Courvoisier is a rich and full-flavored cognac that won’t break the bank. Flavors of stone fruit, almonds, raisins and sweet spice lead to a dry, woody finish that will satisfy many tastes.
- Classification: VSOP cognac
- Company: Courvoisier
- Distillery: Courvoisier, Cognac, France
- Cask type: French oak
- Still type: Copper pot (alembic charentais)
- Released: Ongoing
- Proof: 80
- Aged: Said to be aged 8 to 12 years
- MSRP: $35
- Awards won: Double Gold, San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2019; Gold, New York Wine & Spirits Competition, 2019; Double Gold, China Wine & Spirits Awards, 2019
- Aged for considerably longer than the four-year minimum aging time for VSOP cognac, this cognac’s blend starts at about eight years old.
- Versatile, excellent for both sipping or in cocktails
- Slightly unbalanced on the finish, which packs a bit more of a kick than it needs to
Color: In the (clear) bottle, it’s a dark reddish-amber; pour some into a tulip glass or snifter, and it’s a bright copper with hues of orange and gold.
Nose: Peach and apricot, a touch of honey, with dry oak reminiscent of an older XO cognac, as well as just a smidgen of alcoholic heat
Palate: The nose doesn’t lie: Peach predominates, with supporting notes of almonds, raisins and cinnamon. A rich, viscous mouthfeel accentuates and rounds out all the flavors. Dry oakiness makes its entrance at midpalate, with tingly spice and a slight burn at the back of the throat.
Finish: Medium-length, dry and woody, with sweeter raisin balancing it out—not unpleasant, though given the richness of this cognac, it’s surprising the finish isn’t a bit longer.
Courvoisier is known as the cognac of Napoleon, and indeed, he looms large in the brand’s history. Founded in 1809 as a wine and spirits company just outside Paris, Courvoisier quickly gained such a reputation that Napoleon is said to have visited the warehouse where the brandy was stored. When he was exiled to St. Helena in 1815, he brought several cases of the brand’s cognac along with him. Courvoisier has had many famous fans over the centuries, including Charles Dickens, who’s said to have had 216 bottles of Courvoisier in his voluminous liquor collection at the time of his death. Today, it’s still a sensation among celebs, having been name-checked in everything from “SNL” skits to hip-hop hits.
The best VSOP cognacs tread the middle ground between the fruitiness of younger VS expressions and the darker woodiness of older XOs. Courvoisier does a good job of riding that line, with big notes of peach and apricot on both the nose and palate mingled with a dry oaky spice, especially on the back of the tongue. It’s rich and flavorful and perhaps a tad unbalanced on the finish, which packs a bit more of a kick than it needs, but that’s a minor quibble.
Any shortcomings of this cognac are offset by its price. At a mere $35, it’s great for mixing as well as sipping. It makes a terrific Sidecar, and its fruitiness works beautifully in a cognac French 75. (Nowadays, the cocktail is most commonly made with gin, but using cognac is both historically acceptable and delicious.)
At the end of the day, of course, a cognac should be judged on its own merits: How is it when sipped neat? And while there are better VSOPs on the market, Courvoisier’s flaws are minor, and it’s a heck of a bargain.
Courvoisier is proactive about working with the Black community, partnering with the National Urban League to support Black-owned businesses and collaborating with Black artists from rapper Pusha-T to designer Rhuigi Villaseñor in its ongoing “Maison Courvoisier” project.
The bottom line: This is a rich full-bodied cognac whose slight flaws are offset by its versatility in cocktails and its price. This VSOP gves great bang for the buck.