Cognac Ages

There are 15 cognac ages
  • VS Cognac

    VS Cognac stands for "Very Special" Cognac. VS is an age category that guarantees a minimum aging of 2 years. It is also referred to as "Sélection", "De Luxe", or simply ***. If you see three stars on a Cognac bottle, it means it is in the VS age category. This means that the youngest eau-de-vie that was used to create the blend was aged in oak barrels for at least two years.

    A VS Cognac will have the typical brandy color, it may be a little lighter than a mature blend. It can be a little punchy on palate, but a young Cognac can boast lovely fruity aromas. If you enjoy a rebellious spirit, it's absolutely fine to enjoy a VS neat or on the rocks. It's safe to say that VS is the suitable Cognac to use for making cocktails, long drinks, or any other kind of mix drink.It should be noted that a VS or *** designation simply tells us the age of the youngest eau-de-vie in the product. This does not prevent a master blender from using older eaux-de-vie in the blend.

    VS Cognac is very popular in the US and among young people, which allows for the unique limited special edition Hennessy VS, for example. The next age level up is VSOP Cognac (Very Superior Old Pale). Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • VSOP Cognac

    VSOP Cognac stands for "Very Superior Old Pale" Cognac, which is interesting considering that it comes from France. The origin of the abbreviation VSOP dates back to a Cognac order from the British Royal Court. In 1817, King George IV asked the House of Hennessy for a "Very Superior Old Pale", which would become a benchmark for all Cognac houses from then on.

    Some use fullstops after the letters, V.S.O.P., which is nothing else than a stylistic preference. Old and pale refers to a Cognac mature in age but not colored or sweetened for that special aroma, one of superior quality. This age designation is also labelled "Very Superior Special Pale", "Very Old", or simply "Réserve" or "Vieux", and indicates that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend is four years old. As in any other age category, this does not prevent the master blender from using much older eaux-de-vie in order to achieve the perfect harmony for the final Cognac blend.

    The average age of a VSOP is often much older. The next age levels are XO Cognac and Napoleon Cognac. Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • XO Cognac

    XO stands for "Extra Old", and describes a Cognac consisting of eaux-de-vie that have been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 6 years. Just like VS (Very Special) and VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), Extra Old is another English expression, which shows the strong connection to foreign countries, especially Great Britain and America.

    "XO" was coined by Cognac Hennessy and first used in 1870. Even though the youngest blend in an XO Cognac can be as young as six years, an XO usually has an average age of between 15 and 20 years, sometimes older. There is talk about raising the youngest component in an XO Cognac to a minimum of 10 years, but this hasn't officially happened yet. Today, as it stands, the minimum age for the youngest eau-de-vie in a blend to qualify as an XO is still six years. An XO Cognac can also be called “Old Réserve” or "Vieille Réserve". As XO is the final official age category, “Napoleon”, "Extra", "Hors d'Age", and "Tres Vieille Réserve", are designations that fall into the XO category, however, there can be important differences in quality and age.

    Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • Napoléon Cognac

    An unofficial age designation, "Napoleon" Cognac is comparable to XO quality, meaning the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend needs to have aged for at least 6 years in oak barrels. The origin of this name goes back to the French Emperor Napoleon and the Cognac House Courvoisier.

    Legend has it that Napoleon took crates of Courvoisier Cognac into exile with him to the island of St Helena, and the crew coined the Cognac as "Napoleon's Cognac". The average age of a Napoleon Cognac is around 20 years.

    Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • Réserve Cognac

    Officially, like with an XO Cognac, the youngest eau-de-vie in a "Réserve" has to be aged for a minimum of 6 years. The average age is much older than that for a good Réserve Cognac.

    A "Réserve Familiale" or a "Vieille Réserve" is a blend that uses very old eaux-de-vie from the Cognac house's or the family's "Paradis" cellars, the place where the oldest and most valuable barrels are stored. Due to the sparsity of the older eaux-de-vie, the amount of bottles produced is limited and obviously higher in price. A Réserve is a higher quality Cognac than an XO, a Napoleon, or an Extra.

