Labelled the most popular variety of brandy, a beverage produced by distilling wine, Cognac can only be called Cognac if it has been made in France by the town with the same name. The production of Cognac is well protected by French Law to ensure that the over three hundred year old process remains completely unchanged, one of the rules being that the liquor must be aged in oak barrels for at least two years. The oak to manufacture the barrels is shipped all over Europe through the town of Limoges, and the oak from which they are made are often called 'limosine' oak.
Cognac is quality graded by the Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac, or the BNIC according to these different levels:
1. VS – Very special, or three stars, where the youngest brandy has been aged for at least two years.
2. VSOP – Very special old pale, or simply ”superior”, where the youngest brandy has been aged for at least four years but the age of the wood is much older.
3. XO – Extra old, where the brandy has been aged for at least six years, however, the average storage time of XO type Cognac is closer to twenty years.
There are a lot of other levels to grade Cognac, but these are the most commonly used and the other grades are all just slight variations of these mentioned three. The most common level of alcohol in Cognac is 70% before the at least two years of storage, this level is considerably lower once the aging is complete and finished Cognac usually does not go above 40% alcohol level.
The United States is currently the largest consumer of Cognac in the world, although as one might believe, it is not old, white people who are the largest consumers of Cognac, but since the introduction of Hip Hop to mainstream american music, the focusgroup of Cognac has been young African Americans. This can be attributed to artists such as Tupac Shakur, Busta Rhymes, Mac Dre and Nas and others who all celebrate Cognac in their songs.