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Cognac vs Brandy: What’s The Difference Between? (2024)

Brandy vs Cognac

Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Lydia Martin

All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. It sounds confusing, doesn’t it? How can two liquors be alike but different at the same time? Can you tell the difference between Cognac vs brandy? 

Let’s end the confusion today!  

How Is Cognac Different From Brandy? 

Carlos 1 Brandy: Cognac vs Brandy

Cognacs follow a strict regulation implied by the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) in France. The main ingredients of Cognac must come from a very specific region in Cognac, France. 

On the other hand, brandy does not have a limitation on this. Moreover, the two spirits differ in distillation, aging process, tasting notes, and originating regions. 

A Closer Look At Their Differences 

A Closer Look At Their Differences

Distillation & Production Process

Both Cognac and brandy undergo the distillation and production process, but each liquor’s production and distilling process varies.

Cognac is considered a brandy because it is a distilled spirit from fermented fruit juice. It is required to be distilled twice in pot stills or special alembics [1].

On the other hand, brandy is distilled twice but first with a heated gourd, then a glass gourd in a double boiler.

The modern brandy is now distilled twice but with modern techniques and materials. 

Blending & Aging

Camus Cognac Oak Barrel

Blending and aging give complex flavor to the aged spirits, and its process allows manufacturers to combine flavors of different ages before bottling. 

Before blending, cognacs are Eaux de vie, and then the blended flavors will depend on the wood barrels used for aging and its age; at least two years in French oak barrels. Cognacs types are as follows: VS, Hors d’age, VSOP, Napoleon, XO, and Extra. 

On the contrary, there is no required aging for brandies, but since it is harsh, aging helped get them mellowed.

Brandy types are as follows: Very Special (VS) is the youngest brandy with months to two years, Very Superior Old Pale (VSOP) is not less than four years, and Extra Old (XO) is not less than six years. But what are our favorite brandy brands?

Tasting Notes

The brandy’s taste depends on the grape varieties and other fruits used. And since it is made from fermented fruit, it is generally sweeter than whiskey and wine. It also has tasting notes of fresh and dried fruit, citrus zest, and flowers. 

On the other hand, Cognac’s tasting notes substantially depend on the master blender. It has a rich taste of warm spices, dried fruit, nuts, cigars, and toffee. 

Main Ingredients

White grapes for brandy & cognac

The main ingredients of brandy and Cognac are the biggest difference between the two.

While there is grape-based brandy (like the Calvados, an apple brandy from the Normandy region), in order to be called Cognac, the specific grapes grown in the Cognac region must be used. 

Ugni Blanc (White Grapes) from Petite Champagne, Grande Champagne, and other terriers in the Cognac Region in Southwest France should only be used.

On the contrary, brandy must be made from fermented fruit juices and not just grapes. It can be made from a fruit juice base of apples and pears. But how do you make cognac at home?

Originating Region

Cognac came from the Cognac Region in Southwest France, while brandy originated in the Armagnac region in Southwest France. 

While both distilled spirits share an almost common originating region, they are different because the Ugni Blanc grapes used for making Cognac should be from Cognac Region only to be considered a true cognac. 

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How They Are Drank

Camus Glasses

French brandy is enjoyable to be sipped neat, but other types of brandy can be enjoyed with mixed drinks like soda water, lemonade, or coke. There are classic brandy cocktails on the internet like Brandy Alexander, so prepare your sugared rim glass and get ready to drink. 

However, a good bottle of Cognac is most enjoyed neat. If you add a drop of water, the tasting notes will be revealed, making it a smoother-aged drink. There are classic cocktails for this spirit, but we recommend drinking it neat. But what’s the best cognac to drink straight?


Cognac is more expensive because of its strict regulations that it must be aged for a minimum of two years. This spirit is double distilled in a copper pot still and uses specific grapes from a specific region of France.

Martell, Hennessy, and Rémy Martin products are pricier than E&J, Christian Brothers, Pomace Brandy, and other American Brandies. 

Cognac vs Brandy: Are They Similar In Any Way?

The two spirits have a similar history because they came from Southern French Regions and are made by distilling wine.

They also share the same aged classifications (VS, VSOP, XO) and have almost the same profile, so they are often interchanged. Find out if cognac is good for you here


Can I substitute brandy for Cognac?

Yes, you can substitute brandy for Cognac. However, don’t expect that it has the same taste and quality. Cognacs are aged for at least two years and use whole grape fruits from the region, with a distinct taste. 