    Often, the Cognac brands design a bottle especially for their Réserve, or create the blend for a special occasion such an anniversary.The next level up from a Réserve is an Hors d'Age Cognac.

    Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • Hors d'Age Cognac

    Hors d’ Age means „beyond age“ and is the age category that describes the highest quality Cognac–in terms of age that is. Officially, it is classed in the XO age denomination, but it is used for Cognacs that have an average age of 30 years and above. Hors d'Age blends can be 30, 40, 50, even up to a 100 years old. An Hors d'Age Cognac is amongst the oldest Cognacs you can get, together with an Ancestral, or perhaps a Très Vieille Réserve.

    There is also Vintage Cognac, which can be as old as an Hors d'Age, but the difference is that a Vintage is a single harvest Cognac, not a blend.

    Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • Extra Cognac

    An Extra Cognac has to be at least 6 years of age, just like an XO Cognac. In fact, if you want to be precise, it falls into the XO age denomination. But it describes a quality that is superior to an XO and a Napoleon.

    The average age for an EXTRA Cognac ranges between 15 and 25 years. Of course there are always exceptions, for example if a Cognac brand choses to create a limited blend with old eaux-de-vie from their cellars. The next oldest age category is Réserve.

    Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • Vintage Cognac

    A Vintage Cognac is a Cognac from a single year and a single harvest, not a blend from different eaux-de-vie like an XO or a VSOP. It is also referred to as a Millésime Cognac. We commonly know this from Whisky as “single barrel“, which means the spirit comes from one single source: one year, one estate, one barrel.

    The difference between Cognac and Whiskey is that for Cognac, the art lies in the blending. Vintage Cognacs are quite uncommon, although it is a trend that is becoming more and more popular. It's actually a very special gift to find a Vintage Cognac of a birthday, or one that marks an anniversary.

    In order for a Cognac house to be allowed to bottle a Vintage, there are legal obligations that need to be followed. The National Cognac Bureau (BNIC) has to verify that procedure is respected. Once the Cognac producer has decided to set aside a selection of barrels for the Vintage designation, an official from the BNIC comes and seals the barrels and then makes sure they are locked away for restricted access only. It is important that the bottling date is written on the label, as this indicates for how long the Cognac was actually aged in the barrel for, because Cognac stops aging once bottled.

    Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.

  • Cuvée Cognac

    The Cuvée classification does not necessarily refer to age. Technically it describes one particular blend or batch. It is especially used in the Champagne classification, not so much in Cognac. When it appears on a Cognac bottle, it usually means the producer wants to give it a special name instead of using the age categories VSOP and XO. It might refer to a limited amount of a certain blend.

  • Collection Cognac

    Collection Cognacs are very special and prestigious cognacs for collectors and connaisseurs. These often include gift and tasting sets. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.

  • Prestige Cognac

    Prestige Cognacs are very old Cognacs that are often presented in luxurious decanters and high-end packaging. These one of a kind bottles come at very high prices and are often kept as collector items. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.

  • Ancestrale Cognac

    Ancestrale translates into very very old Cognac, similar to "Vieille Réserve" or "Réserve Limitée".

  • Sélection des Anges Cognac

    Sélection des Anges is a denomination that is rarely used. The word refers to the angel's share, the black dust that evaporates from the eau-de-vie during the aging process.

  • Special Cognac

    Here is where you find all kinds of unique products. A Cognac house might produce a bottle that doesn't fit into any of the above categories. It could also be a product that doesn't have the standard age or other kind of qualification. Read more about Cognac ages, or Cognac education in general.

  • Liqueur Cognac

    A Cognac Liqueur is a strong but sweet alcoholic berverage, usually enjoyed after a meal as a digestif. Liqueurs have as a base a 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%.