Cognac is enjoying a revival thanks to help from an unlikely source. But how long before the wind of fashion shifts again?

This column sides with anyone who can boost the market for Cognac by any means short of giving it away in school lunches. While white spirits (read: vodka) go from strength to strength, brown spirits (including Cognac) struggle. But the general picture has a few bright spots, especially in the US where sales have nearly tripled in a decade. Are stockbrokers and software magnates developing a taste for it? Nope. It's because of support from "urban consumers" - marketing-speak for ethnic minorities, including African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. These groups have a spending power of over $800bn, according to the Selig Centre for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. And they're taking their cue from rap artists.

This column sides with anyone who can boost the market for Cognac by any means short of giving it away in school lunches. While white spirits (read: vodka) go from strength to strength, brown spirits (including Cognac) struggle. But the general picture has a few bright spots, especially in the US where sales have nearly tripled in a decade. Are stockbrokers and software magnates developing a taste for it? Nope. It's because of support from "urban consumers" - marketing-speak for ethnic minorities, including African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. These groups have a spending power of over $800bn, according to the Selig Centre for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. And they're taking their cue from rap artists.

I can think of few unlikelier candidates for reviving Cognac's waning fortunes. Why should musicians such as Jay-Z, Dr Dre, Busta Rhymes and P Diddy be placing their seals of approval on a drink that's usually associated with the digestif trolley in plush-carpeted French restaurants and post-prandial cigars at lord so-and-so's Wiltshire pile? Maybe it's the flavour, but I doubt it. It's more likely the image of sophisticated taste and massive wealth. These artists may not have inherited taste, but they certainly have money. And they like to spend it on expensive things.

Just to show they don't follow a single brand, different rappers have their own favourites. Busta Rhymes likes Courvoisier so much that he wrote a song about it. "Pass the Courvoisier", a paean to the good things in life, says: "Give me the Henny, you can give me the Cris, you can pass me the Rémy, but pass the Courvoisier." Jay-Z prefers Rémy Martin, which provides the name of a VIP room at his 40/40 Club in Manhattan; he's especially fond of the company's Louis XIII, which comes in a hand-blown Baccarat decanter and costs around £600. Hennessy has featured in songs by the Ying-Yang Twins and Ja Rule.

As the lines from "Pass the Courvoisier" suggest, there's no guarantee of complete brand loyalty here. Roederer Cristal may be the champagne of choice, but Cognac - "yac" or "nac" as it's sometimes called - does not have the spirits field all to itself. In what must be a worrying development for the Cognac industry, some rappers have taken vodka to their hearts. Damon Dash, the entrepreneurial whiz behind Jay-Z's record company, Roc-a-Fella, who has already launched his own fashion label, has bought US rights to the Scottish Armadale brand. It featured in one of Jay-Z's songs and has since appeared in a video made by another artist in the Roc-a-Fella stable. Another ominous vodka development: Jay-Z has appeared in an advert for the Belvedere brand.

At the risk of sounding like an old duffer, I can't help remembering that the rock'n'roll heroes of my youth didn't get into branding. The late Keith Moon, drummer for the Who and a tragic alcoholic, had a fondness for Cognac, but we never learnt which brand. Now, with the incessant mixing of all areas of the entertainment business, that isn't enough - the new refrain is, "Show me the label."

And it isn't just in music that branding is on the rise. The Macallan single malt has been making much of its connection with the fashion biz: designer Tom Ford served it at his recent shows, as did Pringle at its menswear show in Milan. Appleton V/X rum also boasts of its fashion connections, telling us that Kate Moss drank cocktails made with V/X at the FrostFrench shows.

Where will it end? I hate to think. In the meantime, I have selected three bottles below which boast no known connection with the worlds of music or fashion. If that doesn't deter you, I commend them highly, whatever Jay-Z might say.

Top Corks: Three brown beauties

Soberano Solera Reserva 5 £10.99, Safeway and ar-emporia.com A smooth, well-rounded Spanish brandy from the same company that makes Tio Pepe. Good for mixing or drinking on the rocks.

Bruichladdich Fifteen Year Old £32.99, Oddbins This silky Islay is less peaty than many of its brethren, which suits me fine. Toffee-ish and with slightly salty undertones. Truly wonderful.

EH10 £13.49, Sainsbury's and independents An unusual, modern-style Scotch blended from 10 whiskies all of which are at least 10 years old. A sweet, mellow bottling at a good price.

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