VS stands for Very Special (or 3 stars ***) and means the youngest element in the blend is at least two-and-a-half years old. Although VS Cognacs already have the typical Cognac color, they are a little more sharp on the nose and palate, but they can still be enjoyed straight, on ice or in a mix-drink. VS Cognacs are a bit unruly and need to be tamed. It should be understood that a VS or *** designation simply tells us the age of the youngest eau-de-vie in the product. This in no way prevents a Cognac producer from using older products in the blend. The next age level would be VSOP Cognac (Very Superior Old Pale). Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.
Officially, VSOP Cognac stands for Very Superior Old Pale Cognac. Often however it gets referred to as Very Special Old pale. This age designation can sometimes also be labelled as VO (Very Old), or simply Reserve, and it indicates that the youngest element in the blend is at least four-and-a-half years old. The average age of a VSOP is often much older. The origin of the abreviation goes back to an order from the British Royal Court in 1817 that specified it wanted a “pale cognac”, one which is not sweetened or colored. The next age levels are XO Cognac and Napoleon Cognac. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.
XO stands for Extra Old, which means that the youngest element in the blend is aged for at least six, but an average of 20 years and more. From 2016, the minimum age for an XO Cognac will officially be set to 10 years. The abreviation XO was used for the first time in 1870. Generally, an XO Cognac is a more mature and smoother than a VS or a VSOP and enjoyed neat at room temperature. Officially XO Cognac is equal to Napoleon Cognac in terms of minimum age, but normally Napoleon is marketed as an in-between of a VSOP and an XO Cognac. The next age level beyond XO is Extra, Vieille Reserve and Hors d’Age. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.
Napoleon means that the youngest element in the blend is aged for at least six, but an average of 20 years and upwards. Legend has it that the name Napoleon Cognac originated from the French Emperor Napoléon, who had his Cognac bottles delivered to him. Officially Napoleon is equal to XO Cognac in terms of minimum age but normally marketed as an in-between of a VSOP and an XO Cognac. The next age level beyond Napoleon is Extra, Vieille Reserve and Hors d'Age. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.
A Vintage Cognac is distilled from one specific harvest only, one vintage (i.e. 1990). The Cognac producer decides to set aside a selection of barrels for vintage designation, and an inspector literally seals and locks the barrels away for restricted access. This procedure allows the producer to print the year of the vintage on the label. It is important that the bottling date is written on the label, as it indicates for how long the Cognac has actually been aging in the barrel. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.
Officially, Hors d’ Age means „beyond age“ and is stated as being equal to the age of an XO Cognac, but it is actually used to communicate a very high quality product, which is beyond the official age scale. Hors d’Age can be 20, 30 or even 40, even up to a 100 years old. It all depends – it is amongst the oldest Cognac you can get, together with Ancestrale, Très Vieille Réserve and Vieille Réserve. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.
What is a Cognac Liqueur? A liqueur based Cognac is a quite strong, sweet flavored alcoholic liquor, usually enjoyed after a meal as a digestif. Liqueurs often begin with a base liquor, on our site that’s Cognac. Sugar is added to the base along with a mix of herbs, fruits or spices, depending on the desired flavor. ABV ranges from 14 to 22%. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.