A new Cognac and chocolate drink, PAX44, has been launched by the Pembroke Dock-based founder of Portafortuna, to commemorate a rare moment of humanity that occurred during World War II.

A limited edition of only 44 bottles has been produced, strictly for presentation and auction, to mark the 79th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. One of the first bottles has been donated to The VC Gallery, which has locations in Haverfordwest and Pembroke Dock.

Founded in 2013 by military veteran and professional artist Barry John MBE, The VC Gallery has created a pathway for veterans and the community to unite against loneliness and conditions such as PTSD. PAX44 will support a variety of veteran’s causes via The VC Gallery and the Airborne Museum Hartenstein in Arnhem.

Portafortuna founder Owen James explained the inspiration for the Cognac:

“In 1944, Operation Market Garden – the true story behind the movie A Bridge Too Far - pitched the forces of Germany against Britain and Poland in close, terrible, personal combat. The streets and homes of Arnhem provided the battleground and spawned countless horrific stories, but also a glimpse of humanity likened to the football match played in no man’s land during the Christmas truce of 1914.

“A German officer later recalled one simple act of humanity that occurred in a secluded house on the outskirts of Arnhem. His engineers squeezed the battle perimeter tighter and tighter, trapping a group of British paratroopers in the upstairs rooms. Instead of a bloody fight, the soldiers of both sides just stopped shooting.

“During this truce, a bottle of Cognac was lowered on a string by the British to the Germans below. In return, the Germans sent up their rations of chocolate to the starving paras. This unofficial time-out in the heat and horror of battle is Arnhem’s gift to humanity; a pax created to consider each other’s needs and assess the rights and wrongs of what should happen next.”

PAX44 captures the spirit of this moment by combining Cognac and chocolate. The Cognac has a minimum aged blend of 8 years, matured in Limousin Oak and rested in Port barrels to add sympathetic flavour tones which assist the infusion of dark chocolate and the addition of raw, fermented, solid, cacao nibs. PAX44 is finished to 44% abv and bottled in 50cl handcrafted bottles.

“We are honoured to create this inspiring brand,” said Owen. “The Christmas truce of 1914 and Arnhem’s message from 1944 highlight what can be achieved if our moral compass is engaged during wartime; something that is highly relevant today amid the battles raging in places such as the Ukraine and The Middle East.”