Lockdown—Poullignac style. Enforced working from our home in the Charente countryside gave us the perfect excuse to carry out a 2020 XO Cognac session. You may remember our previous family XO taste test that we did in 2016? Well, it was definitely time to re-visit this and produce an updated version.
The criteria for the Cognacs we tasted was that they were XO Cognacs new to market since 2016. All are bottles that we sell in our online shop and that producers have sent for us to taste, and then share our thoughts on social media or in a blog post, such as this one.
How Our Blind Tasting Was Scored
We tasted the Cognacs blind, from a tulip glass, and recorded our thoughts on the nose, palate, and finish. We determined where they focused in the four major taste areas—fruits, flowers, spices, and wood—and also considered their smooth rating.
These results were then used to calculate a total mark out of 100.
So, without further ado, let’s discover our favorite XO Cognacs of 2020.
The Results (in reverse order)
The results, in reverse order, are as follows:
10. Moisans XO
This one really excelled with its aromas, with unanimous comments from both of us regarding the floral overtones. It begins on the nose with delicacy—there’s definitely some violets in there, and fruits such as lychee and other tropical wonders. On sipping it continued on the flower and fruit theme, with some very (very) subtle hints of spice.
The aftertaste was long and very pleasant, and really rather smooth.
Discover more about Moisans XO and buy now.
9. Larsen XO
This was a surprising addition on the leaderboard, and is tantamount to how well Fins Bois and Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie complement each other. The resulting fruit tones that extended from the nose to the palate and throughout the lengthy finish certainly appealed to both of us.
Find out about the Larsen XO and buy now in our shop.
8. Bertrand XO (equal placing)
Petite Champagne and aged for around 35 years, this single estate Cognac definitely catches the eye with its glowing mahogany tones. Complex and robust, its masculinity was evident, with cocoa and woody aromas making for a rather pleasing nose. The finish was truly extensive.
Discover more about the delights of Bertrand XO and purchase for home delivery.
7. Andre Petit XO (equal placing)
We’re delighted that our closest neighbor’s XO scored so highly—plus that a pure Bons Bois Cognac showcased its ample charms so succinctly. The rancio was truly apparent, as were the earthy tones of prunes and old cigar boxes. The deep, reddish amber tones were also commented on by both of us.
Explore more about the world of Andre Petite, their wonderful XO and buy your bottle now,.
6. Normandin Mercier XO (equal placing)
Fruity was the unanimous overriding comment regarding this Grande Champagne XO. But there were hints of spice and nut in there as well, with a rather delicious but extremely subtle hint of tobacco. From the eye through to the satisfying finish, this one certainly massages the senses throughout the whole taste experience. If we were pushed to describe this Cognac in a single word it would have to be “smooth”.
Discover the luxury that is Normandin Mercier XO and buy now.
5. Camus XO Elegance (equal placing)
The revamp of an old favorite, the talents of the cellar master shine through with this award-winning XO. The nose, in particular, communicated the delicious attributes of this multi-terroir blend.
Aromatically this is a real winner—between us we remarked on notes of baked apple, ripe pears, and spiced apple crumble. We love the bottle design—beautiful. And the stopper weighs a ton!
Dive into the delight that is Camus XO and get a bottle for your collection.
4. Montifaud XO Silver
The floral overtones of this Petite Champagne XO were really apparent, and the world “elegant” was used by both us when tasting. It scored highly in each area—on the eye, nose, palate, and a more than satisfactory length of finish.
Heavy on the fruit, there’s also some hints of demerara sugar that’s balanced out with just the right amount of spice—gingerbread is beautifully apparent and becomes stronger during the finish.
Discover more about the wonderful Montifaud Silver XO and buy now in our shop.
3. Pasquet Organic 10
While some organics can lack in depth it certainly isn’t the case with this one. The qualities of the Grande Champagne terroir are wholly apparent, with deliciously decadent hints of gingerbread and cocoa.
This is one of a tiny group of Cognacs that are age-stated, so still quite a novelty. We both commented on how spicy this was—quite masculine, in fact—yet manages to remain refined and rather elegant.
