Demystifying Alcohol for Women: Cognac & Brandy, Revisited

I just wasn’t satisfied with my brandy review.

 There is probably some hidden gem in brandy that I missed; some niche in cognacs that will expand my understanding of this distilled wine.  I needed to explore this section a little deeper, so my wonderful husband went to a store and got a bunch of little bottles of a good range of cognac & brandies!
A little breakdown of what we have – 
  • VS: “Very Superior”, Grape blend aged for 2 years
  • VSOP: “Very Superior Old Pale” aged for at least 4 years
  • XS: “Extra Superior/Smooth”, similar to VSOP
  • XO: “Extra Old”, At least 6 years
I will say after tasting all of these, there is a certain taste in both cognac and brandy that is very distinct.  It’s this mild, sour taste that prevails with every one of them.  But the cognacs are all cognacs.  They are all varieties of the same flavor.  The brandies, on the other hand, were just a box of crayons…they were each completely different from the next.  Yet, they all had that cognac/brandy taste in the end.
I found out that brandies are okay, but you absolutely have to know which one you like before you order.  The cognacs were a much more reliable drink, in the long run.
And I’m not a fan of either.  They’re kind of okay, but it is not my flavor.  Not complex, my stomach burns and my mouth tastes kind of like cheese.  It’s a weird experience.
Tasting night: Engage!
1. Remy-Martin V.S.O.P. (champagne cognac)
Aged 4 years in European oak barrels.
The nose is vanilla and oak, but it’s really light.  Ok, that is a “sessionable” cognacc.  If you wanted a full bodied, oaky cognac, this would work for you.  I like things a little more complex, a little more surprise hidden away.  But it’s a good cognac.  It’s like finding a good American lager, compared with what you prefer which is Craft liccorice molasses porter. It’s good, but sessionable and little imagination.
2. Hennessy V.S. (cognac)
Aged 2 years in European oak barrels.
Very fresh, fruity nose but spirited.  I want to say red apples, but it’s not entirely apples.  More like apple and grape fruit salad.  The taste is really interesting.  Mostly a single note of fruit, but not really sweet.  The burn is light, but noticable. The back taste isn’t great, kind of acidic and a little bitter.  Reminds me of red apple skins, but I am not too wild about its untamed nature.
3. Hennessy V.S.O.P. (cognac)
Aged 4 years in European oak barrels.
The nose is a lot warmer, a much more matured smell.  Huge brown sugar and molasses smell.   It is so hard to pick apart the flavors with this, even though it is nice.  The astringent qualities are gone, light sweet port front. The middle is like nice dark grapes.  Smooth finish. Cola in the very back.  The best of the cognacs.
4. Courvoisier  V.S.O.P. (fine cognac)
Aged 4 years in European oak barrels.
This…sucks.  So the nose is really interesting, I got cherries and bubble gum.  The flavor was one big note of burning, volcanic cherry bubble gum.  The finish was harsh, yo, and my tongue was tingly afterward and it took almost a pint of water to get the taste out of my mouth. Worst of cognacs.
5 . Hine XO (cognac)
  • XO: “Extra Old”, At least 6 years
This was by far the best.  It is so light, so refined.  It just melts like sunshine in your mouth.  Lots of oak, vanilla and light grapes.  Definitely worth the money, if you like cognac
6. Christian Brothers V.S. (brandy)
Aged 2 years in European oak barrels.
The nose is strong, very spirited. I smell chocolate, but not really in a good way.  The taste is kind of not there, but it isn’t vodka nothing. But it burns…not a fan.
7. E&J XO (brandy)
  • XO: “Extra Old”, At least 6 years
Apricot liquer nose, a little marshmallows. Nice, friendly.  It is so pleasant, big apricot taste. Full bodied, gentle on the pallette, good finish.  I like this one.  This is what I think brandy should be…hands down my favorite.
8. Korbel (brandy)
There is some smell in this I can’t place. It’s strong, it’s offensive and I think it smells like cheddar cheese that has been left out in the sun. It’s weird. The taste…is powerful, and awful.  There is something wrong with this.  It’s alchy, it burns, it’s sour and the Worst of brandies, if not of everything we tried tonight.
9. Raynal V.S.O.P. (brandy)
Grapey, oaky nose. Definitely the closest to cognac of all the brandies.  That’s a lot of apple and grape taste. Strong drink and more burn on the back.
10. Bonus Round: Meukow Vanilla Cognac
The nose is offensive. I think it smells like corn dogs. There is something wrong with this. Wow. That is a LOT of vanilla.  Bubble gum finish. Reminds me of what they cleaned my teeth with at the dentist when I was a kid. I vote no in a BIG way. This is a cheap date.  Cheap. Date.