Courvoisier offers several tours, including Cognac and Truffles, a day-long treat that includes lunch and tastings.
And it is at Martell where I learned paradise isn't all it's cracked up to be. Instead of angels and fluffy clouds, it's much dustier and dirtier than I imagined.
Paradis, the French spelling, is more of dark, damp dungeon-like cellar where the oldest and best cognacs are kept for aging. Instead of brushing against gossamer wings, you're more likely to encounter gooey cobwebs and black mold.
"That's the angel's share," our guide explains in good-enough-but-not-perfect English and pointing to the ink-colored mold. "It feeds from the fumes, the alcohol that evaporates from the cognac as it ages. It's like black velvet."
Gathered around myriad barrels full of cognac quietly aging in oak casks, we raised a glass of cognac to France's happy angels.
IF YOU GO:
For more information on tours and tastings, visit Benedictine at http://www.BenedictineDom.com, Cointreau at http://www.Cointreau.com, Remy Martin at http://www.Remy.com, Courvoisier at http://www.Courvoisier.com, Hennessy at http://www.Hennessy.com, and Martell at http://www.Martell.com.
To learn more about cognac, the spirit, visit http://www.cognac.fr, and to learn more about the Cognac region, visit http://www.tourism-cognac.com. For more information on Normandy and the Loire Valley, visit http://www.Normandy-Tourism.org and http://www.LoireValleyTourism.com.
Your travel agent can put together an itinerary with either a group or individual tour. Keep in mind that some distilleries are open only seasonally, so check the websites first.
Almost all major U.S. carriers have direct flights into Paris. Air France (www.AirFrance.com) and Open Skies (www.FlyOpenSkies.com) are Paris-based airlines with nonstops from the U.S. If you rent a car, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Fecamp is about a three-hour drive from Paris and Cognac is about five hours.