The Best Cognac and Armagnac to Buy Right Now

While many view Cognac and Armagnac as expensive after dinner indulgences, the spirits are far more than that — and not as pricey as you might think.

by Nicholas McClelland
Originally Published: 

The mere mention of Cognac or its close spiritual relative Armagnac, brings to mind mahogany furniture, swirling snifters, and other such high-end iconography. It has a reputation, and that reputation makes it easy for many to walk past the numerous bottles sitting on the liquor store shelf. But Cognac and Armagnac are more affordable and more accessible in the age of whiskey, with some truly great bottles coming in at under $50. Yes, Cognac brands retain their rep as a posh after dinner indulgence because they’re great for sipping as a digestif. But Cognac and Armagnac are also fantastic cocktail ingredients, ideal for the Sazerac, the sidecar, or the Vieux Carré.

So, what is Cognac exactly? Well, it is a type of brandy, which means it is a type of distilled wine. Brandy can be made anywhere in the world, from any fruit juice and still be called brandy. But to earn the title of Cognac, said brandy must be double distilled in pot stills from mostly Ugni Blanc grapes in the Cognac region of France. Similarly, Armagnac is made in its namesake region but requires different grapes and only needs to run through a column still once.

Because of those production differences, Cognacs are typically lighter with subtler flavors and Armagnacs have a thicker mouthfeel and more dramatic profiles. The sipping cousins are labeled in the same way in terms of age:

VS = Very Special (aged a minimum of two years for Cognac; one year for Armagnac)

VSOP = Very Superior Old Pale (at least four years old) XO = Extra Old (minimum of 10 years in a barrel)

So, there you have it. And if you’re interested in trying a great bottle or just want to add some sophistication to your liquor cabinet, here are eight of the best Cognacs and Armagnacs to buy right now.

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