A bartender pouring brandy into a glass

A bartender pouring brandy into a glass (Photo by lenakorzh on Shutterstock)

There’s nothing better than sitting next to a roaring fireplace on a cold winter night and enjoying a nice brandy snifter. Brandy is designed to be sipped, not shot, and it’s actually one of the oldest spirits in the world. Brandy is short for Brandywine and has been distilled in France since the Middle Ages. To help you make the most of your drinking experience, we’ve compiled a list of the best brandy from around the world. 

If you’re worried about the extra pounds put on as a result of drinking alcohol, we have some good news. A recent study suggests that alcohol can actually fuel weight loss, as long as you’re snacking on healthy, protein-packed foods, that is. The University of Sydney study finds that drinkers who opted for high-protein, lean foods consumed fewer calories overall than people who abstain from drinking entirely. Such snacks include olives, popcorn, cocktail onions, deli meats, cheeses, raw veggies, dips, and dried or fresh fruit. 

Of course, that’s not to suggest that you can drink as much as you want and still lose weight. You’ll want to pace yourself while drinking and only drink in moderation. But, what does drinking in moderation look like? A recent study suggests those who consider themselves “smart drinkers” try to limit themselves to two drinks an hour. Sounds like the perfect scenario to sip on a warm glass of brandy. 

Tips for Choosing the Best Brandy:

Navigating the world of brandy can feel like exploring a labyrinthine cellar. Fear not, connoisseurs and curious newcomers alike! This guide will equip you with the knowledge to confidently select the best brandy, transforming your next sip into a decadent journey.

Know Your Origins:

  • Cognac: The crowned jewel of the brandy world, Cognac hails from specific regions in France and must adhere to strict production methods. Look for Cognac if you seek refinement and elegance, with flavors ranging from floral and fruity to toasty and nutty.
  • Armagnac: Cognac’s bolder cousin, Armagnac, boasts a longer distillation process and uses different grape varietals, resulting in spicier, earthier notes with hints of plum and prune. For those who crave adventure on their palate, Armagnac delivers.
  • Other Brandies: Beyond Cognac and Armagnac, a world of unique brandies awaits. Spanish brandies like Jerez offer warm sherry notes, while American brandies showcase bold fruit-forward characters. Explore and discover your own favorite!

Age Wisely:

  • VS (Very Special): Aged at least two years, VS offers a youthful vibrancy, perfect for cocktails or enjoying neat.
  • VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale): With four years of aging, VSOP delivers more complexity, with richer fruit notes and hints of oak.
  • XO (Extra Old): Ten years or older, XO brandies are for savoring. Expect luxurious smoothness, intense flavors, and a long, elegant finish.

Beyond the Label:

  • Appearance: A good brandy should be clear and vibrant, with no cloudiness or sediment.
  • Nose: Take a deep breath – the aroma should be enticing, offering hints of fruit, oak, and floral notes.
  • Palate: Take a sip, letting the brandy coat your tongue. Savor the flavors, noting their complexity and evolution.
  • Finish: A quality brandy will have a long, smooth finish, with lingering hints of its character.

So, now that you are equipped with which the basics of the brandy world, which bottles are considered top-notch on the market today? StudyFinds did our research, consulting 13 food, spirit, and pop culture review sites to bring you a consensus list of the best brandy you can buy. Our list comprises the seven most frequently listed bottles of brandy from across these sites. Think the experts missed a quality bottle of brandy? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

A glass of brandy
A glass of brandy (Photo by Nika Benedictova on Unsplash)

The List: Best Brandy, According to Experts

 

1. Hennessy XO Cognac

Cognac is a type of barrel-aged brandy made in France’s Cognac region. XO stands for extra old, and Hennessy is one of the top brands, so you know this bottle is going to be high-quality. “Hennessy is a cognac house that needs no introduction as it’s one of the most well-known cognac brands in the world — it’s also the top-selling brand in the United States. Hennessy has one of the largest collections of eaux-de-vie in the world, with over 350,000 barrels stored in 65 cellars,” explains Rolling Stone

