I tried cognac for the first time at a relative's house last week and I still have the taste in my mouth. He didn’t tell me what brand it was and all I know is it went down extremely smooth. I went home that night and did some research online and found out big brand companies like Remi Martin, Courvoisier, and Hennessy use grades like VS, VSOP, and XO but traditional cognac houses don’t use grades. The average price for a 750 ml bottle of big brand XO was between $110 and $130 US dollars. I thought to myself, OK, so if I want good cognac I’m going to have to spend $130 max. But when I found these forums and read some of the posts I was a bit puzzled. It seems like all of the cognac drinkers stay away from those big brand houses. So my question is how bad or good is an XO grade Courvoisier, Hennessy, or Remy Martin compared to a traditional house brand with the same price range? I also noticed those big brands carry even higher grade cognacs, branding them "Extra" with prices ranging from $269 for a Courvoisier Extra, $325 for a Remy Martin Extra, and $399 for a Hennessy Paradise Extra. Is it worth spending that much money for a 750ml bottle of cognac? Will I be satisfied if I went with an XO big brand or should I shell out the extra money and go for Extra Rare?