We’ll be the first to admit cognac has a bit of an image problem. Between all the swirling, the French accents, and the confusing labeling system, it’s easy to tell why whiskey drinkers think cognac has a stick firmly lodged somewhere unpleasant for walking. And they’re not necessarily wrong.
Like whiskey, cognac has a lot of archaic terminology and loose definitions that sound great for marketing but fail to really define what’s in the bottle. Ask your average bar patron to define VSOP, and they’ll likely have just as much accurate information on what that means as when you request an explanation of “small batch.”
The goal then, like with whiskey, is to cut through the jargon and get to what’s good to drink. It should be simple, it should tell you how and when it was made. With those criteria, we found two cognacs in particular that do a fine job of putting wordsmithing aside to tell you what you’re drinking.
Bache-Gabierlsen American Oak
The first to release an American oak cognac, and the one to get the formula right, Bache-Gabrielsen is going after American whiskey drinkers, and there’s reason to let them have you. It’s a bold, robust, and tasty example of what happens when younger cognac spends six months in American (Tennessee) oak barrels. The result has candied fruit notes and tons of vanilla and caramel, and a price point that makes it great for all your favorite brandy and whiskey cocktails, if you really want to mix it. Get it a drizly.com, $40
Pierre Ferrand Reserve Double Cask
Double Cask is a small batch of cognacs from warehouses with different climate control. All of the liquid is aged 7–10 years, and after they’re all blended together, they’re married/finished in Banyuls casks. Banyuls is sort of a dessert wine. The result is bold and a bit spicy, with a personality reminiscent of a really great sherry cask whisky. It should be enjoyed similarly, ice optional. $80