Technically nic, Cognac is made from Ugni Blanc (trebbiano), Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes. American brandy as well as other European brandies are quite different than Cognac in flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. They tend to be heavier and as you said fruitier. Process and grape types used probably make for the differences. I hear that South Africa brandy is quite good as well, but I've never tasted it. E&J works very well for cooking as does Christian Bros. I save Cognac for the snifter. Hine is my favorite, much better flavor than Remy IMHO.