When most people think of Cognac they automatically think of Hennessy, Martell, Remy Martin or Courvoisier, but the world of cognac is made up of more than just the most marketed brands. There are actually over 6,000 different producers of Cognac and that is a wonderful thing. If you are willing to step out of the comfort zone and pick up a little unknown bottle, you can end up with heaven in a glass.
What exactly is cognac? First we must discuss brandy…[sociallocker] Brandy is to put it simply; distilled wine. Brandy that comes out of France’s cognac region is called…well…Cognac. The Cognac area runs from the Charente River from the coast inland a hundred miles. In this area, growers plant two types of grapes Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche; grapes that are high in acid and perfect for the making of cognac.
What makes cognac special. In the same way that wine has standards of ageing and appellation, cognac is strictly cared for. Cognac has a 300 year old history that has put into place some very strict practices; in order for cognac to be cognac it must:
- Be twice distilled in pot stills
- Be aged for a minimum of 3 years in cognac specific barrels (no Kentucky wood here)
If you are new to Cognac, have no fear. It is not necessary that you buy the most expensive bottle at your spirits shop. Our team has done the tasting for you. Following is our list for the best Cognacs at every budget.
Best Cognac Under $50: Bache Gabrielsen XO Fine Champagne
Bache Gabrielsen crafts this blend from 95% Ugni Blanc and 5% Colombard and Folle Blanche. The blend is then aged for over 20 years. We found the flavors to be brawny but not overbearing on the palate. It was spicy and a bit floral with scents of jasmin with a long pleasant finish. This one will set you back about $50
Best Cognac Under $75: Hardy Napoleon Cognac
This blend is aged for 15 years in limousin oak casks which imbue this bottle with a nose filled with honey and a bit of nuttiness. On the palate you can expect a little caramel and a silky smooth mouth feel. For under $75 dollars we consider this a “Best Buy”.
Best Cognac Under $100: Frapin Chateau Fontpinot XO
This XO is made with 100% Ugni Blanc and undergoes natural fermentation. The cognac is double distilled and aged in a dry-cellar, the process results in a more elegant cognac. In the glass it gives off glints of gold and aromas of flowers. On the mouth we got flavors of dried fruits. At about $100, this Cognac seriously over delivers.
Best Cognac Under $200: Pierre Ferrand Espirit des Dieux
The color of this cognac is quite intense, think of a rich golden brown that betrays its 25 years of ageing. The nose is quite intense and rustic with aromas of cinnamon and perhaps an earl grey and most definitely reminiscent of a good cigar. It is made of a blend of 100% Grande Champagne Cognacs, so you know this is some quality nectar. This is the stuff I want to drink when I get off the slopes in Park City. $150, the gift for a cognac connoisseur.
Best Cognac Under $300: Jean Fillioux Reserve Familiale
A long family history and a lot of love go into this gorgeous 50 year old cognac. the Fillioux family planted grapes on chalky, clay soils that are ideal for cognac production. The first thing you will notice when sipping this cognac is the fruit that is concentrated on the nose. Orange notes, spice and a hint of honey will play with your palate. This gorgeous bottle goes for around $250
Best Cognac Under $400: Pierre Ferrand Abel
Named after the man that created it, this incredibly difficult to find cognac is close to perfection. Forty percent is from the 1928 vintage, the entire blend is around 45 years old. This cognac is gentle and sophisticated. You will get dry fruits like dates, nuts and cocoa. On the tongue it is medium bodied, spicy and nutty. And although it will cost you about $350 we’d be willing to pay much more for it
Best Cognac Under $500: Hennessy Paradis Extra
A blend of over 200 eau de vie which was then aged for over 100 years. Aromas of wood, cinnamon and marshmallows will fill your nose on the first sip. On the tongue a hint of sweetness with touches of orange zest and honey. Beauty does not come cheap as this bottle starts at $450
Best Cognac Under $1000: Remy Martin Diamant
Ok, this will cost you slightly over $1,000 once tax is added, but it will not disappoint. Created by the first female cellar master in the Cognac region, Pirrette Trichet, Remy Martin’s Diamant is true luxury. It is a blend of up to 400 eaux de vie from the best land in the area. Scents of honey and dried fruit lead into notes of candied fruits and flowers. This cognac is incredibly complex on the palate. At $1000 this is the gift that keeps on giving (until the bottle is empty).
Best Cognac Under $3,000: Camus Cuvee
Five generations have perfected the art of making cognac. Cyril Camus brought this cognac to life by blending 4 eaux de vie from the same family with 176 years of combined ageing. Appropriately, this cognac comes in a Baccarat crystal decanter by Serge Mansau. If you are lucky enough to find it and have the $2500 to purchase it (there are only about 3,000 bottles) make sure to share it with someone special.
Best Cognac Under $20,000: Hardy Cognac Perfection
Only 300 available; made with eaux de vie from French Colombard from the days before phylloxera (before 1870), this cognac made last years list and this years list as well. Big and powerful with scents of coffee, cocoa and a robust oakiness. Get it before it is gone: from $5,000 to $12,000