More than half of all the Cognac sold in the world is labelled as VS (Very Special). It is the region’s youngest age classification and refers to Cognacs that must have been matured in oak for a minimum of two years.
These are typically mixable spirits, and it’s worth remembering that much more Cognac is drunk mixed than neat, whether in cocktails or refreshing long drinks with ginger ale, tonic, iced tea, or – to make purists shudder – Coca-Cola.
But don’t be dismissive of VS, because creating a winning blend from multiple young eaux-de-vie is a delicate art. It’s one that the cellar master can’t afford to get wrong, because these are the best-selling products that he or she will ever make.
What’s more, the best examples are perfectly enjoyable to drink neat. They also provide a great way to introduce someone to the world of Cognac, without breaking the bank.
Best VS Cognacs to try
Camus VS Elegance
A serial award winner, this is uncommonly elegant and floral for a VS-grade Cognac, thanks to distillation on the lees and careful maturation in fine-grained oak. It’s versatile, and a great way to get to know the signature Camus style, which has evolved to become even more aromatic in recent years. Alcohol 40%
Château de Montifaud VS
Owned by the Vallet family, Montifaud is a great exponent of Petite Champagne Cognacs, which share many of the characteristics of Grande Champagne, but can be a little less austere and more approachable when young. This is supple and fresh, with leaner orchard fruits and more complexity than is the norm among VS Cognacs. Alc 40%
Perhaps the least famous of the ‘big four’ Cognac houses around the world, Courvoisier more than makes up for this with a consistently harmonious range of Cognacs, starting here: eaux-de-vie from Fins Bois for floral fruitiness and Petite Champagne to provide structure. Well-integrated oak provides a touch of allspice. Alc 40%
The youngest member of the Frapin family in every sense – this was only launched in 2018 – 1270 is named after the year the family started growing grapes in the region. It has the classic house characteristic of floral, fruity elegance, in a simple style that’s highly mixable, but perfectly good neat too. Grande Champagne VS can sometimes lack generosity, but distillation on the lees keeps this super-fragrant and charming. Alc 40%
François Voyer VS
Another Grande Champagne VS, from a producer whose Cognacs are found in many top restaurants in France. There’s more richness here, in the shape of beguiling tropical fruits and a creamy, vanilla-spiked texture from maturation in virgin Limousin oak casks. Extremely smooth and well-mannered. Alc 40%
This is the world’s best-selling Cognac, and by some distance. It’s everything you’d expect from the Hennessy house style, with robust, spicy, nutty oak providing plenty of structure behind aromas of green grape skin and light citrus. A blend of 40 eaux-de-vie from every Cognac cru, it’s a mixable map of the region. Alc 40%
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula
Located just a few miles outside the town of Cognac, Ferrand is a forward-looking Cognac house under the loquacious leadership of Alexandre Gabriel. This is a nicely poised VS, with aromas of jasmine blossom, ripe grapes and some fine oak tannin, all held together by a honeyed texture. Alc 45%
Ragnaud Sabourin No 4 VS
If you know someone who thinks all VS Cognac is harsh firewater, give them this. It embodies its Grande Champagne origins, with lifted aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom. On the palate, a creamy texture and fleshy fruit are undercut by notes of menthol and caramel.