Delamain / Charles Braastad

Until the 1950s, most country families grew vines and distilled eaux-de-vie, laying down small quantities at home. Aware that Delamain selects eaux-de-vie individually, rather than signing regular contracts, these small grower-distillers bring in their samples in the hope of selling them.

On a time-swept wooden desk stands an open shoe box with a newly arrived batch—little screw-top bottles with homemade labels indicating the year the pressed grapes were distilled, the family’s name and telephone number.

“They’re what I call liquid savings accounts,” says Mr. Braastad.

When buying younger eaux-de-vie, the skill is in being able to project which ones will produce a great cognac of the future.

Holding up a sample from 2009, Mr. Braastad says, “This accords well with the style of our cognacs. It’ll be put into the bottle in 30 years time, when I’m 71 years old.”

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