The first five-star hotel in the brandy-making town of Cognac, Chais Monnet offers a modern take on traditional French luxe.
A complex layering of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of eaux de vie, cognac is one of the world’s most covetable spirits. Small wonder, then, that its namesake town in southwestern France draws throngs of serious collectors and brandy aficionados—the birthplace of King François I is home to barrel rooms by the likes of Hennessy, Rémy Martin, and Baron Otard. Yet for all the wealth the destination attracts, Cognac has lacked high-class accommodation to match the standards of its tipples and deep-pocketed visitors.
Enter Hôtel Chais Monnet, Cognac’s first five-star property and a shrine to the spirit that helped make the town so culturally, gastronomically, and economically important. Set on the banks of the Charente River, it revolves around a trio of refurbished mid-19th-century stone buildings (now connected by a glass atrium) that once served as the warehouses and barrel cooperage of the Monnet Cognac house. Also on hand is a purpose-built guest wing dubbed Ceps (“Vine”), where French architect Didier Poignant pays homage to the region’s famous industry through rust-hued latticework that nods to the grapevines covering the surrounding hills. The rooftop is home to a kitchen garden with an alfresco bar planned for summer months; downstairs are guest rooms and a spa and wellness center with a heated indoor-outdoor pool.
While the accommodations in Ceps are supremely comfortable, the pick of the hotel’s 92 rooms and suites are located in the old buildings—huge, character-filled guest quarters with exposed wooden beams, honey-colored oak floors, and patios overlooking immaculate lawns. There are more exposed beams in La Distillerie, a brasserie set on the top floor of the former ageing cellar, while below is an astonishing space fitted with tables surrounded by towering barrels. This is the heart of the “cathedral cellar,” where maturing brandies were once stored and where chef Sébastien Broda now helms fine-dining restaurant Les Foudres, showcasing local produce including walnuts and foraged mushrooms.
Broda’s meals alone are reason to linger. But cognac aficionados will also want to spend time sampling the vast collection of aged brandies in the hotel’s jazz bar, which inhabits the former cooperage. Outdoor excursions are another draw. The knowledgeable concierge team at Chais Monnet can organize bespoke experiences such as touring the countryside in a Citroen 2CV—roof rolled back—or a bike ride and picnic amid the grapevines (33-517/223-223; doubles from US$273).
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This article originally appeared in the February/March 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Raising The Spirits”).