Skip to main content

This is what the VSOP designation means on that bottle of Cognac

What is VSOP cognac?

Cognac
Timothé Durand/Unsplash

If you’re new to cognac, you might find the French spirit to be a little overwhelming. We can understand this. Getting into a spirit like bourbon seems a lot easier because the age is clearly defined on the label (in many cases). You’ll often see various ages on bourbon labels telling you exactly how long the corn-based whiskey spent in the barrel. You’ll usually see them labeled as ten years and beyond.

Cognac, on the other hand, is much more like tequila when it comes to aging terminology. For those unaware, tequila bottles don’t like the amount of years the liquid spends aging. Instead, you’ll find phrases like blanco, joven, cristilano, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. The same goes for cognac, where you’ll find bottles labeled with terms like VS, VSOP, XO, and other random terms. While we could spend all day writing about the various cognac terms, today, we’re taking a deep dive into VSOP.

Cognac
Deeliver/Unsplash

What does VSOP stand for?

In the simplest terms, VSOP stands for “Very Superior Old Pale.” You might read that and scratch your head because that doesn’t even remotely explain what it means besides dictating that it’s “very superior” and “old.” But what exactly does that mean?

Well, it means that the eau-de-vie included must be aged for at least four full years. To be considered a cognac at all, the spirit must be aged for at least two years. VSOP doubles this (and more in most cases). It can contain cognacs that are much older as well. The blend can have other, longer-aged cognacs, but the youngest cognac is why it gets its designation.

Cognac
White Field Photo/Unsplash

Where did the term come from

Not only is the House of Hennessy one of the most popular cognac brands in the world, but it’s also the brand that originated the term VSOP. In 1817, the Prince Regent (the man who would eventually become King George IV) sent an order for the brand to create a ‘very superior old pale” cognac. The designation has existed ever since. It didn’t become official until 1983 with the official AOC Cognac Regulation.

Cognac barrels
Timothé Durand/Unsplash

What does VSOP cognac taste like?

If you’re a whiskey drinker (specifically bourbon) and you’ve never tried cognac, what are you waiting for? This grape-based spirit, when aged, carries many of the same flavors and aromas of your favorite whiskey. After spending at least four years in barrels, VSOP cognac is fruity, sweet, and lightly spicy.

Depending on the bottle you crack open, you’ll find flavors like vanilla, caramel, ripe fruit, grape skins, oak, and gentle wintry spices. Sip it neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a cocktail like you would your favorite whiskey. After a few sips, you’ll wonder what took so long for you to try it in the first place.

Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
The best new non-alcoholic drinks for a happy hour without the hangover
NA drinks are better than ever
Wilderton Aperitivo and citrus.

Within the vast realm of drinks, the most evolved as of late is arguably the non-alcoholic category. While we've seen exciting new cocktail trends and useful new beer hop varieties, it's the NA world that's made the biggest strides in the last couple of years. That means we no longer have to shutter when seeing things like zero proof on labels, as the options now are better than ever.

Why the upswing? A perfect storm, really. Wellness trends continue while tech continues to evolve, making the creation of such drinks all the easier. The non-alcoholic drinks sector has proven itself to be a major player in the marketplace, and the producers have responded accordingly, giving these beverages the TLC they deserve.

Read more
What you need to know before you bring wine to a restaurant
What is a corkage fee?
Person eating in restaurant with plate and white wine

A great meal is only as good as the wine being poured alongside it. Many restaurants tout impressive bottle and glass pour lists but sometimes you just want to bring your own special selection. Whether that wine is a favorite you've been cellaring for years or just a prized producer that's hard to find here, special bottles are often welcomed at restaurants, for a price.

Corkage fees tend to apply to higher-end wines, so while we have nothing against a good bargain wine, leave the Two Buck Chuck at home. The corkage fee alone could probably buy you a half case of that stuff. Instead, go with something great, as the whole point is to enhance the meal while still paying respect to the restaurant's wine program and use of its staff, glassware, service, and the like.
What is a corkage fee?

Read more
Is international bar acclaim worth it? Some of the world’s best bars weigh in
The pros and cons of bar fame
Mirate bar staff.

There was a time after Double Chicken Please opened its brick-and-mortar spot in the Lower East Side where you could get in pretty easily. Since, in the wake of numerous accolades, including being named the best bar in North America in 2023, the establishment is routinely swamped. A line stretches from the bouncer at the door along velvet rope several blocks long.

Was it worth it? Is the experience the same after the fame? That all depends on the bar and what the drinker is after. Acclaim like this can change the very nature of a place, turning it from neighborhood hot spot to internationally-coveted destination. Suddenly, it's not so much about taking in a deftly-made cocktail in a unique setting as, well, saying you've been there.

Read more