A Guide to the Different Types of Cognac: VS, VSOP, XO, and XXO
Cognac, a luxurious French spirit, is revered globally for its intricate and robust flavors. This exquisite liquid, native to the Cognac region of France, is crafted from distilled wine and aged in oak barrels – a process that imparts its distinctive taste and scent. This guide will take you through the various types of cognac, illuminating the unique characteristics of each from VS to XXO.
What is Cognac?
This elite variety wine spirit is produced solely in the Cognac region of France. To earn the cognac label, the spirit must be crafted from designated grape varieties, including Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Montils, Semillon, Folignan and Colombard. After harvesting, these grapes are pressed, fermented into wine, and then undergo double distillation in copper stills, creating the “eau de vie” or “water of life.” This eau de vie is then matured in oak barrels, a process that imbues the cognac with its signature flavors and scents. This maturation period is crucial in defining the cognac’s quality and categorization, ranging from VS to XXO.
Is Grand Marnier Cognac?
Grand Marnier is a sophisticated twist on a classic Cognac. This premium orange-flavored liqueur is concocted from a mixture of cognac and bitter orange liqueur. The cognac used in Grand Marnier typically falls under VSOP, XO, or XXO, bestowing it with a multifaceted and rich flavor profile.
VS, standing for “Very Special”, is the most youthful classification of cognac, aged in oak barrels for at least two years. This maturation imparts a light, fruity taste to the VS cognac, making it an excellent choice for cocktail mixology due to its freshness and versatility.
VSOP, or “Very Superior Old Pale”, cognac matures for a minimum of four years in oak barrels. This extended aging results in a more profound, complex flavor compared to its VS counterpart, often carrying notes of vanilla, spice, and fruit. VSOP cognac is an excellent choice for enjoying neat or on the rocks and works well in cocktails demanding a more intricate flavor profile.
XO, or “Extra Old” cognac, matures in oak barrels for a minimum of ten years. This long aging process infuses it with a rich, complex flavor profile featuring notes of oak, vanilla, and spices. XO cognac is widely recognized as the epitome of cognac excellence, celebrated for its profound depth and complexity. Typically, XO cognac is savored neat or with a touch of water to truly appreciate its nuanced flavors.
XXO, or “Extra Extra Old”, is a relatively new cognac classification introduced in 2018. Aged for at least 14 years in oak barrels, XXO cognac boasts an even richer, more intricate flavor profile than XO cognac, often characterized by notes of dried fruit, leather, and tobacco. Due to its rarity and expense, XXO cognac is typically savored neat or with a dash of water and is less common in cocktail preparations.
XXO cognac is currently produced by a few brands.
Cognac, a revered French wine spirit, offers a variety of types and aging classifications to suit diverse palates. From the light, fruity VS cognac to the rich, complex XXO cognac, there’s a flavor for every taste and occasion. The versatility of cognac allows it to be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as a cocktail ingredient, making it a sophisticated choice for all kinds of drink preparations. Embarking on a journey through the varied types of cognac can lead to delightful discoveries and the potential to find a new favorite. Here’s to a journey of taste exploration through the world of cognac!