If you’re looking for proof of the “premiumization” trend in alcohol, Cognac offers a fine example. Between 2016 and 2021, dollar sales in the U.S. grew a staggering 64.4 percent, according to data from the Distilled Spirits Council, with the “super premium” price range leading the charge. All things told, sales topped out at close to $3.5 billion in 2021, the most recent year for which the organization has published data.
It’s hardly surprising that many would be willing to fork out a little extra per bottle or upgrade to more expensive offerings. Cognac enjoys the status of being a luxury category, aided by strict production guidelines that mirror those employed by France’s numerous, famed wine regions.
If you’re beginning an exploration into the category, there are just three important labeling terms to familiarize yourself with — all of which relate to the youngest grape distillate (eau-de-vie) included in a blend. V.S. applies to Cognac aged at least two years; V.S.O.P. is used for blends with a minimum four years in barrel; and X.O. denotes 10 years and above.
Confusingly, you’ll also come across bottles that contain none of these acronyms on their labels, though that’s not an indication of lack of quality. Ultimately, it’s what’s inside the bottle that really counts. And the offerings on this list serve the finest examples currently available from the world’s most famous brandy-producing region.
From weeknight sippers to bar cart staples and bottles that redefine the boundaries of luxury, here are the 25 best Cognacs for 2023 at every age and price point.
Table Of Contents
Merlet V.S. Cognac
Made using a blend of eaux-de-vie aged between two and four years, this is a remarkable V.S. that over delivers on value. Its character leans heavily into fresh orchard fruits but arrives with enough concentration to stand out in bold cocktails or hold its own as a weekday sipper.
Average price: $35
Bache-Gabrielsen American Oak Cognac
With the words “American oak” taking pride of place on this bottle, there’s a slight concern that those barrels will overpower the spirit. That’s not the case. The Tennessee oak barrels, used as a finishing vessel for a minimum of six months, add an attractive extra layer of vanilla to the nose. The palate enjoys prominent banana and toasty notes, but once again fruit remains at its core. A Cognac for whiskey lovers, sure, but not a bottle that will alienate “traditional” Cognac drinkers, either.
Average price: $46
Dudognon Réserve Grande Champagne Cognac
Produced in the heart of Cognac’s Grande Champagne region, this bottle highlights the lighter style of the category. Fresh apples and pears, zesty citrus, and fragrant white flowers await in the glass, with oak taking a back seat, if not another vehicle entirely. Single malt drinkers would be wise to add this bottle to their wish list.
Average price: $47
Vaudon Cognac V.S.O.P
This V.S.O.P. is unapologetically bold. Initially driven by rich vanilla aromas and sweet baking spices, dried stone fruits then envelop the palate like a thick, cozy blanket. There are subtle layers of oak and spice, too, while the finish veers into port territory.
Average price: $47
Jean-Luc Pasquet Cognac L’Organic 04
We’ve previously raved about the 7-year release from this brand, which hails from the Grande Champagne region and is operated by a family producer that’s been in the biz for nearly three centuries. Today, we’re celebrating the younger, 4-year release, which is bright and fresh, delivering sprays of apple, citrus fruit, and fresh ginger. Summer sipper right here.
Average price: $49
D’Ussé V.S.O.P. Cognac
Many, though not all, of the bottles on this list will predominantly appeal to drinkers who have some experience sipping Cognac (and other aged spirits) neat. But there needs to be a start point on that exploration, and bottles that might not necessarily appeal further down the line but are well priced and perfectly placed for just that. D’Ussé’s V.S.O.P. over-delivers on that front. It’s balanced, oaky, and slightly sweet, epitomizing the terms “approachable” and — sorry to all the snobs out there! — “smooth.” That should be celebrated, even if this expression ends up being someone’s final destination rather than the beginning of a journey.
Average price: $50
Naud Cognac V.S.
Here’s another entry-level expression from a brand we’ve previously highlighted an older, more expensive product from. Naud’s VS celebrates the fruity and fresh profile that well-made Cognacs can take on. It’s an energetic mix of summer berries, violets, and lemon peel, and while it’s on the pricier end of the spectrum for such occasions, we implore you to mix it in cocktails. (Don’t worry about its capability as a sipper, though.)
Average price: $50
Cognac Février Saveurs
Everything about this Cognac, from its bottle and label to distinctive, fruit-forward style, makes it feel like a “craft” offering. A highly perfumed nose dazzles with peach yogurt aromas, while the palate is concentrated and full of flavor. This spirit is designed for sipping, and we wouldn’t be opposed to adding a large cube of ice on a hot summer’s day.
