Few products have embraced the world of luxury as successfully as Cognac. High-end blends such as Louis XIII and Richard Hennessy retail for thousands of pounds or dollars, and are a staple of the über-wealthy scene in China alongside Lafite and Latour.
The good news is that you don’t have to part with a four-figure sum to find excellent-quality Cognac, whether your taste is for the conventional blends classified as VSOP, or for something a little more off-the-beaten-track.
More and more producers are now exploring the region’s six production zones or crus to find new Cognacs with a distinctive back-story and provenance, or experimenting with different distillation and maturation techniques to unlock a new world of flavour.
Whether you prefer the traditional or the new-wave, here are eight sub-£50/$50 Cognacs that offer excellent value and quality.
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Cognacs under £50 to try
Something a little different from the oldest Cognac house, recently revived by Martell owner Pernod Ricard. No colouring, no chill filtration, made from Ugni Blanc grapes grown on the Atlantic island of Oléron. Understated floral aromas, restrained citrus notes, a whiff of rolling tobacco and an unmistakably maritime, saline character. Light, but intriguing. Alc 40.1%
Camus VSOP Borderies
Another Cognac ‘of place’ – this time the smallest of the Cognac crus, Borderies. Family-owned Camus is the biggest vineyard owner here, and this limited edition VSOP showcases Borderies’ winning combination of perfumed fruit and more subtle floral characteristics, rounded out here by oak-driven flavours of vanilla and spice. Utterly charming. Alc 40%
Frapin 1270, France
It’s 750 years since the Frapin family started growing vines in the region, but this highly mixable Cognac has only been around since 2018. Like all Frapin products, it’s sourced from the house’s own vineyards and distilled on the lees, sharing the delicacy and balance that epitomises the Frapin style. One for the cocktail cabinet. Alc 40%
H by Hine VSOP
Another versatile Cognac for cocktails or mixing with tonic or ginger ale, this has an exuberant character of lime blossom, jasmine and light tropical fruit, combining fruit from Grande and Petite Champagne. To quote the Hine website: ‘If it were a young man, it would have the keen eye of Dick Diver in Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night.’ Well, quite. Alc 40%
Merlet Brothers Blend
Created by Gilles Merlet and sons Pierre and Luc (hence the name), this is another new-wave product that uses fruit-forward eaux-de-vie from the Fins Bois cru to create a vibrant but still mature Cognac that’s as happy over ice or in a cocktail as it is neat. The balance of delicate florals with stone fruit and wood-derived vanilla and spice is exemplary. Alc 40%
Pierre Ferrand 10 Generations
Maison Ferrand founder Alex Gabriel is a bit of a Cognac rebel, pushing the envelope of production techniques – sometimes beyond what is strictly legal. This is relatively conventional, although 20% of the distillate was matured in ex-Sauternes casks, and has classic Grande Champagne flavours of flowers, fruit, honey and a touch of menthol. Alc 46%
Rémy Martin VSOP
Classics are classics for a reason. It’s almost a century since Rémy Martin created the first VSOP Fine Champagne (combining eaux-de-vie from Grande and Petite Champagne), and this remains the flagship of the house. Bags of vanilla and baking spices from Limousin oak, alongside stewed apricot and a whisper of hedgerow florals. Alc 40%
Waitrose No 1 VSOP
Supermarket own-label Cognacs can be a bit hit-and-miss, but this is an enjoyable exception. It’s made by Unicognac, part of the region’s biggest group of co-operatives, and it’s exactly what you want from a traditional VSOP, with lots of bright fruit, vanilla and toffee fudge. The Cognac equivalent of a long, hot bath. Alc 40%