Which brandy is closest to Cognac?

Armagnac is the closest to Cognac in both location and taste. The brand is also labeled the forgotten younger sibling because they almost taste the same. 

What is better brandy or cognac?

What is better, brandy or cognac? The comparison between brandy and cognac often comes down to personal preference and the desired qualities in a spirit. Brandy is a broad category of distilled spirits made from fermented fruit juice, while cognac is a specific type of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France. Cognac is renowned for its meticulous production methods, stringent regulations, and distinct flavor profile, which includes rich notes of fruit, oak, and spice. While brandy encompasses a wide range of styles and flavors from various regions around the world, cognac’s reputation for exceptional quality and craftsmanship often makes it the preferred choice for many connoisseurs. Ultimately, whether brandy or cognac is considered “better” depends on individual taste preferences, as both offer unique characteristics and appeal to different palates.

Is Hennessy a brandy or cognac?

Is Hennessy a brandy or cognac? Hennessy is a well-known brand of cognac, not brandy. Cognac is a type of brandy specifically produced in the Cognac region of France, following strict regulations regarding production methods, aging, and quality standards. Hennessy is one of the oldest and most renowned cognac houses, known for its high-quality spirits and iconic blends. As such, Hennessy falls under the category of cognac rather than brandy, offering a range of expressions prized for their complexity, depth of flavor, and luxurious character.

Why is cognac so expensive?

Why is cognac so expensive? Cognac’s high price point can be attributed to several factors that contribute to its exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and prestige. Firstly, cognac production involves a labor-intensive process, from the careful selection and harvesting of grapes to the distillation, aging, and blending of eaux-de-vie (grape spirits). The aging process, which typically occurs in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years, can extend for decades for premium expressions, leading to significant investment in storage and inventory costs. Additionally, cognac production is subject to strict regulations and quality standards, ensuring that only the finest spirits bear the coveted designation of cognac. Limited production yields, coupled with growing global demand and the cachet associated with renowned cognac houses, further contribute to its exclusivity and price tag. Ultimately, cognac’s reputation for exceptional quality, complexity, and luxury makes it a prized and sought-after spirit among discerning drinkers and collectors alike.

Is VSOP or XO better?

The debate between VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) and XO (Extra Old) cognac often revolves around personal preferences and the desired characteristics in a spirit. VSOP cognac typically denotes a blend of eaux-de-vie (grape spirits) that have been aged for a minimum of four years, resulting in a smooth and balanced flavor profile with notes of fruit, oak, and spice. On the other hand, XO cognac represents a higher quality designation, indicating that the blend contains eaux-de-vie aged for a longer period, usually at least six years or more. As a result, XO cognac tends to offer richer, more complex flavors, with deeper nuances of fruit, floral, and spice notes. While both VSOP and XO cognacs can provide exceptional drinking experiences, XO cognacs are often considered superior due to their longer aging periods and heightened depth of flavor. Ultimately, whether VSOP or XO is considered “better” depends on individual taste preferences and the desired level of complexity and richness in the cognac.

How do you drink cognac?

Drinking cognac is an art that involves savoring and appreciating its complex flavors and aromas. Traditionally, cognac is served neat or slightly warmed to room temperature to enhance its aromatics and release its full bouquet of flavors. To enjoy cognac neat, pour a small amount into a tulip-shaped snifter or a stemmed glass with a wide bowl, allowing plenty of room for swirling and aerating the spirit. Hold the glass by the stem to avoid warming the cognac with your hands and gently swirl it to release its aromas. Take small sips, allowing the cognac to coat your palate and linger, appreciating its rich flavors and smooth texture. Alternatively, cognac can be enjoyed on the rocks or with a splash of water to temper its intensity and open up its flavors. Some may also choose to mix cognac into cocktails, although purists prefer to enjoy it in its purest form to fully experience its complexity and depth.

Is cognac the healthiest alcohol?

Cognac, like other alcoholic beverages, should be consumed in moderation to enjoy its potential health benefits without adverse effects. While cognac does contain certain antioxidants and compounds that may offer some health advantages, such as resveratrol from the grape skins, excessive consumption can lead to negative health consequences. Moderation is key, with recommended limits for alcohol consumption being one to two standard drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Additionally, it’s essential to consider individual health factors, such as preexisting conditions or medications, when consuming alcohol. While cognac can be part of a balanced lifestyle when enjoyed responsibly, it’s essential to prioritize overall health and well-being by making informed choices about alcohol consumption and maintaining a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Is Martell a brandy or whiskey?