Hennessy XO
Hennessy XO (hennessy.com)

Hennessy is one of the most recognizable names in the world of brandy and cognac and its luxury shines through in every bottle. With over 350,000 barrels, Hennessy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. “Hennessy XO is a blend of about 100 different eaux-de-vie made from Ugni Blanc grapes from the Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, and Fin Bois appellations. Each bottle features a blend of these grapes and is aged for up to 30 years in French Limousin oak barrels,” adds Luxe Digital

Hennesy XO was created by Maurice Hennesy in 1870 and, clearly, his legacy lives on to this day. Expect a warm, smooth, and tasty brandy that you just can’t get enough of. “Candied orange, cherry and dark chocolate notes mingle with the vanilla and peppery spice of the casks, which are present in the long, warm finish,” adds Liquor

2. Martell VS Cognac

Next up on the list of the top brandies is Martell VS Cognac. Martell is one of the biggest names in brandy and this VS, or very special, cognac is as good as it gets. You’ll love the taste of vanilla, cinnamon, and other spices that come through in every sip. “As one of the biggest names in brandy, Martell’s cognac offers excellent value. Delicious on its own or in cocktails, you can expect a deceptively light, herbal nose that builds into a bold palate of leather, dried fruit and spice. Vanilla and cinnamon sugar add balance, but it’s the spiciness that shines through here,” explains Good Housekeeping

 

Martell VS comes highly recommended for anyone who wants a nice, easy introduction to the world of sipping brandy. Martell distills this VS from a variety of clear wines to create a richer aromatic experience. “Martell VS Cognac has a similar price point to Hennessy, but has a much greater value. It combines eaux-de-vie from the distinguished Borderies, Grande Champagne, and Petite Champagne crus, and is aged in fine grain oak barrels. With a flavor profile highlighting candied fruit, spices, and vanilla, this Cognac offers a distinct and accessible choice for enthusiasts and newcomers to the category,” writes Men’s Journal

Martell VS is a rich, clear gold color that is both inviting and mouth-watering. You’ll experience aromas of plum, apricot, and candied lemon, making Martell VS an excellent choice for a dessert drink or for mixing into your favorite cocktails. “One of the oldest cognac houses, Martell Cognac is some of the best you can buy — even served on board the Orient Express and ordered for the wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly. The cognac house uses barrels made of fine-grain oak which leads to a delicate woody finish on each blend,” adds Rolling Stone

3. Remy Martin VSOP

VSOP stands for “very superior old pale,” and there are strict requirements for a brandy to be classified as VSOP. Remy Martin is one of the most luxurious names in the world of brandy, so you know this VSOP is delicious. 

Remy Martin VSOP
Remy Martin VSOP (remymartin.com)

What should you expect flavor-wise? “This Cognac has notes of figs, apricots, apples, and raisins, making Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac your perfectly neat sip. Rémy Martin is a distillery well-known for its Cognac. They’ve been perfecting their brandy aging process since 1724, and the VSOP Cognac continues the trend,” writes GoPuff

Remy Martin VSOP Cognac is a great sipping brandy in the winter. The aromas of vanilla and dried apricots are perfect for the season while the silky texture makes it go down smooth. This bottle has won awards with the most recent being the 2023 Cognac Masters Gold Award. “Cognacs produced by Remy Martin have a Cognac Fine Champagne appellation. This means that they only use eau de vie made from Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne crus. While the brand has a whole line of cognacs, one of its most popular is its VSOP. Known for its flavors of licorice, dried fruits, vanilla, and caramel, it’s a must-try cognac,” furthers Man of Many

This VSOP from Remy Martin is flavorful and smooth and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Remy Martin suggests a VSOP and ginger as a possible combination, but many Remy lovers enjoy this cognac neat. “Enjoy a well-balanced cognac with multi-layers of vanilla, stone fruit, and licorice. Rémy Martin is a premium blend of the most desired grapes in the Cognac region of France – Petite and Grande Champagne. Rémy Martin specializes exclusively in Cognac Fine Champagne, making it the only major cognac house to do so,” adds Juicefly

