cognac in glass on black background

Best Cognac Brands: Your Complete Guide

Cognac is a classic, timeless spirit with a long history of production. This alcohol is named after the Cognac region of France, with production methods and naming requirements overseen by France’s appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC). Cognac is a variety of brandy and spends plenty of time being barrel-aged to create a sweet and spicy, somewhat fruity and bitter spirit.

There are many different Cognac brands around today, and it’s important to know how to discern between them so you can choose one that suits your palate the best. Our article gives you more information about Cognac as well as details on the Cognac brands we recommend to ensure you have a pleasant drinking experience.

What You Need to Know About Cognac

Cognac is a type of brandy that is aged for significant periods of time within Limousin oak casks. All Cognacs must be aged for at least two years, and there are special designations you can look for that tell you the age of the Cognac you are going to enjoy. Designations of age for Cognac utilize the youngest ingredient in the blend.

Typically, Cognacs that are aged longer will have stronger hints of oak and smoothness, while younger Cognacs are sweeter with stronger hints of fruit.

Important designations of Cognac to note when purchasing Cognac include:

  • S. (Very Special) – at least two years aged, may also be designated by three stars
  • S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) – at least four years of age, may also be designated by the word ‘Reserve’
  • Napoléon – at least six years aged
  • O. (Extra Old) – at least 10 years aged
  • X.O. (Extra Extra Old) – at least 14 years aged
  • Hors d’âge (Beyond Age) – over 14 years aged, used to indicate the highest quality of product that has been aged for a significantly longer period of time than the official age scale designations

As you browse Cognac options, you can keep these designations in mind to guide you to the best choice of brand for your tastes. It’s also important to note that Cognacs that have been aged longer are typically on the higher end of the price scale, so in a way it's similar to an aged whiskey like a traditional sipping whiskey.

Cognac: An Overview

Created and produced only in France, Cognac is a variety of brandy that many French say is created from l’eau de vie – the water of life. This smooth, oak-forward spirit is created from white grapes grown within the Charente and Charente-Maritime, and producers of Cognac must follow legal requirements as designated by the AOC in France.

Age designations are especially important in the labeling of Cognac, and it’s these varying aging times that determine the exact taste of your Cognac.

Cognac appears golden brown or rich brown in color, and it typically has hints of spice, sweetness, bitterness, or fruit. Cognacs that are younger are generally sweeter and more fruit-forward, while those that have been aged for many years are more oak-forward, strong, and smooth.

In general, Cognac is perceived as a classic, timeless, and upscale drink. It is traditionally consumed neat, but it may be served on the rocks or with a few drops of water to fully open up the flavors of the spirit.

Many individuals enjoy Cognac as a before-dinner or after-dinner drink, and it is blended into a few popular cocktails such as the Sidecar and the French Connection.

How to Choose the Best Cognac?

When it comes to choosing the best Cognac, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the many choices available to you. However, there are a few important things you can consider to help make your choice easier.

For Cognacs, these considerations include vintage, cru (growing area for the grapes used in the Cognac), and the aging process. All of these items will be listed on the labels of the Cognac you purchase.

The vintage of your Cognac determines the overall flavor. Younger Cognacs tend to be sweeter and they are more often used in cocktails due to their strong spirit-forward flavor and the greater notes of fruit. Older Cognacs are considered the best for drinking neat, as they are smooth, bold, and often have hints of spice or oak from the aging process.

The cru of a Cognac indicates the growing region and the type of grapes used to create the Cognac, with ugni blanc being the most commonly used grape variety. Rarer grapes make for rarer blends of Cognac with distinctive flavors.

It’s important to note that while all Cognacs must be aged, there can be variations in the distillation and aging process, including the type of casks used to age the Cognac. As the Cognac matures, it gains its deeper brown color and intakes some of the flavors from the casks, which is why this factor is important to note.

What Does Cognac Cost?

Cognac has a very wide price range due to the variations in age and the specific processes that different Cognac producers utilize to make their spirits. You can expect to purchase bottles of Cognac that range between $50 and thousands of dollars, with some brands like Rémy Martin’s Louis XIII Rare Cognac moving into the tens of thousands per bottle.

On average, you can expect to pay between $50 and $500 for a decent bottle of Cognac from a reputable brand. If you want something with a smooth taste without the expensive price, check out some of our top picks for the best bourbon under $100.

Where Can You Buy Cognac?

Cognac can be bought in your local liquor stores or online. If you are looking for a more rare bottle or a specific brand, an online outlet like Speakeasy Company is often the best place to search for a specific type of Cognac.

Many restaurants or bars will sell a select few brands of Cognac, depending on their use in specific cocktail recipes. A bar that specializes in Cognacs and brandy will typically offer a wider selection than your neighborhood restaurant that might carry one or two brands of Cognac.

The Best Cognac Brands

There are many different brands of Cognac out there, and it can be confusing to wade through your options. Below, we give you an overview of the best Cognac brands you can try and why they make such good choices for your Cognac experience.

Billionaire’s Row Cuvee X.O.

  • Proof: 80 proof/40% ABV
  • Tasting Notes: Orange Peels, Prunes, Vanilla, Sweet Smokiness
  • Our Rating: 5 Stars

The balanced and versatile flavors of Billionaire’s Row Cuvee X.O. feature hints of orange peels, prunes, and vanilla. This Cognac has an aftertaste of sweet smokiness that’s pleasant for individuals who don’t enjoy a very strong smokey or spicy flavor but still want a hint of this in their Cognac.

The Billionaire’s Row brand is a newer brand with a unique flavor, and it has a lot to offer Cognac drinkers looking to change things up.

