I assume when you say cognac/brandy character you mean kind of a spirit-ey heat. That's really common in sugar-added home cider, especially using farm cider as your base. It ages out, particularly after bottling- But while it's not common in commercial ciders, I don't find it wholly unpleasant. If you decide you don't want it, shove a few bottles to the back of the fridge and wait a month or so
If you want cinnamon, you can also get cinnamon essence at a candy shop and add it at bottling. When I started I was against concentrates and extracts for flavor, but a drop of vanilla in my cider has become standard for me now. Used in moderation the flavors blend nicely.
You also mentioned preservatives wrecking your plans earlier, so here are some juices that should be available everywhere that work:
-Whole Foods apple juice. It's gold like apple juice but full of apple sediment like cider, and tends to produce hot funky ciders that take sweetening well. As an added bonus it comes in reusable 1 gallon jugs that can become mini carboys!
-Old Orchard apple juice concentrate. Their bottled stuff has preservatives, but the concentrate doesn't need them so it does not. The store brand concentrate from Kroger/Scott's also works, I can vouch for that
. If you reconstitute it vs just brewing from concentrate (which btw will get you keeve real fast) remember to use distilled spring water or similar.
-Surprisingly supermarket cider. There's a grocer near me who stocks local preservative-free cider in the organic section. Some ciders do have additives though, and "organic" is no guarantee of preservative-free.
-I've heard that Sam's Club juice ferments. I have never tried it.
-Ocean Spray juices contain a lot of food-derived additives, but none of the ones in my house contain anything that should stop yeast. Knudsen juice should also work.