4. D’Usse VSOP Cognac

For a brandy to be classified as a VSOP, it must meet strict requirements. D’Usse meets and exceeds those expectations. “D’Usse VSOP Cognac is a distinct and versatile Cognac that works well as both a sipper and a mixer. It ages in French oak casks for at least four years before it’s ready for sale. This VSOP Cognac liqueur has a distinct, fruity taste. Have it as a slow-sipping option or in a classic cocktail if that is more your style,” writes GoPuff

D’USSÉ VSOP
D’USSÉ VSOP (dusse.com)

D’Usse Cognac was founded by rap artist Jay-Z and crafted by Michel Casavecchia, one of the most well-known authorities on cognac. In fact, Casavecchia has been curating fine spirits at the famed Château de Cognac for over two decades. All of this experience shines through in every bottle of D’Usse VSOP, making it a must-try cognac. 

That’s right, Jay-Z has his own signature brand. “The juice in the bottle goes way back to Baron Otard from the famed Château de Cognac. The new line was re-crafted to suit American palates and includes a blend of Cognacs that are aged at the château for four to eight years before blending, proofing, and bottling,” explains Uproxx

While D’Usse offers some extremely high-end, luxury bottles of cognac, this VSOP is somewhat affordable and accessible to the masses. What else would you expect from Jay-Z? Stil, the quality and consistency of this cognac can’t be denied. Pick up a bottle for any special occasion and you’ll be glad you did. Expect “a smooth blend that combines heady floral flavors with sweet honey and dried fruit undertones. This cognac is best enjoyed in cocktails, so try the D’USSÉ sparkler the next time you have a group of friends over,” furthers Rolling Stone

5. Laird’s 12-Year-Old Rare Apple Brandy

This deliciously flavored brandy can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a cocktail, the choice is yours. “First conceived in 1995, Laird’s 12-Year-Old Rare Apple Brandy is a rich and complex expression that stands as the pinnacle of aged apple brandy. Aged for 12 years in charred oak barrels, it boasts a rich amber hue and a nuanced flavor profile, showcasing the perfect blend of hand-selected apples. Enjoy aromatic notes of ginger and baking spices,” explains Men’s Journal

Laird's 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy
Laird’s 12-Year-Old Rare Apple Brandy (lairdandcompany.com)

Another American brandy, Laird’s sources its apples from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley – one of America’s leading regions for apple growing. Combine this with the 12-year aging process and you have one of the best apple brandies you’ll ever come across. “This brandy from New Jersey harvests its apples from the misty Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. 30 pounds of apples go into each bottle of brandy from Laird’s. The juice then rests in American oak for 12 years before it’s blended, proofed, and bottled. You’re greeted with apples stewing in butter, spice, raisins, and brown sugar,” explains Uproxx

Although you can use this apple brandy in recipes and for cooking, the steep price tag suggests you sip this delicious brandy after a hearty meal. Brandy is a “digestif” and helps aid in the digestive process, making it the ideal sipping liquor after a good meal. Every bottle of Laird’s 12-Year Apple Brandy is hand-bottled and stamped with a handwritten batch number, bottling date, and bottle number.

Talk about the pinnacle of luxury, sipping on some Laird’s 12-Year makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. “Laird’s Rare Apple Brandy 12 Year is an excellent option for those who love brandy but also want something a bit different. With 12 years of aging, this apple-flavoured spirit has a unique taste and smooth finish that make it ideal for sipping straight, drinking on the rocks, or as part of an interesting craft cocktail. The brandy is produced in America by the oldest distillery in the country. It has been crafted according to traditional techniques, so whether you’re a purist or an explorer, there’s sure to be something special about this rare apple brandy you can enjoy throughout the next year,” adds Uptown Spirits

6. H By Hine VSOP Cognac

Hine produces some of the finest brandies you can buy, and its H VSOP is a winner on many different levels. “A friend of soda or a cocktail, H by Hine is a youthful addition to this Hine’s impressive Cognac lineup. The vitality of this VSOP is what makes it an amazing mixing brandy. It isn’t asking for sophistication, but more to be played with. You’ll notice this immediately once you get a whiff of its youthful aromas of caramel, vanilla, and orange zest,” writes Chilled Magazine