Keep in mind that because Billionaire’s Row Cuvee X.O. is a newer brand, it’s more difficult to find in local liquor stores and may need to be ordered online.


  • Balanced and versatile
  • Newer brand with a unique flavor


  • More difficult to find in local liquor stores

Rayon Cognac X.O.

  • Proof: 80 Proof/40% ABV
  • Tasting Notes: Caramel, Vanilla, Oak
  • Our Rating: 4.5 stars

Rayon Cognac X.O is an extra old aged Cognac with a smooth, balanced flavor. This spirit has notes of caramel and vanilla with a robust oak undertone, leaving the flavor potent and alcohol-forward yet incredibly rich.

Rayon Cognac is manufactured by the Godet Family in LaRochelle, France, and the brand has been established since 1588. Generations of production and care have been put into the creation of the Rayon Cognac X.O., and it remains a popular choice among those who prefer a bold and fruit-forward drink.

The Rayon Cognac is best enjoyed neat, and if you are searching for a Cognac to use in cocktails, this is likely not the best brand for that purpose.


  • Smooth, rich, and bold flavors
  • Long-lasting brand created by individuals with decades of experience


  • Not a prime choice for use in Cognac cocktails

Rare Hare Lapine Cognac

  • Proof: 81.8 Proof/40.9% ABV
  • Tasting Notes: Candied Strawberry, Orange Zest, Lychee, Buttered Toast, French Vanilla Coffee
  • Our Rating: 4 Stars

The Rare Hare Lapine Cognac is aged 60 years and has one of the most robust and bold flavors on our list. Fruit-forward flavors of strawberries and orange lead into rich, buttery flavors with a vanilla and boozy finish. This brand is perfect for sipping neat, and it makes a fantastic choice for someone who prefers a long-aged Cognac with distinctive flavors.

The higher price point on this brand may make this brand a once in a lifetime purchase, and more of a collector’s item for individuals fond of Cognac.


  • Aged 60 years
  • Bold, robust flavor
  • Perfect for sipping neat


  • Higher-range price

Courvoisier X.O. Cognac

bottle of courvoisier xo
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  • MSRP: $170.00
  • Proof: 80 Proof/40% ABV
  • Tasting Notes: Fig, Plum, Iris, Crème Brûlée
  • Our Rating: 4 stars

Courvoisier is one of the most well-known Cognac brands, and there are several different varieties of Cognac to choose from with Courvoisier.

The Courvoisier X.O. Cognac is a mid-tier choice from the brand that is incredibly crowd-pleasing. Its stone-fruit heavy, balanced, and smooth taste is sure to impress both newcomers to Cognaccognac and experienced Cognaccognac connoisseurs.

However, some individuals may not enjoy the slightly sweeter taste that most varieties of Courvoisier provide. It might be too light for those looking for a bold, robust, or incredibly oaky and rich flavor. It also may be a bit expensive for those getting to know Cognac.


  • Crowd-pleasing brand and taste
  • Options at varying price points
  • Smooth, balanced, and light


  • Some might not prefer the sweeter taste
  • Cost may be prohibitive

Rémy Martin V.S.O.P

bottle of remy martin vsop
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  • MSRP: $55.00
  • Proof: 80 Proof/40% ABV
  • Tasting Notes: Dried Apricot, Licorice, Vanilla, Candied Pear
  • Our Rating: 4 Stars

The Rémy Martin V.S.O.P classic black is one of the most popular and notable Cognacs on the market today. The Rémy Martin brand offers many different varieties at a range of price points, and this spirit boasts a pleasing fruit-forward taste with hints of sweetness.

The Rémy Martin V.S.O.P is another good entry point into the world of Cognac, and you can stick with this brand as your Cognac tastes evolve.

If you plan on making cocktails with your Cognac, this brand might not be for you, as the flavors are bold and more intended to be sipped neat than blended to craft a mixed drink.


  • Popular brand and recognizable Cognac
  • Plenty of Cognac variety within the brand


  • Flavors don’t easily blend into cocktails
  • Could be too fruity or sweet for some palates

Hennessy V.S.

bottle of hennessy
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  • MSRP: $55.00
  • Proof: 80 Proof/40% ABV
  • Tasting Notes: Almond, Brown Sugar, Vanilla, Fruit
  • Our Rating: 3.5 Stars

Hennessy V.S. is one of the most popular brands of Cognac, and it’s one of the brands you’re most likely to encounter in restaurants and bars. This Cognac is a more budget-friendly selection, and it’s a great choice for first-time Cognac drinkers who need an introduction to the world of Cognac.

Hennessy V.S. is versatile and useful if you plan on making Cognac cocktails, as the slightly sweeter and fruit-forward taste balances cocktails well.

It’s important to note that Hennessy V.S. is not the best Cognac for enjoying neat, and it hasn’t been aged for a significant time. The flavors of Hennessy V.S. won’t have a strong robust or oaky flavor like older or more expensive Cognacs might have.


  • Budget-friendly selection
  • Great for first-time Cognac drinkers
  • Useful for Cognac cocktails


  • Not the best for enjoying neat
  • Not aged enough for significant robust or oaky flavors

Discovering Your Favorite Cognac

glass of cognac on wooden barrel

Cognac is a timeless drink with a long history and plenty of regulations that go into ensuring every drop of Cognac produced speaks of quality.

Many different brands of Cognac exist today, ranging from more budget-friendly and entry-level brands to brands that produce aged Cognacs for enthusiasts of this spirit.

When choosing a Cognac and discovering your next favorite brand, keep in mind our recommendations and important factors to remember as you review your options.

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