If you’re looking for proof of the so-called “premiumization” trend in alcohol, Cognac offers a fine example. In 2020, volume sales in the U.S. rose 18.7 percent, according to data from the Distilled Spirits Council. Meanwhile, dollar sales grew 21.3 percent last year, finishing 2020 with a total value of $2.4 billion. In short, American drinkers didn’t just buy more Cognac last year, they also spent more on average per bottle.
It’s hardly surprising that many would be willing to fork out a little extra per bottle or upgrade to more expensive offerings. Cognac enjoys the status of being something of a luxury category, aided by strict production guidelines that mirror those employed by France’s numerous, famed wine regions.
If you’re beginning an exploration into the category, there are just three important labeling terms to familiarize yourself with — all of which relate to the youngest grape distillate (eau-de-vie) included in a blend. V.S. applies to Cognac aged at least two years; V.S.O.P. is used for blends with a minimum four years in barrel; and X.O. denotes 10 years and above.
Confusingly, you’ll also come across bottles that contain none of these acronyms on their labels, though that’s not an indication of lack of quality. Which is where this list should come in handy, because beyond age statements and labeling terms, it’s what’s inside the bottle that really counts. And these offerings serve the finest examples currently available from the world’s most famous brandy-producing region.
From weeknight sippers to bar cart staples and bottles that redefine the boundaries of luxury, here are the 25 best Cognacs for 2021 at every age and price point. Looking for our 2020 edition of this list? Head over here.
Guide To The Best Cognac Bottles
Merlet V.S. Cognac
Made using a blend of eaux-de-vie aged between two and four years, this is a remarkable V.S. that overdelivers on value. Its character leans heavily into fresh orchard fruits but arrives with enough concentration to stand out in bold cocktails or hold its own as a weekday sipper. Average price: $35
François Voyer V.S. Cognac
For a more decadent V.S. experience, turn to this expression from François Voyer. The aromas and palate recall sweet ripe peaches and berries, which arrive with a generous side of oak and vanilla. Though descriptors like intensity, nuance, and finish are typically reserved for more expensive bottles, they’re absolutely relevant here. For this price point and at this age statement, it doesn’t get much better than this. Average price: $40.
Bache-Gabrielsen American Oak Cognac
With the words “American oak” taking pride of place on this bottle, there’s a legitimate concern that those barrels will overpower the spirit. That’s not the case. The Tennessee oak barrels, used as a finishing vessel for a minimum of six months, add an attractive extra layer of vanilla to the nose. The palate enjoys prominent banana chip and toasty notes, but once again fruit remains at its core. A Cognac for whiskey lovers, sure, but not a bottle that will alienate “traditional” Cognac drinkers either. Average price: $46.
Dudognon Réserve Grande Champagne Cognac
Produced in the heart of Cognac’s Grande Champagne region, this bottle highlights the lighter style of the category. Fresh apples and pears, zesty citrus, and fragrant white flowers await in the glass, with oak taking a back seat, if not another vehicle entirely. Single malt drinkers would be wise to add this bottle to their wish list. Average price: $47.
Vaudon Cognac V.S.O.P
This V.S.O.P. is unapologetically bold. Initially driven by rich vanilla aromas and sweet baking spices, dried stone fruits then envelop the palate like a thick, cozy blanket. There are subtle layers of oak and spice, too, while the finish veers into port territory. Average price: $47.
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula
One of many things that stands out about this fine Cognac is its ABV content: at 45 percent, it’s a full five points higher than almost all bottles in the category. That extra kick only serves to magnify its flavors and aromas, which dance between stone fruits, honey, and white flowers. Enjoy in a Sidecar mixed with Pierre Ferrand’s own dry curaçao. Average price: $49.
Cognac Février Saveurs
Everything about this Cognac, from its bottle and label to distinctive, fruit-forward style, makes it feel like a “craft” offering. A highly perfumed nose dazzles with peach yogurt aromas, while the palate is concentrated and full of flavor. This spirit is designed for sipping, and we wouldn’t be opposed to adding a large cube of ice on a hot summer’s day. Average price: $51.
