Glossary: V

Virgin Cocktail

A ‘virgin cocktail’ is made without any alcohol. For example, a virgin Piña Colada is a piña colada with no alcohol. 

Vintage

Vintage technically refers to a harvest. In wine when a vintage year appears on a label, it means that all the grapes used to make the wine in the bottle came from that year and the same concept is being applied to the likes of Tequila with certain single field producers. A Vintage Cognac means that the Cognac is a single blend from one particular year.

Vintage is also being adopted by gin producers who are foraging for a large portion of their botanicals and where the seasonality mean the flavour will be different year on year despite the recipe not changing. It is also being utilised for hybrid gins that fuse the world of wine and juniper together (either by using grapes to infuse into the spirit such as a Shiraz Gin, or by cutting the distillate using wine instead of water to reduce it to bottling strength).

Virgin Casks

‘Virgin casks’ refers to a cask that hasn’t been used yet. They play an important part of what defines the flavour of Bourbon. Virgin casks are often confused with First Fill casks in Scotch (understandably given the concept of being first) which are technically the second time that cask is being used.

Vacuum Distilling

Vacuum distillation is distillation performed under reduced pressure (vacuum), often in Rotary Evaporators.

Distillers chose this method for three main reasons: the purification of compounds not readily distilled at normal pressures, to lower the overall temperature for flavour preferences, or simply to save time or energy. 

On a smaller scale, vacuum distillation is thought of as an ideal solution to capture elements that decompose when heated at atmospheric pressure (e.g. floral notes that would stew in a big copper pot). For the most industrial sized continuous stills, the combination of energy efficiency and the ability to refine at a level not possible under normal pressure tends to be why some producers adapt their stills to work under vacuum.

VS, VSOP

VS and VSOP are terms that act as a guarantee of how long a Cognac has been aged. 

They were introduced in 1983 following a request by the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) and the French government, who drafted regulations governing the terms used to describe a cognac’s quality. Just as with age statements in Scotch, these designations refer to the age of the youngest eau-de-vie used in making the cognac.

VS stands for Very Special and only eaux-de-vie at least two years old can be used to make a VS Cognac. Other denominators and expressions are permitted in this class, such as "3 stars" or "luxury".

VSOP stands for Very Superior Old Pale. VSOP cognacs are created from eaux-de-vie aged for at least four years. The VSOP class includes designations such as "Old" or "Reserve".

XO stands for Extra Old and XO Cognacs are made only from eaux-de-vie at least ten years old. Historically the minimum age was six years old, but it was increased to 10 years in April 2018. 

Cognacs such as "Napoleon" or "Old Reserve" are terms that are deemed equivalent to XO Cognac.