Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Cognac represents tradition and is typically synonymous with luxury and wealth. It’s a reliable spirit that has stood the test of time for being the perfect choice for any celebration.
The most common misconception about cognacs is that it’s only for the rich or men in suits to take a sip.
What Is Cognac?
Cognac is a specific brandy made of distilled white wines. It must be double distilled using copper pot stills.
It must mature in French oak barrels (Limousin or Tronçais) for two years, minimum. A spirit can never be legally called cognac if it wasn’t made in Cognac, France.
It only uses white grape varieties from the Cognac region and its six crus: (1) Petite Champagne, (2) Bons Bois, (3) Borderies, (4) Fins Bois, (5) Bois Ordinaires, and (6) Grand Champagne.
Cognac can be made using white grape varieties found in Cognac, France .
Ugni Blanc is the most common grape variety, but cognac Eaux-de-vie also uses Colombard and Folle Blanche.
How Is It Made?
To make cognac, you must ferment white grapes for at least five to seven days. Usually, white grapes are locally grown in the Cognac region, hand-picked, and pressed.
After the fermentation process, the white wine then goes through a double distillation using copper pot stills.
After the double distillation, an eau-de-vie, a colorless spirit, is made. The eau-de-vie  is transferred into either Limousin or Tronçais French oak barrels to mature for a minimum of 2 years.
After aging, depending on the cognac type, the cognac (still called eau-de-vie) is blended with other cognacs of varying ages to make the final product.
Fact: Cognac’s age statement always follows the youngest Eaux-de-vie used in the blend.
9 Cognac Age Categories
Very Special (VS) is the youngest cognac type, aged for a minimum of two years. It sometimes uses the “three stars” on the cognac label. Some labels use the words De Luxe, Sélection, or simply ***.
VS cognacs usually have livelier and fresher fruity aromas.
VSOP means Very Superior Old Pale or Very Special Old Pale. The youngest eau-de-vie in its blend is four years. Some cognac brands label their bottles with Very Old, Réserve, or Vieux.
VSOP cognacs tend to be smoother and have clearer oaky notes and spices than the VS ones.
XO or Extra Old cognacs must be matured in oak barrels for at least ten years. Like the VS and VSOP types, the Extra Old cognac type is another English expression that shows strong bonds between Great Britain and America.
Cognac Hennessy first used the XO label in 1870. It became the gold standard for cognac categories that feature luxurious and rich spices, chocolate, dried fruits, and toffee.
XXO or Extra Extra Old cognacs are typically aged for a minimum of 14 years. This cognac age statement was officially used in 2018. The XXO is the oldest official age statement a cognac label can hold.
XXO cognacs are suitable on ice and can be served neat or paired with food.
5. Réserve Cognac
Reserve cognac is aged for an average of 10 years and is usually of better quality than a Napoleon, XO, or an Extra.
This cognac, sometimes called Vieille Réserve or Réserve Familiale are usually more expensive. Cognac houses often use it for special occasions such as an anniversary.
Napoleon cognacs technically fall under the VSOP official category. However, a VSOP is called Napoleon if it is aged for more than six years.
7. Extra Cognac
An Extra cognac is aged from 10 to 25 (or more) years. An Extra cognac is typically better in quality compared to an XO. This type of cognac is best served neat.
8. Hors d’Age
Hors d’Age is usually aged between 30 and 50 years. Sometimes, it can even be aged for more than 100 years. This cognac, sometimes called “Beyond Age,” is almost like XO but can be aged longer.
9. Cuvée Cognac
This cognac category does not necessarily refer to the cognac’s age but describes one specific blend or batch.
This category is often used in classifying champagnes. Still, when you see this classification in cognacs, it only means that the master blender wants to give it a special name instead of using XO or VSOP.
It may also refer to a limited amount of a certain eau-de-vie blend.
Most Popular Cognac Brands Information
|Brand||Region/ Country||White Grapes Type||Size||Alcohol Content||Average Price|
|Hennessy||Cognac, France||Ugni Blanc||700 ml||40%||$60 – $2500|
|Courvoisier||Jarnac, France||Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, and Colombard||375 ml – 1750 ml||40%||$18 – $4500|
|Remy Martin||Cognac, France||Ugni Blanc||750 ml||40%||$$39.99 – $180|
|Cognac Frapin||Segonzac, France||Ugni Blanc||375 ml – 1000 ml||40% – 41%||$81 – $11,000|
|Gautier Cognac||Aigre |
|Ugni Blanc||700 ml||40%||$19.99 – $17,274.50|
|Hine||Jarnac, France||Ugni Blanc||700 ml – 750 ml||50% – 42.7%||$58 – $17,048|
|Pierre Ferrand||Cognac, France||Ugni Blanc and Colombard||375 ml – 750 ml||40% – 46%||$20 – $2000|
|Martell||Cognac, France||undisclosed||750 ml||50%||$26.99 – $3399.99|
|Camus||Cognac, France||Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard||700 ml – 750 ml||28% – 43%||$35 – $400|
|Davidoff||Jarnac, France||Ugni Blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche||700 – 750 ml||40%||$39.28 – $128|
Different Brands Price Comparison
Usually, budget cognacs are priced under $50. The best cognac brands under this category are Pierre Ferrand, Dudognon, Vaudon Cognac, Camus, Merlet , and Salignac.
