandy?

Cognac, a short history of an enduring spiritCognac is a type of brandy produced in the Charente region of France, centred around the towns of Cognac and Jarnac, and stretching from the Île de Ré to the Gironde Estuary on the Atlantic coast, to Angoulême and the foothills of the Mastiff Central. The Cognac Delimited Region, the exclusive area where cognac can…

Quebec, France poised to reject diversity, pluralism

Freedom of religious expression is a human right

Quebec, France poised to reject diversity, pluralismAccording to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practise, worship…

Napoleon was a bitter man in his final years

He bitterly resented his exile to St. Helena, blaming it all on Wellington

Napoleon was a bitter man in his final yearsA childhood history book included a reproduction of Jacques-Louis David’s famous portrait of Napoleon crossing the Alps. It’s an idealized representation, not a realistic one. Mounted on a rearing Marengo – his grey Arabian stallion – the man who became emperor of the French and conqueror of Europe gives off an invincible vibe. Two recent…

Wealth taxes cripple economic growth

Blocks entrepreneurship, economic growth and jobs

Wealth taxes cripple economic growthThe introduction of a wealth tax in Canada is a recurring subject that has drawn new interest during the current COVID-19 crisis. It’s a temptation best ignored. In the 2020 throne speech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “The government will also identify additional ways to tax extreme wealth inequality,” arguing that it will help the…

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killer

One hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept across the world, killing tens of millions of people, particularly those in the prime of life

Flu pandemic of 1918 brutal, virulent killerFrom the wet and windswept northwest of Ireland to rural southwestern Ontario, the flu pandemic of 1918 to 1920 was remorseless. My mother and my wife’s father lost siblings to an illness where death might come within 24 hours of first symptoms. And sometimes it was particularly brutal. Historian John Barry has described it this…

The revolution always eats its own children

History shows plenty of radicals who pushed too hard. We have plenty on today’s world stage

The revolution always eats its own childrenIn the summer and autumn of 1789, the French National Assembly overturned 1,000 years of law and custom to produce a modern constitutional democracy. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen spelled out all the new conditions of civil life: the abolition of feudalism and aristocratic titles, freedom from arbitrary arrest,…

Believe it or not: There was once a plan for a Franco-British union

From the failed Franco-British Union during the Second World War to Brexit, some things are just meant to fail

Believe it or not: There was once a plan for a Franco-British unionIn these contentious Brexit days in the United Kingdom, it’s strange to remember that there was once a plan for a Franco-British Union. No, I’m not making that up. However short-lived, the plan was real. On June 16, 1940, the British cabinet approved a “declaration of indissoluble union” to this effect: “France and Great Britain…

The failure of an American president to compromise

Woodrow Wilson failed to accept the limitations and checks explicit in the American democratic system

The failure of an American president to compromiseWhen the Paris Peace Conference opened on Jan. 18, 1919, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson seemed to be at the top of his game. America’s entry had played a critical role in ending the First World War and Wilson’s famous Fourteen Points were acclaimed as the blueprint for a just settlement and a future world where…

Why Canadians should embrace the yellow jacket movement

Some Canadians and French believe that their ‘leaders’ are mere followers of a supra-national agenda, not champions for their electorate

Why Canadians should embrace the yellow jacket movement“Canadians do not need to be liberated,” said Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson half a century ago, after French President Charles De Gaulle lit the fuse for Quebec independence with his famous “Vive la Quebec libre!” speech. But neither of their current counterparts are standing for national freedom, let alone calling for it. President…

A Brexit perspective with 55-year-old roots

Charles de Gaulle's view of the English should help inform the conversation about whether the U.K. belongs in Europe

A Brexit perspective with 55-year-old rootsWatching the fraught state of Brexit negotiations brought Charles de Gaulle to mind. On Jan. 14, 1963, de Gaulle – in his capacity as president of France – publicly blocked Britain’s entry into what was then known as the common market. “England,” he said, “is an island, sea-going, bound up by its trade, its markets,…

Discovering Monet’s lifelong fascination with architecture

London’s National Gallery exhibit offers rare glimpses into the artist’s examination of the play of light on human structures

Discovering Monet’s lifelong fascination with architectureOne of the great things about being a retired museum and art gallery CEO is that you know most of the basic tricks of the trade. For instance, you can get a very quick gauge of an exhibition’s successes and high points by talking with the gallery security staff. So as soon as we had…

Debunking the myth of immigrant assimilation

Language, religious laws and practices, cultural and culinary traditions all function to discourage, prevent or, at the very least, slow down assimilation

Debunking the myth of immigrant assimilationThere are approximately 260 million immigrants in the world. An immigrant is defined as someone residing in a country other than their place of birth. Of that number, roughly 50 million are “illegal immigrants” who lack official authorization to reside in their host country. In 2017, roughly 3.4 per cent of the world’s population of…

Vive le Quebec libre, 50 years later

There was a swift response to Charles de Gaulle’s intrusion into Canadian affairs during the centennial summer of 50 years ago

Vive le Quebec libre, 50 years laterI remember the reaction to French president Charles de Gaulle’s intrusion into Canadian affairs during the centennial summer of 50 years ago. Astonishment and outrage are perhaps the two best descriptors of public sentiment, at least as far as English-speaking Canada was concerned. Being a new Canadian of less than two years standing, I didn’t…