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The 11 Greatest Cognacs to Purchase Proper Now

The 11 Greatest Cognacs to Purchase Proper Now

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Cognac might not get as much attention as whiskey, particularly when it comes to bourbon or single malt scotch, but there’s a whole world of this French spirit to get familiar with and sample. There are a few rules to know—Cognac is a brandy made from grapes in the eponymous region or France that is aged in French oak barrels, either new or ones that have been used to age grape-based spirits. There are a few age designations to understand, from V.S. (at least two years old) to X.O. (minimum 10 years old). Cognac can be used to make a wide variety of cocktails, but is wonderful to sip on its own as well. We’ve put together a list of some of the best Cognacs in different categories to help you navigate this growing field, so happy hunting and santé.

Our Best Cognac Picks


Best Overall

Hennessy

Hennessy is one of the biggest names in Cognac, and there are so many expressions to try from the everyday V.S. to the high-end and expensive Paradis. But the Master Blender’s Selection has consistently been one of the best expressions—period—in the category over the past few years. It is overseen by eighth-generation master blender Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, and these limited-edition bottles are single release blends of eau-de-vie that will never be replicated. There have been four Master Blender’s Selections to date, and the latest is one of the best in the series, making this the best overall Cognac to try right now.


Best V.S.O.P.

Hardy V.S.O.P. Cognac

Hardy

V.S.O.P., or “Very Superior Old Pale,” indicates Cognac that has been aged for at least four years, a step up from the V.S. designation. Cognac Hardy V.S.O.P. is made from a grapes grown in two of Cognac’s crus: Grande and Petite Champagne. This is a vibrant spirit that really stands out from other similarly aged expressions, with crisp notes of fruit and spice that give it an appealing freshness. Use this for mixing up any cocktail you want, but it’s certainly good enough to sip on its own and pairs very nicely with food.


Best X.O.

best cognac frapin xo vip

Frapin

X.O. (“extra old”) is the next level of age in Cognac, a designation that means the eau-de-vie has been matured for a minimum of 10 years. X.O. is prime sipping Cognac, and one of the best in this category comes from Cognac Frapin. This is a single estate expression made from grapes grown in the Grande Champagne cru, and the eau-de-vie is aged in the humid cellars onsite. This is a thoroughly sophisticated sipper, with notes of caramel, chocolate, and dried fruit on the palate.


Best for Cocktails

Eric Medsker

Martingale is a new Cognac brand, founded in part by an ex-Pernod Ricard executive and backed by a couple of celebs—DJ D-Nice and Donnie Wahlberg. This is a great spirit for mixing, although it can certainly be enjoyed neat as well. The brand has left the age designation off the bottle, an unusual move although it’s not the only one to do so, placing the focus more on the blending technique and the flavor than on maturation. This is a crisp and vibrant Cognac, perfect for making a Sidecar, Sazerac, or Old Fashioned.


Best Under $50

Camus

V.S. means that a Cognac is a blend of eau-de-vie that has been aged for at least two years. These are generally the cheapest bottles to buy, but there are some excellent examples to be found for less than $50. Camus Intensely Aromatic VS is one, with an evocative name that translates to the palate. This Cognac is distilled on the lees and aged in small French oak barrels, resulting in a spirit full of floral and fruit notes that punches well above its price point in quality and flavor.


Best Under $100

Pierre Ferrand

Maison Ferrand is not one of the big Cognac houses, but it has made a name for itself in the category nonetheless. 10 Generations is named in honor of the generations of the Ferrand family who grew grapes, distilled eau-de-vie, and matured the spirit in barrels in the Grande Champagne region. This Cognac was aged in French oak, with a small amount of the blend also matured in Sauternes wine barrels, bringing it to the sweeter side of the flavor spectrum. This is a great sipping Cognac for less than $100 that would make a great addition to your home bar.


Best Splurge

Louis XIII

Louis XIII

There are plenty of opportunities to splurge when it comes to Cognac, with bottles soaring in price as the eau-de-vie is aged for longer and the decanters themselves become more valuable and intricate. The classic Cognac splurge is, of course, Louis XIII from the Remy Martin Cognac house. The eau-de-vie in this blend is made from grapes grown in the Grande Champagne cru, and while there is no official age statement it’s said to be matured between 40 and 100 years in French oak tiercons. The decanter is a true icon, made from crystal with 18-carat gold on the neck, something you’ll want to hold onto even after the liquid is gone.


