Cognac is a drink often associated with luxury, and the most expensive cognacs are the height of luxury. What’s so special about these drinks, though, that causes them to have price tags that are more than some cars?
Well, let’s start off by explaining what cognac is. Cognac is a type of brandy. It gets its name from a town in France. It’s produced from white wine that’s distilled and aged. “White wine” in this case is a technical term since the kind used to produce cognac is nearly undrinkable. It’s exceedingly acidic and dry. We’re not talking about your mom’s chardonnay here.
After the wine has fermented, it’s distilled twice, traditionally in copper stills. The result is about 70% alcohol. When that process is complete, the proto-cognac is aged in oak barrels for at least two years. Alcohol content typically drops to about 40%. Cognac is hardly ever aged more than 40 or 50 years.
The cognac we drink is then produced by blending. When people talk about the age of cognac, they’re talking about the age of the youngest cognac used in the blend. The complex flavors of cognac that make it such a refined and elegant spirit come from the blending process. Some distillers don’t blend their cognac at all, however, producing what they raged as a “purer” flavor.
If you’re looking to become a cognac snob, you’d be wise to learn various regional differentiations, since they each produce different flavors in their grapes. There are also a number of grades: Very Special (V.O), Very Superior Old Pale (V.S.O.P), Extra Old (X.O.), and Hors d’Age (Beyond Age). As you may have guessed, the grades are based on the age of the cognac, though cognacs classed as hors d’age are designated due to their high quality. Yes, the grades of cognac, which is possibly even more French than champagne, are mostly in English. The alcohol trade is an elaborate and storied thing.
Most of the most expensive cognacs are of the grade hors d’age. These cognacs tend to come in elaborate bottles with a lot of decorative touches. Between their expense and their quality, these are drinks best enjoyed neat on special occasions.
So, now on to what you really wanted to know. What are some of the best, most expensive cognacs in the world?
Henri IV Dudognon Heritage- $5,000,000 (but basically priceless)
These aren’t even collector’s items. They’re works of art, produced exclusively in honor of person or place. It’s probably the designer bottles are most of the price tag, considering they are made of precious metals inlaid with diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. There is only one bottle of every edition. They have been produced in honor of King Henri Iv, Princess Diana, Dubai, Andy Warhol, and Michael Jackson. The price varies a bit depending on the materials used, but all of them are very, very expensive.
Hard Cognac Printemps- $17,000
This highly exclusive cognac comes in a beautiful crystal decanter meant to evoke an (equally pricey) perfume bottle. This is the spring versions of this decanter. There are also summer, fall, and winter versions. They all hold the same cognac, however, which is a small batch that was set aside at the end of World War II. There are only 400 in the world.
Those who have had the privilege of drinking this cognac describe it as delicate and floral. It is a very balanced blend and quite sweet.
Hardy produces several other cognacs with elaborate bottles in the same price range. They each some highly recommended. Hardy cognacs have a sweet richness that justifies their price tags.
Remy Martin Louis XIII- $6,000
Can you create a more classically French bottle? Much like the Hardy Printemps, this cognac’s Swarvorski bottle is very striking. It looks like a bottle that would be on the desk of an old French King.
This cognac is wonderfully complex. It has a rich nose full of floral and fruit tastes. However, many think it lacks a good finish. It lingers on the tongue, however, and is something that should be savored.
If you’re looking to try the Remy Martin Louis XIII, there’s a decent chance you can find it on a cruise ship, usually at over $100 a shot. This would be a good chance to decide if it was worth it to you to pay for a full bottle.
Hennessey Richard- $5,000
This decanter is simple and sleek crystal. It has a more masculine look than the bottles for the two more expensive cognacs on this list. It showcases the color of the cognac wonderfully. This cognac was named the founder of the Hennessy brand, one of the best-known cognac makers in the world.
This is a lovely delicate cognac. It has hints of nutmeg, fruits, herbal, and floral tastes. They come together with an amazing balance. The relatively reasonable price and excellent blend means that you might feel much freer to use a few shots for mixed drinks or a few drops for cooking. Reportedly, it offers great results for both.
Hardy Cognac Rosebud- $4,000
Hardy certainly likes their fancy decanters. This one has an elegant rosebud shape. It was produced exclusively for this cognac.
As the name suggests, this is a lighter, more floral cognac with a slight taste of candied fruit. The diversity of the Hardy cognacs are a good sample of why cognac is enjoyed so much by so many. It is an intensely complex drink that can be blended to produce varying (but always delicious) flavors.
It should be noted that rare cognac bottles are becoming still rarer and even more expensive. Many Chinese investors have been buying them up. They’re rarely planning to drink them, but are instead keeping them as investments. Of course, less rare but still expensive cognacs are still a big hit there as celebratory drinks and prestige buys. This drives up the price of newer, limited run bottles.
Have another expensive cognac to recommend? Let us know!