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What Are the Best Tips for Buying Old Cognac?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 17, 2024
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Purchasing a bottle of old cognac can be an excellent investment, but for many novices, this can be a confusing experience. When looking to purchase a cognac that is old, experts advise consumers to look at the color of the liquid inside. This will often give some indication of how long the cognac was aged in barrels. Buyers also should check the label for added coloring. Along with the ingredients, a cognac label is also the source of additional helpful information regarding the age of the liquor.

One common misconception about cognac is that if it sits in the bottle for a very long time, it is considered to be old cognac. This is false. Some types of cognac are only aged in wooden barrels. For example, consider a cognac that was aged for two years before being bottled. If that bottle sat on a shelf for ten years, it would still be considered to be a two-year-cognac, no matter how long it sat in the bottle.

Consumers are often told to look at the color of cognac before purchasing a bottle of supposedly old cognac. Generally speaking, old cognac is usually a dark color, like amber or dark red. This is because it has gotten some of the color and flavoring of the wooden barrels.

Light-colored cognac is usually only a couple years old. Some manufacturers will also add artificial coloring to the liquor to make it a darker color. They do this so the liquor resembles old cognac. One way to find out if artificial coloring was added is by checking the label of the bottle. If this information can not be found here, a person can also check the manufacturer's website or contact them directly.

Reading the labels on cognac bottles can also help a consumer gather information regarding the ages of brands of cognac. Along with ingredients and brand names, these labels will also usually say roughly how old the cognac is. Different markings, for instance, often refer to different ages.

Cognac that is labeled very special (VS) is typically only aged for roughly two years. Very special old pale (VSOP) is a little older, but it usually only sits in the barrels for four to six years. Extra old (XO) cognacs are aged for at least six years, and often much longer. The oldest types of cognac is usually vielle reserve and hors d'age, which literally translates to mean “beyond age.”

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