Founded by Thomas Hine, Hine is based in Jarnac, France, and has been in operation since the late 1700s. In fact, Hine was the sole official cognac provider for Queen Elizabeth II until her passing in 2022. “Since its flavor profile is so unique, we recommend drinking it neat. If you’re looking for a Hine cognac that can be mixed in your favorite cocktails, go with the H by HINE instead, which combines notes of fresh apricot, acacia and white pepper,” adds Rolling Stone

H by Hine is designed with cocktails in mind and seeks to take cognac in a new direction. It is advertised as adventurous, lively, and elegant, and that’s exactly what it is. You’ll be able to comfortably enjoy this cognac with everything from brunch to dessert, in everything from snifters to cocktails. “Hine is somewhat reinventing the direction of cognac, away from the traditional view of a brandy balloon glass, cigar pairing and dusty leather armchair. As fine as these things might be under the right circumstances, a lighter, more refreshing side to cognac is on the rise and H By Hine has been designed with the cognac cocktail in mind, especially long drinks, where it excels,” furthers BBC Good Food

7. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac

Rounding out the list of the best brandy available on the market is Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac. This fine cognac is a go-to choice for brandy enthusiasts and bartenders alike. “Ferrand’s 1840 Original Formula is an ode to the bartenders of the 19th century, who were the first to get creative with mixing brandy. It’s based on an age-old recipe, producing a young brandy that is bold and high proof. No matter how you incorporate it, Ferrand’s 1840 Original Formula will be a respectful ode to the history of bartending and brandy,” explains Chilled Magazine

bottle of 1840 original formula
Pierre Ferrand 1840 (ferrandcognac.com)

The story behind this cognac is rather remarkable. Ferrand 1840 was crafted as a way to pay homage to the golden age of cocktail-making in the 19th century. Ferrand 1840 is higher in proof and richer in flavor than most modern VS cognacs, delivering a cognac experience for the seasoned brandy lover. 

Plus, the delicate care taken in productions translates to the flavor. “While brandy is produced all over the world, those labeled Cognac are made only in the Cognac region of France… With ripe pear and delicate floral notes, Ferrand Cognac does an excellent job of showcasing the quality of the grape in the spirit—it’s bottled at a hot 45 percent for a bold flavor that performs well in cocktails and on its own,” furthers The Spruce Eats

Ferrand moves its cognac to various casks as a way to prevent a bitter taste. This extra step and commitment to quality shines through in every bottle of Ferrand 1840. And, for anyone who enjoys Mint Juleps, this is the cognac for you. Even Ferrand recommends using its cognac for a Mint Julep, offering the perfect recipe on its website. 

“During aging, each Ferrand Cognac will spend time in a variety of casks, to avoid extreme bitterness caused by exaggerated tannin and oak. The final blend is harmonious, creating a kind of cognac that leaves a lasting taste on your palette. We recommend the 1840 Original Formula a young VS cognac that combines fruity flavors with honey accents,” adds Rolling Stone

Cognac vs. Brandy

As many bottles on our list are cognacs, you may be wondering what differs between cognac and brandy. Though often used interchangeably, they are like cousins at a family reunion. Brandy is the broader term, encompassing any spirit distilled from fermented fruit juice, like the fiery Spanish sherry or the fruity California grappa.

Cognac, on the other hand, is the crown prince, hailing from a specific French region and bound by strict production rules. Think grapes carefully chosen from designated areas, double distillation in copper pots, and oak barrel aging for a minimum of two years. This meticulous process imbues Cognac with its signature elegance, a symphony of floral, fruity, and toasty notes you won’t find in all brandies.

So, while all Cognacs are brandies, not all brandies are Cognacs. Remember, if you’re seeking a refined, complex spirit with a pedigree, Cognac awaits with open arms (and an elegant glass).

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Sources: 

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Matthew Sherdan

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