Cognac typically features flavors of nuts, vanilla and caramel. However, flavor profiles vary widely across different brands of cognac, leading some brands to be more bitter, acidic or intense and some brands to be smoother, warmer or slightly floral in taste.
Cognac is a type of brandy, which is a distilled spirit made from crushed and fermented white grapes and aged for at least two years. The most commonly used grapes include colombard, folle blanche and ugni blanc and are typically small and tart. Cognac originated in the small town of Cognac, France, just south of the Bordeaux wine region.
The techniques used in making cognac are centuries old and quite strict. Once distilled, all cognac is aged in oak barrels. Different cognac houses use different top-secret techniques for fermenting, distilling and aging, lending a unique flavor to each premium brand of cognac.
The Cognac industry has coined shorthand terms to differentiate between types of cognac. V.S. and V.S.P. stand for "very superior" and "very superior pale" and require the minimum two-year aging process; V.S.O.P. stands for "very superior old pale" and requires a minimum of four years aging; X.O. or "luxury" cognac requires a minimum of six years aging, with the industry average being closer to 20 years.