Best Bourbon Barrel Finish

Martell Blue Swift

Martell

By law, Cognac must be aged in new oak casks, so since Blue Swift is finished in American oak ex-bourbon barrels (not a grape-based spirit) it does not technically fall into that category anymore. But for all intents and purposes, this is still a V.S.O.P. Cognac that has been given a secondary maturation not often used in the industry (this is said to be the first), and the results are quite nice. The bourbon barrel finish gives the liquid a depth of flavor that makes this a great “Cognac” for mixing, but it also works well served over a large ice cube.


Best Mizunara Finish

Courvoisier Mizunara

Courvoisier

See Also

This expression from Courvoisier has become a collector’s item due to the elevated presentation and flavor profile. This blend of aged Grande Champagne eau-de-vie is finished in rare Japanese mizunara oak, infusing the spirit with notes of sandalwood, jasmine, vanilla, and honey. This was a collaboration with House of Suntory chief blender Shinji Fukuyo, a bit of synergy as both brands were owned by Beam Suntory. Courvoisier has just been sold to Campari Group, so we will see what future limited releases might be in store.


Best Newcomer

Sazerac bottle, packaging and neat pour on marble table

In 2019, this brand was revived by Sazerac, owner of the Buffalo Trace Distillery, and expanded to multiple markets just last year. Sazerac de Forge & Fils is a tribute to the Cognac house owned by the Sazerac family in the 18th century, and is now made at Domaine Sazerac de Segonzac in France. History aside, this is a welcome newcomer to the category, and one that will surely continue to grow given the wide name recognition that Sazerac has among American whiskey fans.


Best Single Cask

PM Spirits Rémi Landier XO Single Cask Collab

Total Wine & Spirits

PM Spirits sources a wide array of spirits from different producers in various countries in all spirits categories. This Cognac is a small release that is worth tracking down, and it’s notable for being a single cask release as opposed to a blend of barrels. The producer is Remi Landier, a small family business that has been around since the 1970s. This particular Cognac was distilled in 1997, and is a blend of eau-de-vie from Fin Bois and Petite Champagne. If you’re looking to really expand your knowledge and palate in the world of Cognac, give this bottle a try.


FAQs About Cognac

What are the different types of Cognac?

Cognac is a type of brandy that is made in the eponymous region of France. There are six crus, or grape growing areas, that are used to cultivate grapes that are made into wine. That wine is then distilled in copper pot stills to produce eau-de-vie, which translates to “water of life.” The eau-de-vie is then matured in French oak for a minimum of two years and blended together. The different types of Cognac are defined by age: V.S. (minimum two years old), V.S.O.P. (minimum four years old), X.O. (minimum 10 years old), and the newest designation, X.X.O. (minimum 14 years old).

How should you drink Cognac?

The short answer is however you like it. There is no wrong or right way to enjoy Cognac. If you prefer cocktails, there are plenty of options and some classics are traditionally made with Cognac like the Sidecar and Sazerac (which is more commonly made with rye whiskey now). But consider trying Cognac on its own as well to explore the flavors, particularly X.O. expressions. A Riedel Cognac glass is a good way to nose and taste it neat, and some people like to add a splash of water. A tumbler works just fine if you’d like to add some ice. Just remember to drink it in the way that you like best.

How did we choose the Cognac on this list?

We considered different factors when picking these Cognacs, with the emphasis being on taste. Because after all, despite a bottle’s availability or the hype surrounding it, that is the most important thing. Tasting Cognac involves a combination of sensations, including the nose, palate, mouthfeel and finish. And each category has different characteristics, so part of the process is to consider how an individual pick fits into its style overall. The bottles on this list represent the best Cognac brands based on all of these options, providing a good overview of selections you can easily purchase in person or online that are good examples of each individual category.

Why should you trust us?

Jonah Flicker has been writing about whiskey and other spirits for nearly a decade, visiting distilleries around the world to meet the people behind the bottles and find out more about their stories. He is a judge for the John Barleycorn Awards and the New York World Wine and Spirits Competition, and his work has appeared in many national other lifestyle outlets besides Robb Report, includin, Food & Wine, CNN, USA Today, and more.

Source: Robb Report

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