Monnet V.S.O.P Cognac
Like a confectionary delight pulled straight out of the oven, this V.S.O.P. sings with baked orchard fruit, caramelized nuts, and sweet vanilla notes. Where some bottles deliver this experience then fall disappointingly flat on the finish, this Cognac keeps on going and going. Skip dessert and enjoy a pour of Monnet. Average price: $53.
Cognac Frapin 1270
Estate-produced in every sense of the term, Frapin handles all aspects of production from growing grapes right through to aging and bottling the final eau-de-vie. Though generous in fruit character, this release also steps into more complex, savory territory, with black tea and tobacco notes dialing up the intrigue. Average price: $55.
Le Reviseur V.S.O.P Cognac
Another single-estate release, this V.S.O.P. dances a two-step of tropical fruits and toasted oak. With a striking and bold flavor profile, sipping occasions are guaranteed. But it’s equally at home in stirred, spirit forward cocktails as well as refreshing shaken concoctions. Average price: $55.
Cognac Park V.S.O.P.
A distinctive tart cherry note raises the curtain on this Cognac and continues well onto the encore. The juicy stone fruit works seamlessly with the added character provided by years resting gracefully in oak. It also provides the perfect profile to mix a Cognac-based Manhattan. Average price: $58
Grateaud Bouquet des Borderies Cognac
Among the most unique and memorable bottles on this list, Grateaud Bouquet des Borderies stands out with distinctive herbal aromas, followed by a waft of white flowers and juicy white grapes. At times, the palate seems to step into rye whiskey territory, though without the grain’s signature spicy bite. “Summer, summer, summertime,” goes the accompanying soundtrack to each sip. Average price: $58.
A.E. Dor V.S.O.P. Cognac
Though a couple years older and a little more expensive than the brand’s V.S., A.E. Dor’s V.S.O.P. actually shows a little more restraint than its younger sibling. Both bottles offer great value for money — and we’d happily drink either — but the profile of the latter gives more space for its berry and stone fruit notes to shine, while also offering ample room for delicious doses of vanilla. Average price: $60.
Naud Cognac V.S.O.P.
Bold, fruity, and perfumed — these are some of the characteristics one would hope for from a fine V.S.O.P., and this bottle certainly delivers. For any Scotch drinkers out there who love sherry-cask-finished releases, this Cognac’s profile shares much in common with that style, but without the malty notes (nor the finishing period in oak). An autumnal sipping spirit, be sure to also take it for a spin in a Sidecar. Average price: $60.
Hennessy V.S.O.P Cognac
This is another example of a V.S.O.P. that lands on the more decadent, concentrated end of the spectrum. Vibrant toasted oak notes mix with golden raisins and dried apricots, before licorice and vanilla lend a sweet kiss to the finish. There’s a reason this is one of the best known brands in Cognac. Average price: $64.
Hine Rare V.S.O.P. Cognac
Hine Rare stands out in the V.S.O.P. category with its striking bottle — one more commonly associated with X.O. Cognacs — which is fitting, really, because this is among the most cerebral and expressive V.S.O.P.’s on the market. Bursts of fresh fruit aromas meet decadent prunes and raisins. The palate, too, is full of fresh fruit energy, while still delivering toasted oak and subtle baking spices. Each sip leaves no doubt this Cognac was made using high-quality grapes, treated with the utmost respect. Average price: $65.
Mery Melrose V.S.O.P. Grande Fine Champagne Cognac
If you’re looking for a slightly left-field Cognac that departs from the usual orchard and stone fruit profile, this bottle awaits with bursts of tropical fruit, berries, and red flower aromas. Needless to say, it’s an attractive proposition from the get-go, and soon you’ll be enjoying a palate awash with toasted oak, raisins, banana chips, and a prickly finish that lasts an age. Average price: $65.
Camus Port Cask Finish Cognac
Finished in tawny port barrels, this Cognac arrives at a higher than average 43.2 percent ABV. Unsurprisingly, ripe red fruit notes run throughout the experience, complementing the dried fruit character of the base eau-de-vie. The finishing period adds a fruity spring to the palate’s step, with a crack of pepper on the finish serving to balance things out. Average price: $70.
