Brandy is distilled from fermented fruit, sometimes aged in oak casks, and usually bottled at 40 per cent alcohol by volume. Long enjoyed as an after dinner drink, brandy is also widely used in mixed drinks and cooking. It is produced in a number of countries, though the products of France are among the best known. The term brandy, used alone, means the spirit has been distilled from grape wine.
Cognac is fine brandy known for its smoothness and heady scent. It is only produced in the Cognac region of France, in which its grapes are harvested. (Thus all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is cognac.) The age of a brandy or cognac is designated in a number of ways. VS (very special) is a blend of brandies aged a minimum of two years; VSOP (very special old pale) must be at least four years old; and XO and Extra XO (extra old) denotes brands of greater age.