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 10 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 ten years, an XO usually has an average age of between 15 and 20 years, sometimes older. So how old is an XO Cognac officially? As of 2018, the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC) have decided that the minimum XO Cognac age for the youngest eau-de-vie is ten years, in an effort to improve the quality of the spirit across the board.
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.
The XO is the ‘gold standard’ by which Cognac houses are typically judged. If you’re looking for a good Cognac, an XO can tell you a lot. So what does XO Cognac taste like? The time spent in the barrels can influence the Cognac significantly, and an exceptional XO will be rich and luxurious with warm spice, toffee, chocolate, nuts and dried fruit.
So which XO Cognac is the best? Take a look at our selection, some have won multiple awards and accreditations such as the Hennessy XO, the XO by Remy Martin, Martell XO Borderies and so on.
Learn more in our selection of educational Cognac articles.