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Cognac Information

Cognac 101: A Very Special Guide

Happy National Cognac Day! Ever since "Hennessey" was first name-dropped in hip-hop lyrics and Tim Meadows's Ladies Man started sipping Courvosier, I've been curious about cognac. With all the VSOPs and XOs, cognac can be intimidating. So if you're also wondering what all those letters on the labels mean, I've put together a little primer.

  • Cognac is a brandy, but not all brandies are cognacs. The name refers to brandies produced in the Cognac region of France, made from white wine grapes that are first fermented, and then double distilled.
  • From this distillation, you get a liquid called eau de vie, which is aged in oak barrels to become cognac.

All those different letters refer to how long a cognac is aged. Find out what they mean.

  • VS ("very special") is the lowest grade, aged from two years to four and a half.
  • VSOP ("very superior old pale") is aged from four to six-and-a-half years.
  • XO doesn't stand for hugs and kisses, but "extra old." These are at least six years old but often much older.
  • Though many people drink cognac from balloon-shaped snifters (like The Ladies Man!), most connoisseurs recommend a wine glass or tulip-shaped glass.
  • When mixing cognac cocktails, use a VS or VSOP. Reserve the XOs for sipping.

Are you a cognac connoisseur? If so share your favorite tips and cocktail recipes in the comments.

Source: Flickr User renaissancechambara

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Join The Conversation
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I like cognac, too.
GlowingMoon GlowingMoon 6 years
I like cognac, too.
le-romantique le-romantique 6 years
I've only have 2 alcoholic beverages my entire life, not a fan... my boss adores this stuff and he always tells me to drink it... still not interested ha.
Phil Phil 6 years
Samuel Johnson was quotes as saying "Claret is the liquor for boys, port for me; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy." By extention, using Johnson's guideline, cognac must be the liquor of the Gods. Hemingway and the lost generation writers were said to regularly order "fine" (fine Champagne cognac) is Paris.Above all, cognac is my spirit of choice. The taste is far superior to that of any other liquor, and the aftertaste is so incredibly complex, invigorating, and difficult to forget.
Phil Phil 6 years
Samuel Johnson was quotes as saying "Claret is the liquor for boys, port for me; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy." By extention, using Johnson's guideline, cognac must be the liquor of the Gods. Hemingway and the lost generation writers were said to regularly order "fine" (fine Champagne cognac) is Paris. Above all, cognac is my spirit of choice. The taste is far superior to that of any other liquor, and the aftertaste is so incredibly complex, invigorating, and difficult to forget.
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 6 years
I was trying to buy a gift for a former boss, who loved sidecars. I asked my BF at the time, to recommend a really good brandy. He replied "Really good brandy isn't called brandy, it's called cognac. And no one would ever use cognac in a sidecar"This is why he's an ex
leslievanhouten leslievanhouten 6 years
I was trying to buy a gift for a former boss, who loved sidecars. I asked my BF at the time, to recommend a really good brandy. He replied "Really good brandy isn't called brandy, it's called cognac. And no one would ever use cognac in a sidecar" This is why he's an ex
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