How old are you, old man?
Age of brandy – almost the most important thing in the eyes of consumers. A well-known sexist joke says that a man should drink brandy older than the woman with whom he sleeps. For many wealthy, but not very knowledgeable people, brandy generally begins with CW and ends with it. However, speaking of age, it is necessary to separate the legislative part and marketing. The fact is that there are not so many formal widespread categories of cognac. Here are the most famous ones:
VS – Very special – minimum exposure to alcohol for at least two years;
VSOP – Very Superior Old Pale – a shutter speed of at least four years;
XO – Extra Old – endurance not less than six years. By the way, initially, CW was not a general category, it was the own name of cognac, released by Hennessy to its centenary (Roman X means 10, and Arabic zero was added to it).
According to the decree of 1983, there are VS Superieur (three years) and VVSOP (Very Very Superior Old Pale, five years) between them, but in practice these categories are used very rarely.
This is what the Cognac Bureau guarantees and (indirectly) the state. Anything that is more than six years old is not guaranteed and should be taken by the consumer on faith. However, there is no doubt that most cognac houses are absolutely honest with the consumer and stand cognacs much longer than their deadlines.
Each of the categories has many other marketing titles. Some of them are used frequently, and some are literally one or two houses. For example, young cognacs are often called Selection, older Reserve, and very old – Extra, Reserve de la Famille or Hors d’Age (out of age). Often in the line of the house between VSOP and XO is cognac category Napoleon. And besides, there is a fashionable tendency to create special cigar cognacs, which are usually found in the line just below CW and are made in a more saturated, powerful style due to a longer aging in new oak barrels.
For many years for the CW category it is planned to switch to a minimum aging period of 10 years, but due to problems with stocks of alcohols of the required age, the deadlines were postponed. The next expected innovation date is April 2018.
It is necessary to note another very important detail: cognac (like any strong alcohol), unlike wine, does not change in a closed bottle. If you buy young brandy and put it at home for 10 years, it will not get older.