You can score a Salignac VS Grande Fine Champagne Cognac for roughly $28, obviously less expensive than Merlet VS Cognac, which costs around $40.
Mid-range cognacs typically cost from $100 – $200. These cognacs are the best-for-your-money cognacs that offer high-quality spirits at an affordable price.
The best mid-range cognac brands are Cognac Frapin, Rémy Martin, and Martell.
You can get a Hardy XO Rare Fine Champagne Cognac or a Naud Fine XO Cognac at $180.
Being expensive is very subjective. What may seem expensive could be cheap to people with more bucks in their wallets.
However, on average, cognac bottles over $200 and beyond may be considered expensive for 750 ml.
Of course, we are not talking about the Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grande Champagne, which costs around $2 million.
But some expensive cognac brands like Courvoisier, Hennessy, and Remy Martin may cost more than $200 per bottle.
Read: Le Portier Cognac Review
Factors That Affect Pricing
Age statement affects the prices of cognacs. Generally, younger cognacs tend to cost less expensive than older ones. When cognacs are aged longer, it picks up a stronger taste from the oak barrel it was matured from, giving them a more complex flavor.
The longer the spirit is aged, the more it tends to acquire a mellowed flavor, losing the harshness younger spirits have.
Generally, cognacs tend to be more expensive than other distilled spirits like brandy and whiskeys because of their higher production cost.
The white grapes used in making cognac are only sourced from a specific region (Cognac, France) and its six crus.
Cognac also goes through double distillation and only uses French oak barrels, which adds more cost to its production.
Marketing & Availability
Cognac has always been associated with luxury, finesse, and class. Due to how most cognac houses market their products, most people think cognacs are spirits best suited for the rich and powerful, the men in suits, and the people with the highest rank.
With these types of marketing strategies, people think buying a $200 cognac bottle is normal.
Its limited supply also makes cognac look like a gem that needs to be treasured because once it’s gone, you’ll never know when you’ll get a chance to get another bottle *wink*.
Popular Cognac Cocktail Recipes
Holiday Cognac Eggnog
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
- 6 oz dairy eggnog
- 1 tbsp cognac
- 2 tbsp bourbon or dark rum
- 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- freshly grated nutmeg
Instructions: First, combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake the ice for 30 seconds. Then, strain the mixture into an Old-Fashioned serving glass. Dust it with nutmeg and serve.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 minute
Demerara sugar syrup
- 200g Demerara/Turbinado sugar
- 250ml water
- 2 oz cognac
- 1 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
- ½ oz sugar syrup
- Rosemary sprig
- lemon wedges
Instructions: To make a Demerara sugar syrup, combine Demerara/Turbinado sugar and water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir continuously until sugar dissolves. Let it cool down and bottle.
Next, combine all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker, then add at least 5 to 6 ice cubes. Shake and strain into a short glass. Add another ice cube (1-2) to the glass and garnish with a rosemary sprig and a lemon wedge.
Is cognac the same as brandy?
Yes, cognac is the same as brandy since all cognacs are brandies, although not all brandies are cognacs. Cognac is a specific type of brandy, double distilled and matured in French oak barrels.
Which cognac is the smoothest?
The smoothest cognac is the ABK6 VSOP Single Estate cognac. This cognac can be drunk straight because of its smoothness, making it an excellent sipper that even beginners can try.
How long does cognac last once opened?
Cognac lasts depending on how you store it after opening. Although it may not go bad or expire, it could lose its premium taste once opened. We suggest consuming your leftover cognac within six months to one year.
Cognac is a specific type of brandy that’s double-distilled using copper pot stills and matured in French oak (Limousin or Tronçais) barrels for a minimum of two years. It can only be labeled cognac if it’s made in Cognac, France.
There are nine age categories of cognac, divided into two: the official (VS, VSOP, XO, XXO) and non-official categories (Napoleon, Reserve, Extra, Hors d’Age, and Cuvee).
A bottle of cognac may range from $20 to $300 or more, while limited edition cognac bottles cost up to $2 million.