Jean-Luc Pasquet L’Organic 07 Cognac
This 7-year-old Cognac hails from the Grande Champagne region and a family producer that’s been in the business for close to 300 years. It’s abundantly clear that they’ve amassed some knowledge during that time, and this accomplished bottle spans a range of different flavor profiles. Expect dried and fresh fruits, cedar wood, pine, and tobacco, and the deftest touch of oak. Average price: $72.
Rémy Martin Tercet Fine Champagne Cognac
This expression is produced (and named) as an homage to the work of Rémy’s winemaker, master distiller, and cellar master. Price-wise, we’re firmly in the X.O. space, but the profile on show is less flashy, more modest, and, dare we say it for a $100+ bottle, almost humble. The oak, fruit, and maturation notes arrive with precision, never threatening to weigh down the palate or compete with one another. Average price: $112.
Francois Voyer X.O.
This X.O. arrives in an understated wine bottle that could easily be mistaken for a V.S. or V.S.O.P. Only on close inspection do you notice the words “14 Years Old,” which is four years older than the minimum age for this classification. Upon tasting, one questions whether that’s all part of the plan — to raise little expectation then completely bowl you over. My first reaction was astonishment, followed quickly by the thought that this is as good as any aged spirit I can recall tasting this year. Baked apples, black pepper, vanilla, and caramel are only the beginning of its aromas. The palate begins with rich cherry sweetness, then continues to unfold with each sip. Bravo! Average price: $130.
Vallein Tercinier Cognac 46° X.O. Small Batch
There’s a strong sense this bottle is trying to attract whiskey drinkers: Bottled at 46 percent ABV, the small batch blend comprises 25- and 15-year-old distillates, which arrive in bottle without chill filtration. The only difference between this and whiskey is the unlikelihood of scoring a similarly aged blend for this (not altogether modest) price in the latter category. Perfumed, floral, and incredibly powerful, this is a complex sipper, with the higher ABV coaxing out extra layers of nuance. Average price: $130.
Courvoisier X.O. Imperial Grande Champagne Cognac
A stunning example of refinement and restraint, this X.O. doesn’t overdo it on dried fruit notes or oak influence. That allows the attractive nuance of its aromas to come to the fore, with dried and fresh stone fruits meeting vanilla and prickly pepper. The palate has generous depth but lands with a light texture. It’s almost sessionable in its drinkability, if not ABV, though your bank account won’t want to hear that. Average price: $144.
A.E. Dor X.O.
Another bottle that overdelivers on age for price, this X.O. spends 25 years in Limousin and Tronçais oak barrels before release. Its aromatic profile is on another level compared with most bottlings, with endless depth that weaves from dried fruits to oak to notes of evolution. The palate has a rich caramel and toasted nut core, and remarkable concentration for arriving at just 40 percent ABV. Average Price: $150.
Camus Cognac X.O. Intensely Aromatic
In the realm of aged wine and aged wine-distillates, you’ll regularly encounter descriptors such as tobacco leaf, cigar box, and cedar wood. The aromas of this X.O. are a stunning example of those characteristics, while the palate serves up vanilla, baking spices, and rich, fruity crème brûlée. Intensely aromatic is a very apt name, though Camus might want to tack “flavorful, and complex” onto the end there. Average price: $180.
What is the best Cognac for beginners?
Beginners are best introduced to Cognac through cocktails. We recommend mixing VS Cognacs into your first Cognac-based highball.
Is VSOP or XO better?
V.S.O.P. stands for “Very Special (or Superior) Old Pale.” In V.S.O.P. Cognacs, the youngest Cognac in the blend must be at least four years old. X.O., or “Extra Old,” means the youngest in the blend is 10 years old.
How is Cognac different from brandy?
Cognac is a style of brandy made in Cognac, a delimited region to the north of Bordeaux. While all Cognac is brandy, not all brandy is Cognac.