Heavy duties on brandies in Britain led to lively smuggling traffic throughout the century. In Rudyard Kiplings words, Brandy for the Parson (together with the other highly taxed item), Baccy for the clerk. In the late eighteenth century, Adam Smith concluded that smugglers were the biggest importers of French goods into Britain.
By the end of the eighteenth century cognacs were being stored in oak casks for longer periods and the outbreak of war in 1756 actually helped the situation. The Market was big and every year 200,000 barriquess de vin propres à brûler, from which emerged 13,400 pipes, (each of 3 barriques or about 600litres), adding up to 8 million litres of eau de vie.
Getting these brandies into Britain created great difficulties because of the war, so they had to be shipped over land through Holland by cart, and this meant they were in casks for greater period of time. In addition, the casks were being stored, and in 1780 Richard Hennessey noted that shrewd operators were buying up a years supply, keeping them for a year, befor selling them as “Old Brandies”.
By the 1790’s both Martell and Hennessey had established themselves and some further names had also come onto the scene, such as Otard Dupuy, two growers who had set up comfortable stocks, Thomas Hine, the descendant of a Dorset family and Ransom and James Delamain, whose son Jacques set up by himself by marrying the daughter of Isaac Ransom. Paul Roullet and Philippe Augier completed a trio by also marrying a Ransom.
The outbreak of Total war failed to put a stop to sales of brandies, partly due to a drop in price, partly due to the British Minister Sir John Nichol a declaring “the need for a little wine and French Brandy”.