Martell is a renowned brand of cognac, not whiskey. Cognac is a type of brandy specifically produced in the Cognac region of France, following strict regulations regarding production methods, aging, and quality standards. Martell is one of the oldest and most respected cognac houses, with a history dating back to 1715. The brand is known for its exceptional craftsmanship, dedication to quality, and innovative spirit, producing a range of cognacs prized for their complexity, elegance, and depth of flavor. Martell cognacs are crafted using carefully selected grapes from the Borderies, Grande Champagne, and Petite Champagne regions of Cognac, and aged in French oak barrels to develop their unique character and aroma. As such, Martell falls under the category of cognac rather than whiskey, offering consumers a luxurious and sophisticated drinking experience.

What kind of alcohol is cognac?

Cognac is a type of brandy, specifically a variety of grape brandy, that is produced in the Cognac region of France. Made from white wine grapes, primarily the Ugni Blanc grape variety, cognac undergoes a double distillation process in copper pot stills to produce a clear, high-proof spirit known as eau-de-vie. The eau-de-vie is then aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of two years, where it undergoes a gradual transformation, developing its distinct flavor profile and rich amber color. Cognac is characterized by its smoothness, complexity, and depth of flavor, with notes of fruit, oak, spice, and floral aromas. The aging process and terroir of the Cognac region impart unique characteristics to cognac, making it a beloved and prestigious spirit enjoyed by connoisseurs around the world.

What does VSOP stand for?

VSOP stands for “Very Superior Old Pale,” a quality designation used in the classification of cognac. VSOP cognac indicates that the blend contains eaux-de-vie (grape spirits) that have been aged for a minimum of four years in oak barrels, although many may be aged longer. The term “Pale” refers to the light color of the aged spirit, which takes on a golden hue as it matures in the barrels. VSOP cognacs are prized for their smoothness, complexity, and balance of flavors, with notes of fruit, oak, spice, and floral aromas. While VSOP is a quality designation, it represents a higher standard of aging and craftsmanship compared to younger cognac classifications such as VS (Very Special) or three-star cognac. As such, VSOP cognacs are often favored for sipping neat or as the base for premium cocktails, offering a luxurious and sophisticated drinking experience.

Is it OK to drink cognac every day?

Drinking cognac every day can potentially lead to health risks and should be approached with caution. While moderate alcohol consumption, including cognac, may offer certain health benefits such as improved heart health and reduced risk of stroke, excessive drinking can have adverse effects on physical and mental well-being. Consuming cognac daily may increase the risk of developing alcohol dependence, liver damage, high blood pressure, and other health issues.

Additionally, regular alcohol intake can contribute to weight gain, disrupt sleep patterns, and impair cognitive function. It’s important to adhere to recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption, which advise no more than one to two standard drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Individuals with certain health conditions or medications should consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating daily cognac consumption into their routine. Ultimately, whether it’s OK to drink cognac every day depends on individual factors such as overall health, tolerance, and lifestyle choices, and moderation is key to minimizing potential risks.

Who drinks cognac?

Cognac is enjoyed by a diverse range of individuals, including connoisseurs, enthusiasts, and those who appreciate its rich history, craftsmanship, and cultural significance. While cognac has long been associated with luxury and sophistication, its appeal extends beyond social status to include those who value quality, complexity, and tradition in their drinking experience. Cognac is often enjoyed on special occasions, celebrations, and moments of relaxation, where it serves as a symbol of refinement and indulgence. It is also favored by collectors and enthusiasts who appreciate its diverse range of flavors, aging potential, and the craftsmanship of renowned cognac houses.

Additionally, cognac’s versatility in cocktails and culinary applications makes it popular among mixologists and chefs seeking to elevate their creations with its distinctive character and depth of flavor. Overall, cognac appeals to a broad spectrum of drinkers, from seasoned connoisseurs to curious newcomers, who seek to savor and appreciate its unique qualities and heritage.

In Summary 

Cognac and brandy are related to each other, but they are clearly not the same from main ingredients to originating regions. Cognacs are brandies; however, not all brandies are considered Cognacs. While they share some similarities, the two spirits are completely different. 

But one thing is clear; they are both great-tasting spirits you must taste. Which of the two is your favorite? Share it with us in the comment section below!


  1. Cognac
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