Courvoisier VSOP and Courvoisier XO Cognac

Editor’s note: We’re republishing this review from our archive as part of a reorganization of the site’s content.

Courvoisier VSOP & XO Cognac
by F. Sot Fitzgerald

For the sake of review, I ought mention of what Cognac is. Cognac is a brandy, and brandy is distilled white wine (ugni blanc). In crude terms- heat it, then catch the vapors rising from it and let them cool to liquid and you have brandy. What differs brandy from cognac is that cognac is made in the Cognac region of France, and it is aged in barrels made from oak taken only from the forests of Limousin or Troncais.

Those regular readers of likely wil recall that I have reviewed Courvoisier’s Millennium Cognac favorably.

So let us move on to the VSOP.  VSOP stands for Very Superior Old Pale.  This cognac is made from wines from two regions in the Champagne region of France (grande champagne and petite champagne)- thus, the “fine champagne” on the bottle) and is aged eight to twelve years.  It is gold-caramel colored, and when nosed has hints of oak, cinnamon, and an alcohol ester that can water the eyes.  Drink it in and you will taste oak and then a nutty finish.  It is a little hot going down, and if swished about the mouth will prick the tongue. (Rating ***1/4)  Click here to order Courvoisier VSOP Cognac

Courvoisier XO is, of course, far better.  It is, as the XO denotes, Extra Old, having been aged 20-35 years. This Cognac comes in a magnificent bottle, flat and looking like a combination of an upside-down leaf, a tear drop, and a perfume bottle. Sniff the XO and you won’t encounter any prickly alcohol ester.  Courvoisier XO noses and tastes of caramel, chocolate, nuts, oak, and orange.  It slides down your throat as smoothly as water.  It’s quite good and a significant step above the VSOP, as it should be, considering that the VSOP retails for $30-$40 and the XO runs $140-$150. (Rating ****1/4) Click here to order Courvoisier XO Cognac


Somerset Five Year Old Apple Brandy

We were in London the other week and popped by the open air market at Covent Garden.  There were plenty of yummy country foods and beverages for sale, but we seized upon a 5 year old brandy made from apples.

Somerset Five Year Old (42% alcohol) is a lovely English take on Calvados. It offers a nice balance of the sweet and the the dry, with an almost creamy texture imparted by the barrel aging. Now that weather has turned chilly, we can look forward to swirling this in a snifter after a long day’s work. Bravo. (Rating ****) For further details on Somerset cider brandies, hard ciders, sparkling ciders, eau de vie, and aperitifs, surf to