Average price: $51
Monnet V.S.O.P Cognac
Like a confectionary delight pulled straight out of the oven, this V.S.O.P. sings with baked orchard fruit, caramelized nuts, and sweet vanilla notes. Where some bottles deliver this experience, then fall disappointingly flat on the finish, this Cognac keeps on going and going. Skip dessert and enjoy a pour of Monnet.
Average price: $53
Cognac Frapin 1270
Estate-produced in every sense of the term, Frapin handles all aspects of production, from growing grapes right through to aging and bottling the final eau-de-vie. Though generous in fruit character, this release also steps into more complex, savory territory, with black tea and tobacco notes dialing up the intrigue.
Average price: $55
Grateaud Bouquet des Borderies Cognac
Among the most unique and memorable bottles on this list, Grateaud Bouquet des Borderies stands out with distinctive herbal aromas, followed by a waft of white flowers and juicy white grapes. At times, the palate seems to step into rye whiskey territory, though without the grain’s signature spicy bite. “Summer, summer, summertime,” goes the accompanying soundtrack to each sip.
Average price: $58
A.E. Dor V.S.O.P. Cognac
Though a couple years older and a little more expensive than the brand’s V.S., A.E. Dor’s V.S.O.P. actually shows a little more restraint than its younger sibling. Both bottles offer great value for money — and we’d happily drink either — but the profile of the latter gives more space for its berry and stone fruit notes to shine, while also offering ample room for delicious doses of vanilla.
Average price: $60
Hennessy V.S.O.P Cognac
This is another example of a V.S.O.P. that lands on the more decadent, concentrated end of the spectrum. Vibrant toasted oak notes mix with golden raisins and dried apricots, before licorice and vanilla lend a sweet kiss to the finish. There’s a reason this is one of the best known brands in Cognac.
Average price: $64
Ferrand Cognac 10 Generations
For all the decadent, oaky, aged spirits drinkers out there, seek out this fabulous release from the vaunted Maison Ferrand. The name of this expression represents the family lineage that’s worked in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, while the profile leans hazelnut, mocha, and toffee-rich, with accents of Turkish delight.
Average price: $65
Hine Rare V.S.O.P. Cognac
Hine Rare stands out in the V.S.O.P. category with its striking bottle — one more commonly associated with X.O. Cognacs — which is fitting, really, because this is among the most cerebral and expressive V.S.O.P.’s on the market. Bursts of fresh fruit aromas meet decadent prunes and raisins. The palate, too, is full of fresh fruit energy, while still delivering toasted oak and subtle baking spices. Each sip leaves no doubt this Cognac was made using high-quality grapes, treated with the utmost respect.
Average price: $65
Mery Melrose V.S.O.P. Grande Fine Champagne Cognac
If you’re looking for a slightly left-field Cognac that departs from the usual orchard and stone fruit profile, this bottle awaits with bursts of tropical fruit, berries, and red flower aromas. Needless to say, it’s an attractive proposition from the get-go, and soon you’ll be enjoying a palate awash with toasted oak, raisins, banana chips, and a prickly finish that lasts an age.
Average price: $65
Maison Brard Blanchard Organic V.S.O.P.
Made from Ugni blanc, Colombard, and Folle Blanche grapes, and double distilled in old alembic stills, this V.S.O.P. sings with notes of apricots, honeysuckle, white flowers, and candied ginger. The palate skews slightly richer, with accents of poached peaches and Chantilly cream. Dessert in a glass, anyone?
Average price: $76
Cognac Park Borderies Mizunara
Mizunara-aged or -finished releases tend to sell themselves these days, thanks to the renown this particular type of oak has built up. In reality, that influence can often be hard to pin down — a kind of je ne sais quois experience — but not here, where the spiced sandalwood and light baking spice notes perfectly complement the base profile of baked apple, vanilla, and toffee.
Average price: $90
Raymond Ragnaud XO
A small-production, 100 percent Ugni Blanc XO, this release is rich and luxurious, with aromas of toffee, cigar box, dried apricots, and vanilla. Fresh, youthful vigor reemerges on the palate, with peppery spice carrying the finish. It’s pricey for such occasions but a better suited Cognac for Old Fashioneds you’ll struggle to find.
