Cognac is a type of brandy that is made from grapes grown in the Cognac region of France. To be called cognac, it must be distilled twice and aged in oak barrels for at least two years.
The aging process contributes to the smoothness of cognac, as does the double distillation. This is why cognac is often enjoyed neat or on the rocks. It is also a popular ingredient in cocktails.
Cognac can be used in a wide variety of cocktails, including the classic Sidecar, the French 75, and the Vieux Carre. It can also be enjoyed in more modern drinks like the Crocanti and the Peach Melba.
No matter how it is enjoyed, the best cognac is a smooth one. If you’re not sure where to start, below is a guide to help you find your new favorite expression.
Different Kinds of Cognac
It is commonly said that the smoothest cognacs are XO cognacs, but what is that exactly, and how is it different from eux-de-vie or a VS?
Eau de vie Cognac
Eau de vie is a clear, colorless fruit brandy produced by fermentation and double distillation. The name literally means “water of life,” and eau de vie has been enjoyed for centuries as both an after-dinner drink and a medicinal tonic.
Traditionally, eau de vie was made from grapes, but today it can be made from any type of fruit, including apples, pears, plums, and cherries.
Unlike other types of brandy, eau de vie is not aged in oak barrels, which gives it a lighter, fresher flavor. While it is often served neat, eau de vie can also be used in cocktails or mixed with Champagne to create a festive bubbly punch.
XO cognac must be composed of eaux-de-vie that has been aged in oak barrels for at least 10 years.
The ‘XO’ stands for ‘Extra Old’, signifying the high quality of the cognac. Although the expression is English, it is used in many countries worldwide to describe this type of cognac.
XO cognacs are typically smoother and more complex than VS or VSOP cognacs, which are also made with eaux-de-vie that have been aged in oak barrels.
However, VS and VSOP cognacs must be aged for a minimum of 3 years and 4 years, respectively. The extra years of aging give XO cognacs a more refined flavor profile sought after by many connoisseurs.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing an XO cognac; it simply depends on your personal preferences.
When choosing an XO cognac, it is essential to consider the specific flavor profile that you are looking for. Some XO cognacs are made with eaux-de-vie from a single region, while others blend eaux-de-vie from multiple regions.
VS and VSOP Cognac
VS cognac, or “Very Special” cognac, is a type of cognac that can only be made using eaux-de-vie that is at least two years old. VS cognac must meet specific quality standards set by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac to use the VS designation.
VS cognacs are typically lighter in body and flavor than other cognacs and are meant to be consumed young. Different denominators and expressions, such as “3 stars” or “luxury,” are permitted and included in the VS cognac category.
Many VS cognacs are produced using a blend of different eaux-de-vie, each contributing a unique flavor profile to the final product.
The basis of any good VS cognac is a smooth, well-rounded eau-de-vie that has been allowed to age for at least two years in oak barrels.
This aging process gives VS cognacs their characteristic flavor and aroma, which is why they are so popular among Cognac lovers.
VSOP and XO are both grades of cognac, but there are some critical distinctions between the two. VSOP stands for “Very Superior Old Pale” and is made from eaux-de-vie that has been aged for at least four years.
The VSOP category may also include “Old” or “Reserve” designations. On the other hand, XO cognacs are made only from eaux-de-vie that is at least six years old.
As a result, XO cognacs are generally more expensive and have a more complex flavor than VSOP cognacs. When choosing a cognac, it is important to consider your personal preferences and budget.
Regardless of which grade you choose, you can be sure that you’re getting a high-quality product.
5 Smoothest Cognacs
What many don’t know, however, is that the cognac experience can vary greatly depending on the particular brand. Here are five of the smoothest cognacs available, perfect for enjoying neat or on the rocks.
Courvoisier is a cognac that originates from France. It is made of a blend of several crus and has a perfect balance between Fins Bois, Grande, and Petite Champagnes.
The result is an exquisitely balanced cognac with notes of peach and toasted almond with a hint of vanilla.
Courvoisier is an excellent cognac for any occasion, whether formal or casual. It pairs well with many different foods, making it a versatile choice for any meal.
This cognac can be found anywhere from $16-$102, depending on the size of the bottles purchased. If you are looking for a quality cognac that will not break the bank, Courvoisier is the perfect option.
Hennessy VS is a popular choice. It’s perfect for mixed drinks and has a gentle flavor that makes it ideal for sipping neat.
The blend of Hennessy VS is composed of over 40 different eaux-de-vie, all of which are aged for a minimum of two years in French oak barrels. This gives the Cognac its distinctive taste and aroma.
In addition to its flavor, it’s also known for its smooth finish. It’s also only $50 and available at any major spirits retailer, so it’s easy to find and accessible for most budgets.
Remy Martin VSOP is a great cognac for those who appreciate a more complex flavor profile. This cognac is aged longer than most, giving it a richer taste that’s perfect for savoring slowly. VSOP stands for “Very Superior Old Pale,” This cognac lives up to its name.
The extra time spent aging gives Remy Martin VSOP a depth of flavor that you won’t find in other cognacs and for $50 a bottle, it won’t break the bank.
Cognac Lheraud is produced in the town of Cognac, France. The brand has been around since 1848, and it’s known for its high quality and unique flavor profile.
Lheraud cognacs are made using traditional methods, and they’re aged for a minimum of two years. The result is a smooth, complex cognac with a unique flavor that’s ideal for drinking neat or with an ice cube.
Finally, if you want to splurge on the best of the best, choose Courvoisier XO.
Courvoisier XO is a premium cognac that’s aged for at least ten years. It has a complex flavor profile that includes notes of oak, vanilla, and citrus. The long aging process gives the cognac a smooth texture and a rich, amber color. The brandy is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
However, this cognac can’t be found for less than $150, so for most people, it’s not an everyday sipper, but it won’t disappoint.
Smoothest Cognacs – Final Thoughts
If you’re looking for a new spirit to add to your bar cart, consider giving cognac a try. With so many different varieties available, there’s sure to be one that suits your taste.
And don’t forget – if you can’t get your hands on the smoothest variety, cognac makes an excellent addition to cocktails.