Learn the difference between cognac and brandy

In this short guide, we clear up any uncertainty about the difference between cognac and brandy.

If you’re getting acquainted with the different types of spirit, you may find yourself wondering what the difference is between brandy and cognac. Both spirits have become closely associated household names, making it difficult to decipher the subtle differentiations between the two terms. 

In this short guide, we clear up any uncertainty about the difference between cognac and brandy.

What is Brandy?

Brandy is a bit of an umbrella term for distilled spirits made from any fermented fruit juice. While it can refer to any fruit, from apples to strawberries, the wine is most commonly made from grapes. 

Wine, for instance, is a type of brandy, although most people wouldn’t immediately associate it with the term. Other common examples include calvados, armagnac and pisco.




What is Cognac?

Despite its prestigious reputation in the world of spirits, many would not be able to tell you what cognac is confidently. This is where we come in. 

Cognac is a type of brandy, much like scotch is a type of whisky. It is made from fermented grape juice. 

However, the distinguishing factor is that to qualify as cognac, the drink must adhere to specific criteria. To qualify as cognac, the drink must be made in the state of Charente in the Cognac region of France. Much like champagne, it is named in honor of the French region in which it is produced. 

The second condition is that it must be made from white grapes from one of six different territories. The grapes are turned into wine and distilled two times before being blended and aged for a minimum of two years in French oak barrels.

An extremely highly regarded spirit worldwide, it is famed for its smooth, soft taste, which France’s strict production standards are there to protect.



What do V.S. and V.S.O.P. mean?

One final thing to be aware of about cognac is that it has different qualifications which you might have seen appear as V.S. and VSOP. They indicate the age and grade of the beverage in question.

VS stands for Very Special. Beverages with this label have been aged for at least two years. VSOP, on the other hand, means Very Superior Old Pale and indicates that the cognac has aged for four years or more. 

Another rare version is XO which means Extra Old and is reserved for the oldest cognacs. Such a drink has been aged for six or more years.


It can be difficult to learn the difference between cognac and brandy, especially if you’re new to drinking the spirits. One of the best ways to learn to appreciate the difference is to to take part in a spirit tour that focuses on sharing the origins of these alcohols and how they’re created. You’ll even be able to taste test and work out your favourite varieties!

Learn more about the wonders of cognac on a tasting tour across its most important locations. Begin by delving into the heritage of the eau de vie at the Cognac houses’ cellars before enjoying an exclusive ceremonial tasting of Grand Cru Cognacs. 


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