Cognac age indications refer to the age of the youngest eau-de-vie used in a blend. An eau-de-vie cannot be marketed unless it has been aged for at least 2 years in wood, without interruption. These mentions take into account the AOC Cognac specifications, which stipulate that the mention is determined by the number of years of ageing in oak barrels or foudres on April 1st of the year following that of the previous harvest.
Although VS, VSOP and XO are the best-known designations, there are many others that are little-known to the general public, but which are standardized by the BNIC. The minimum age required for an eau-de-vie to claim the cognac appellation is 2 years. The oldest can be over 70 years old!
- 2 years minimum: VS (Very Special), 3 stars, De Luxe
- 3 years minimum: Superior, Superior Quality
- 4 years minimum: VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), Rare, Réserve
- 5 years minimum: Vieille Réserve, Réserve Rare
- 6 years minimum: Napoléon, Très Vieille Réserve, Héritage
- 10 years minimum: XO, Extra Old, Hors d’âge, Extra,
- 14 years minimum: XXO, Extra Extra Old
Cellar masters often use older eaux-de-vie in their blends. XO Grande Réserve for example, is a blend of eaux-de-vie whose average age is around thirty years, even though it is called “XO”.
Aging mentions are commonly used, as it is forbidden to communicate the precise age of a cognac, except in the case of vintages, which are blends of eaux-de-vie from the same year. (ex : 14 ans d’âge).
The meaning of “known” age mention
The “VS” or “Very Special” appellation, also known as “3 stars (***)”, is the youngest appellation for a cognac. It means that the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend must be at least 2 years old in wood.
VS” cognac is the gateway to the world of cognac. Mainly used in the world of mixology for cocktails or long-drinks, it is generally light gold in color, with floral and fruity aromas.
Our cognac « Coq » is a perfect example of this, even if the youngest eau-de-vie in it is 3 years old.
The “VSOP” or “Very Superior Old Pale” appellation designates a blend in which the youngest eau-de-vie is aged for a minimum of 4 years in wood. VSOP cognac is a reference for all cognac houses. It is often called “Reserve” or “Rare”.
VSOP cognac is often described as “sweeter” than VS cognac. Gold in color, it is often used in mixology for the famous “summit cognac”, for its woodier aromas. It can often be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.
Our cognac « VSOP » is our reference, with a blend of eaux-de-vie aged between 4 and 6 years.
The “XO” or “Extra Old” appellation designates a blend in which the youngest eau-de-vie has been aged for a minimum of 10 years in wood. “XO” cognac is the workhorse and world-renowned benchmark of the cognac houses. The XO appellation was invented by Hennessy in 1870.
An XO cognac is a guarantee of very high quality, and is often renowned for its aromatic richness. It is best enjoyed neat in any situation, to appreciate all the flavors it releases. Generally amber or mahogany in color, it has spicy, fruity and woody aromas.
Our cognac « Cep d’Or XO » has a lively aromatic spectrum that combines intense fruitiness with woody finesse.
The latest recently known appellation “XXO” or “Extra Extra Old” designates a very old blend of eaux-de-vie with a minimum of 14 years in wood for the youngest. It is an appellation added since November 8, 2018 to the cognac AOC specifications.
An XXO cognac often has a very amber color with brown highlights. Generally spicy notes both on the nose and palate are noticeable. This is a cognac to be savored neat.
Our cognac « Cigar Club » does not claim this name. However, in our range, it is the cognac that best illustrates the aromatic construction of an XXO cognac.
The meaning of “confidential” age mention
The term “Napoléon”, also known as “Très Vieille Réserve” or “Héritage”, designates a blend in which the youngest eau-de-vie has been aged for a minimum of 6 long years in wood. It refers to the legend that Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte took several cases of Courvoisier cognac with him when he was exiled to St. Hélène.
Napoleon cognac can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks as an appetizer, with generally fruity notes and aromas. Highly appreciated by connoisseurs, it is a cognac sought after for its aromatic qualities.
Our cognac « Napoléon » is our reference for its powerful, smooth aromas.
The “EXTRA” label designates a blend in which the youngest eau-de-vie has been aged in wood for a minimum of 10 years. EXTRA cognac is often compared to XO cognac, but cellar masters blend EXTRA cognacs with much older eaux-de-vie than those used for XO cognac.
EXTRA cognacs are best enjoyed pure and slowly, to appreciate them at their true value. They possess aromas typical of old eaux-de-vie, such as vanilla, or sometimes the flavors of the famous rancio (1).
Our cognac « Très Vieux EXTRA » is our most popular workhorse.
Hors d’âge cognac
“Hors d’âge” refers to a blend in which the youngest eau-de-vie is aged for at least 10 years in wood. The term “hors d’âge” is often used to designate an extremely old quality, with eaux-de-vie aged for a minimum of 30 to 50 years for the oldest blends.
Hors d’âge cognac is best enjoyed neat, alone and very slowly. It is a great cognac that invites meditation. It has rancio aromas and sublimates the work of the cellar masters.
- (1) : “Rancio” aromas emerge from the controlled aging of eaux-de-vie distilled with lees. A characteristic bouquet of nuts, spices (cinnamon, cardamom) and cocoa.)