This fall I visited the Cognac region of France. Also the trip was Salvatore Calabrese, owner of Fifty in London, where I visited a year ago on a trip with Plymouth Gin. In preparation for Cognac I read the book Cognac by Nicholas Faith because Calabrese's book is a lot bigger and didn't fit in my luggage.
Also, I thought Calabrese's book Cognac: A Liquid History wasn't going to be very good. It has beautiful pictures on just about every page and large font with large spacing between sentences, so I assumed it was going to be light on the content.
Not so much. The book is actually has most of the information as in Faith's journalistic book, just written more in narrative style than in charts and graphs. This is very fitting with Calabrese's personality- he's one of those bartenders who is a master of service and a lover of the romance of cocktails.
I particularly liked his detailed timeline of what seems like every event in the history of cognac. Another strong point is his description and tasting notes on pre-Phylloxera cognacs (Phylloxera his the region approximately 1860-1900, wiping out the entire industry). Calabrese's bar specializes in these very rare, very expensive cognacs and he has tasted more of these than most people.
Also very cool were his generalized tasting notes. He describes different colors, aromas, and flavors in cognac of different ages from five to 20 years. This should help me (and others) identify the age of cognac by the flavors.
I suppose the downside of this book is that the index isn't very good and the information is scattered throughout the narrative, making it difficult to find particular bits of information. It is a very good book about cognac; it's just not written as a reference book.