Kicking off a short series of cognac reviews is a look a few expressions from Courvoisier, specifically their V.S., V.S.O.P, and XO from the core range as well as their 21-year-old expression from their Connoisseur Collection.
Courvoisier has been around for a long time, and is one of the Big Four alongside Hennessy, Rémy Martin and Martell. The company was established in Bercy, a suburb of Paris, in 1809 by Emmanuel Courvoisier and Louis Gallois, the then mayor of Bercy. At first they traded the best cognacs they could find, eventually moving to the Cognac region and becoming producers of the spirit. Napoleon III apparently liked the spirit so much, that in 1869 he gave the company the title of “Official Supplier to the Imperial Court.” The company changed hands a few times over the years and is now owned by Beam Suntory. A household name it may be, but how are its spirits? Let’s dive in.
The entry blend. It features eaux de vie aged between three and seven years, mainly from the Fins Bois cru. With a young age comes a vibrant nose featuring fresh grapes and floral notes, with a touch of citrus zest and mild spice. The light-bodied spirit’s palate closely follows the nose with light toffee, sweet fruits, grape and oak. The finish starts slightly sweet and spicy with fruit and wood spice, but then turns dry. Not much complexity and a bit young, Courvoisier V.S. is best used as a mixer. $24.99 7/10
Aged at least four years, the eaux de vie in this blend come primarily from the Grande and Petite Champagne crus. The nose is richer and more rounded, featuring stone fruits, grapes, light caramel and nutmeg. Taste-wise, the heavier brown sugar, vanilla, and oak notes are complemented by wonderful floral and light baking spice notes. The finish is medium in length, soft in nature and slightly drying. I’d recommend starting here if you’re in the market for a reasonably priced sipper that doubles as a quality mixer. $37.99 7.5/10
A bit more age than its younger sibling, XO is made with eaux de vie matured between 11 and 25 years. The extra maturation shows on the nose, with dark brown sugar, berries, burnt orange peel and vanilla extract. There are brief floral topnotes as well. The palate is decadent, with layers of caramel and creamy vanilla. A heavy dose of baking spice season candied berries and raisins. The finish begins with caramel and fruit, developing some allspice and drying oak. Courvoisier XO is a rich, after dinner spirit that deserves your time and attention. $150 8.5/10
A rarity in the cognac world – one with an age statement. Courvoisier kept strict records on some casks, which allowed them to publish a 21-year statement on the label. The eaux de vie here hail from the praised Grand Champagne cru, which is supposed to produce fine Cognac with its chalky soil. From the start, this is an elegant Cognac. Rich toffee, candied fruits, spice and floral notes on the nose along with vanilla, marizan and figs make this spirit smell like the perfect dessert. The palate is equally praise-worthy with hints of spice cake, raisins, vanilla creme, lavender, and burnt sugar. Oak tannins begin to appear towards the back palate, adding some astringency. A touch of leather is also present. The long finish features sweet fruits followed by a wave of baking spices, soon turning dry. Wow! A wonderfully exquisite blend from Courvoisier. Please, please, please don’t mix this one. Sip and savor slowly. $249.99 9/10
Thanks to Beam Suntory for the samples of VSOP, XO, & Courvoisier 21. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.