V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale)
Officially, according to the BNIC, V.S.O.P. stands for Very Superior Old Pale. However, it’s often referred to as Very Special Old Pale. A VSOP Cognac is where the youngest brandy in the blend is aged for at least four years in barrels. However, the average age of Cognacs in the VSOP category may well be older than this. It is the youngest eau-de-vie in the blend that determines the actual quality of the Cognac. Meaning the moment a four-year-old eau-de-vie is incorporated in the blend it automatically becomes a V.S.O.P. Cognac.
The origin of the expression V.S.O.P. dates back to an order from the British Royal Court in 1817. They required what was then termed a ‘Cognac Pale.’ In other words, a Cognac that is not sweetened or colored by the addition of sugar and caramel. At that time it was very common to take advantage of using such additives. This is how the term was born.
Other designations for VSOP are “Reserve” or simply “Old”. Interestingly, when the Cognac culture first became popular, and before the terminology that we use today came to be, the spirit was either referred to as simply Cognac – or Cognac Eau de Vie.