Cognac is a variety of brandy which gets its name from the commune of Cognac, France and is produced in the surrounding wine growing region in the departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime.
There are over 2000 producers of Cognac however we will explore some of the most popular cognac liquor brands but first let’s look at how cognac is made as well as the classification and grading.
How Cognac is made
The most widely used grapes are called Ugni blanc, Folle blanche and Colombard of which must be 90% of the total grapes used, the other 10% of the grapes used can be from The brandy is distilled in cooper still and distilled twice and aged for a minimum of two years in a French oak barrel although most Cognac’s are agreed far beyond the two years.
The other 10% of grapes that can be used include Jurancon blanc and Folignan. Once pressed the grapes are left to ferment for approx. two to three weeks and the yeast turn the sugar to alcohol., the wine at this stage is extremely dry and acidic and is virtually undrinkable.
Once the distillation is complete the cognac has to be distilled for a minimum of two years in oak casks starting off at around 70% ABV (alcohol by volume). As the cognac mixes with the air and the oak cask the ABV and water slowly evaporates at approx. 3% per year along with water. Once the cognac has been agreed for the specified time it is decanted into glass bottle called bonbonnes and stored for blending. The age of the cognac is then determined by the youngest ingredient used in the blend.
The blend is of different ages due to the different components within the cognac and the larger producers use ingredients from different local areas. These then get blended together which is important for the complexity of the flavors which if a single vineyard is used then this will be restrictive. This blend is called ‘eaux de vie’. There are some producers such as Moyet and Guillon Painturaud that do not blend from different ages of eaux de vie and therefore produce a purer flavor so in general it is really down to the producer of what is important to them in determining their brand.
The grading as set by the Beureau National interprofessionel du Cognac (BNIC) are as follows:
V.S –(very Special) or 3 stars and the youngest brandy however it still meets the regulations of being aged for at least two years in a cask.
V.S.O.P.– (Very Superior Old Pale) still refers to a young brandy however the aging to be at least four years in a cask.
Napoléon – still refers to a younger brandy however the aging to be at least six years in a cask.
XO –(Extra Old) still refers to a younger brandy however the aging to be at least ten years in a cask which was changed back in 2018 as this used to be six years.
XXO –(Extra Extra Old) is the categorization given to wine spirits that have aged for fourteen years minimum.
Hors d’âge – (Beyond age) equal to XO but a categorization that producers can create and market a higher quality product above the official age scale.
Cognac Liquor Brands and brandy brands
The following is a list of the best-selling cognac and brandy brands in popularity order.
Some other great Cognacs to check out that are not in the top selling list but still worth a look.
Hennessy also manufacturer a product called master blenders selection that is a very high-quality product worth checking out.
Another great quality cognac is Hine Antique XO premier Cru Cogna.
Pierre Feraand Cognac Selection des Anges.
Kelt XO Cognac.
Louis X111 Cognac.
Diageo / United Spirits
Diageo / United Spirits
Mc Dowell’s No.1
Diageo / United Spirits
Torres Master Distillers
Alliance 1892 Brandy Company
Allied Blenders & Distillers
Some other great brandy brands that are not in the top selling list worth checking out include the following also detailed are a few budget options.
Toress 10 Grand reserve brandy
Courvoisier VSOP Brandy.
Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal
Prince d’Arignac Armagnac VS Brandy
Fundador Spanish Brandy
D’usse VSOP Cognac
Ciroc VS brandy
Laird’s Applejack Brandy
Paul Masson – a number of different brands including VSOP and also flavours including mango, red berry, peach, apple and pineapple more budget
Christian brothers based in the USA – more budget
Leroux Polish Blackberry Flavoured Brandy
Pierre Ferrand Ambre
Meukow VS Cognac
To enjoy some of the good brandy brands order below by clicking the link:
Cognac / Brandy Cocktails
It wouldn’t be right to produce an article on cognacs and brandy without some recommended cocktails made with them, hence please see a few recommendations.
Side car –Cognac, Cointreau, Lemon and a maraschino cherry
Vieux Carré – Cognac, rye whisky, vermouth, splash of Benedictine liqueur, a dash of peychaud’s and angostura bitters.
The classic cognac cocktail –Cognac, freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly squeezed lime juice and a pinch of fine sugar.
French 75 Cocktail –cognac, sugar syrup. Lemon juice, champagne
Morning Glory cocktail – rye whisky, cognac, curacao, sugar syrup, dash of absinthe, 2 dashes of angostura bitters and club soda.
The Beautiful cocktail –cognac and grand marnier
Between the sheets– brandy, light rum, triple sec, lemon juice, lemon twist
Brandy Cobbler– brandy, sugar syrup, club soda and garnish with seasonal fruit or orange, lemon slices and a cherry
Brandy Smash– brandy, mint leaves, sugar syrup, club soda garnish with orange slice and maraschino cherry
Star cocktail– apple brandy, sweet vermouth, Anghostura bitters, gomme syrup and garnish with a lemon twist
If you have any feedback about cognac or brandy that you have tried and recommend or any comments about the ones that I have recommended, please leave your comments below.