New to brandy and Cognac? Get in on the secret language of the Label. Here,, decodes the messages on the bottle:


Distillers of “higher end” brandies and Cognacs use letters to indicate the quality of their products. Interestingly, these letters represent English words, not French:


E is Especial

F is Fine

V is Very

O is Old

S is Superior

P is Pale

X is Extra

C is Cognac


With this in mind, let’s look at some Hennessy Cognac products:


Hennessy V.S. Cognac is:  Hennessy Very Superior Cognac

Hennessy V.S.O.P. Cognac is:  Hennessy Very Superior Old Pale Cognac

Hennessy X.O. Cognac is: Hennessy Extra Old Cognac


What does all that mean? Well, like any other aged liquor, the longer it is aged in the barrel, the smoother and more expensive it will be. Therefore, the VS (without an “old” denomination) is, likely, their youngest and most reasonably priced Cognac.


The VSOP is still Very Superior, but also has Old in its denomination, and therefore will be slightly smoother and slightly more expensive. And the XO will have even more years under its belt in the barrel, and will be even smoother and even more expensive.


This should make ordering easier, and crossword puzzles — where brandy acronyms pop up all the time — a little less perplexing.