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The story of the cognac house of Courvoisier started early in the 19th century when Emmanuel Courvoisier established his cognac business in Jarnac and Louis Gallois separately established his wine and spirit wholesale business in the Parisian suburb of Bercy.
In 1811 Napoléon visited Gallois' cellars in Bercy where he was hosted by Louis Gallois, the Mayor and Emmanuel Courvoisier. This heralded the beginning of a relationship between Courvoisier and the imperial courts of Napoléon I, II and III.
The Gallois family continued to sell the cognacs produced by the Courvoisier family until in 1834 the sons of the original founders, Felix Courvoisier and Jules Gallois, merged the two businesses and founded the Courvoisier Company which we know today.
It is worth noting that Napoléon Bonaparte died in 1821, before the partnership and so before Courvoisier was officially established, so while the emperor may have not strictly speaking enjoyed Courvoisier branded cognac, records do support his visit to Gallois' cellars and it seems safe to assume he would have been offered the very best cognacs made by Emmanuel Courvoisier.
After Felix Courvoisier's death in 1866, his two nephews, the Curlier brothers inherited and ran the Courvoisier business as 'Curlier Brothers & Cie' until 1909 when two Anglo-French brothers, the Simons, bought the firm. The Simons operated a major wine distribution company in Paris called 'Simons Freres' and another in London which was already the cognac house's main UK distributor.
It was the Simons' who properly established the Courvoisier brand name. Recognising the need to build Courvoisier's image they adopted the slogan 'The Brandy of Napoléon' and in 1950 introduced the silhouette of the emperor's crest which they applied to a distinctive bottle shape they called Josephine. This distinctive 'Emperor and his Empress' packaging helped establish Courvoisier as an internationally recognised brand.
Courvoisier enjoyed rapid expansion and in order to maintain the necessary reserves of cognac, the Simons were forced to seek outside financial backing. In May 1964 the Simons family (heirs of the original brothers) sold the business to Hiram Walker, the U.S. distributor of Courvoisier. Several mergers and acquisitions later, in 1993 this company became known as Allied Domecq, itself subsequently broken up in 2005 as part of an acquisition which resulted in Courvoisier now being owned and distributed by Beam Global, part of Fortune Brands.
Courvoisier is the UK's best-selling cognac brand and the House of Courvoisier holds around 80 million litres of cognac in stock.