Just like with any spirit, buying a good bottle of cognac is a learned art. You'll have to take into account quite a few things to get your money's worth, such as the brand, the "crus" (the region where the cognac was made), and, of course, its age. But of these factors, age is quite possibly the most important. Older cognacs offer a vastly different tasting experience than their younger counterparts, so you'll want to get this right above all else. Thankfully, you can find all the necessary information right on the label.
Take a look at cognac bottles and you'll see terms like "VS" or "VSOP" on the labeling. These aren't marketing buzzwords. They actually tell you how old the spirit is (sort of like how bourbons have age statements on their labels to help you choose the right bottle).
A cognac with a VS (short for Very Special) label means that the cognac is made from eaux de vie (clear, unaged brandy) that has been aged for a minimum of two years. You might also notice terms like "3 stars" featured on the label. These VS cognacs are essentially your standard entry-level options and most people buy them as cocktail mixers due to their affordability. They're also popular among people who are new to cognac and want to explore its basic flavors.
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What Does VSOP On A Cognac Bottle Mean?
A level above VS on the cognac age scale is VSOP, which stands for Very Superior Old Pale. To earn the VSOP label, the cognac must be made from eaux de vie aged for a minimum of four years. The extra two years of aging in oak barrels give it a smoother, more nuanced flavor profile. You'll also get more of the oak notes, a richer fruit palette, and a more rounded mouthfeel than VS cognacs, which tend to taste fruitier and sharper.
So, between VS and VSOP, which one is the "better" cognac? The answer is neither. Both have their places in your home bar. If you're new to cognac or looking for a nice mixer to whip up a classic Sidecar cocktail, a VS cognac is an excellent choice just for its affordability. On the other hand, if you're looking for something a bit more refined and works better as a neat-sipping liquor, you'll be plenty happy with a bottle of VSOP cognac.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.