The Good & Great Cognac Houses
Camus is said to be Cognacs fifth largest producer and the biggest still in the hands of an individual family. Nearly 90% of all it’s sales are outside France and much goes to the duty free markets.
The firm was founded in 1863 by a consortium of growers headed by Jean-Baptist Camus who added his name to that of the group before his death in 1898. Camus depended largely on sales to Russia during the 19th century and was the exclusive supplier to the Tsar where sales were in barrels. The Russian revolution put a stop to all that and the firm had to refocus on bottle sales to restaurants. Michel Camus, the grandson of the founder built the firm up after he took over in 1934 at the tender age of 23 but after the war the firm was in a bad way and sales dropped considerably.
However, in the 1960’s the firm was approached by two young Americans who wanted to sell their cognacs to the duty free markets at airports. The Americans found it difficult to obtain credit and M Camus was the only Cognaçais who offered to help. The firm was called Duty Free Shoppers (DFS), who now control more than half of all the duty free sales at the worlds airports and as a result of M Camus’s early support have stayed loyal to Camus ever since. Michel Camus rebuilt the trade with the Russians, they did a deal to market exclusively a Russian vodka in France and their sales have gradually increased.
The family still own 125 hectares of vine at Château d’Uffaut at Bonneuil in Grande Champagne. The domain produces only about 6% of the firms needs and the rest has to be brought in from other producers. The firm has never been cash rich and hold very little stock themselves. Today the firm is run by the 5th generation son, Cyril Camus who became marketing director in 1998 and president in 2004.