Average price: $90
Vallein Tercinier Cognac 46° X.O. Small Batch
There’s a strong sense this bottle is trying to attract whiskey drinkers: Bottled at 46 percent ABV, the small-batch blend comprises 25- and 15-year-old distillates, which arrive in bottle without chill filtration. The only difference between this and whiskey is the unlikelihood of scoring a similarly aged blend for this (not altogether modest) price in the latter category. Perfumed, floral, and incredibly powerful, this is a complex sipper, with the higher ABV coaxing out extra layers of nuance.
Average price: $130
Courvoisier X.O. Imperial Grande Champagne Cognac
A stunning example of refinement and restraint, this X.O. doesn’t overdo it on dried fruit notes or oak influence. That allows the attractive nuance of its aromas to come to the fore, with dried and fresh stone fruits meeting vanilla and prickly pepper. The palate has generous depth but lands with a light texture. It’s almost sessionable in its drinkability, if not ABV, though your bank account won’t want to hear that.
Average price: $144
Through the Grapevine Trijol Single Cask 2003
Damn, this is one of the finest Cognacs available in the U.S. right now. Muscat and Concord grape juice drive the nose, followed by baked apple and cinnamon. The palate is similarly complex and nuanced, and somehow continues to develop endlessly on the finish. What we have here is a pure celebration of fruit, with oak taking a back seat but playing its role masterfully.
Average price: $160
Bisquit & Dubouche X.O.
Based on the bottle, some of what you’re paying for here is the packaging — emphasis on the some, because the liquid inside is also top tier. Intense autumn and winter spices kick off the nose, followed by nutmeg, toffee, and sandalwood. There’s a surprising brightness to the palate, and tannic grip that adds textural complexity. This is a great sipping Cognac if you’re looking for something rich with nuance.
Average price: $180
Prunier Cognac 20 Year
It’s not often that you’ll encounter a 20-year-old Cognac, and if you do, oak will likely have hijacked the flavor profile. That’s not the case with this exceptional release. Sure, there are elegant notes of cigar box, tobacco, leather, and baking spice, but vying for equal attention are baked figs and Peche Melba. The palate never ceases to evolve and finishes with a distinct and pronounced prune flavor. It seems ludicrous to state but this might actually be a $200 bargain.
Average price: $200
François Voyer Extra Cognac Grande Champagne
If there are two common profiles for lengthy-aged Cognac — rich and decadent or surprisingly fruity — this release lands firmly in the latter. Specifically, the fruit notes are tropical with a delightful kiss of freeze-dried raspberries. Accents of sandalwood and potpourri add to its range, while tannic texture is balanced by a (non-cloying) perception of sweetness. If $220 seems like a bit of a stretch, rest assured that all the releases from this brand deliver.
Average price: $220
What is the best Cognac for beginners?
Beginners are best introduced to Cognac through cocktails. We recommend mixing V.S. Cognacs into your first Cognac-based highball.
Is V.S.O.P. or X.O. better?
V.S.O.P. stands for “Very Special (or Superior) Old Pale.” In V.S.O.P. Cognacs, the youngest Cognac in the blend must be at least four years old. X.O., or “Extra Old,” means the youngest in the blend is 10 years old.
How is Cognac different from brandy?
Cognac is a style of brandy made in Cognac, a delimited region to the north of Bordeaux. While all Cognac is brandy, not all brandy is Cognac.
VinePair’s Tasting Methodology
Throughout the year, VinePair conducts numerous tastings for our popular Buy This Booze column and wine and spirits reviews. Our mission is to provide a clear, reliable source of information for drinkers, providing an overview applicable to day-to-day buying and drinking.
Tastings are not typically conducted blind. In alignment with our reviews mission, we believe in purposefully tasting all products as our readers typically would, with full knowledge of the producer, the region, and — importantly — the price.
For Buy This Booze roundups, we typically include a maximum of one expression per brand, though we do allow multiple products from the same production facility (i.e., released under different labels).
For this Cognac roundup, we considered a number of different factors before finalizing the list. Our overall aim was to provide a complete overview of the myriad styles and expressions of Cognac that define the world’s most famous brandy-producing nation. That means entry-level, “approachable” V.S. bottlings alongside intricately aged and limited-production X.O. releases that spirits geeks should go to great lengths to seek out. We are confident that each bottle that made this final ranking delivers on flavor, balance, depth, and complexity for each of their respective price points.