Join the organic revolution and discover the delights of the Pasquet Organic 10.
2. Prunier XO
Delicious and buttery, that moves through a plethora of spicy flavors to a welcoming toasted finish. While the Cognac is a blend of terroirs, the Grande Champagne elegance really shines through.
A worthy runner up indeed—the complex nose deserves a good few moments of your time to determine the loaded-fruit tones and undercurrent of nuts. In fact, the nutty theme continues throughout the palate and the finish, evolving to a rather delicious toasted aftertaste after it’s crescendo. The rancio is really apparent.
A truly great Cognac that deserves your attention. Find out more about the Prunier XO and buy now.
1. Audry XO
We fell in love with Audry last year, and it’s tantamount to how very, very good this Cognac is that it’s our worthy winner of this blind tasting. This Fine Champagne blend has a wonderfully creamy mouthfeel, and the nutty, toffee facets were distinctly apparent, especially on the palate.
This is clearly a great Cognac, with a fantastic nose, coherent body, and defined after taste. As you know, this producer was our discovery of 2019 and their XO didn’t let us down. And, it represents incredible value for money, by the way. Fantastic dark fruits and super notes of spice and rancio, perfectly nailing the ratio of woodiness with virtually no flower.
Don’t miss out – discover why we adore this Audry XO and buy a bottle for your collection now.
The above made the top 10, but we also felt that we should mention the following in dispatches. They might not have made the leader board, but they were still very good Cognacs indeed.
- AE DOR FC XO: Boasts a complex, spicy, honey-toned elegance.
- Roullet XO: Notes of orange, dried fruits and flowers. Feminine and light
- Selection Olivier Blanc XO Artisanal Christophe F by Fillioux: Exciting on both the nose and palate—complex yet balanced
- Gilbert XO: A toasty finish ends a fruity, spicy taste experience
- Sophie & Max Sélection Nº 1: Light, fruity, delightful tones of rancio
- Otard XO: Hints of plum beneath distinctly floral overtones
- Rémy XO: Deliciously spicy, with evidence of cinnamon, brioche. Finish is extensive
- Gautier XO: Initial fruit gives way to a peppery intensity. Woody tones are predominent during the finish
- DEAU XO: Exceptionally smooth. Elegant opening and a woody aftertaste
- Martell Cordon Bleu: Warm, satisfying, effortless mingling of nuts, cocoa, leather, and a curious sweetness
- Hennessy XO: Powerful, masculine, and complex. Good rancio
- Hardy XO: Gorgeous silky mouthfeel. Dark flowers and a hint of smokiness on the palate
- Bourgoin XO: Fruity, pure, and rather fresh. Interesting combination of aromas and flavors
Original, undiscovered Cognacs such as these are the star feature of the Cognac Expert Recommendation Assistant. Using a short quiz, the assistant matches your individual preferences to a unique set of Cognacs.
A Final Word from Sophie and Max
Blind tastings are always a great deal of fun. Of course, we must stress that these are our personal opinions. Tasting a Cognac is, naturally, subjective. So while we might experience particular flavors and aromas, you might enjoy a subtle differences and further nuances. The crucial take-home message when it comes to tasting is to take your time, note down your thoughts, and don’t actively try to emulate someone else’s sensory journey. Every person’s brain translates taste differently, which is what makes trying many Cognacs such a pleasurable experience.
In addition, our palates change as we age. So you might try a Cognac today that you enjoyed a few years ago, and find some surprising disparity. Because of this we recommend writing down your findings to revisit should you do another tasting in the future. It’s all part of the Cognac experience, and one of the very reasons we fell in love with eau-de-vie in the first place.
We hope you like our tasting selection and we’d love to hear your comments. You can share them below or hit us up on social media. However you choose to get in contact, you can be assured that we read everything. Every single one of you plays a vital role in our Cognac community, and for that we thank you.
So, until next time, enjoy, stay safe, and together we’ll get through this enforced lockdown. Remember, Cognac helps (in moderation, it goes without saying). Raising a glass to your good health — à votre santé from rural France.