Brandy at its core is a drink that is extracted and distilled from a variety of fruits, such as apple, apricot, blackberry, etc. Depending on the fruit and the geographical location, there are specific categories that brandy can further be divided into: Cognac, Armagnac, American Brandy, and Fruit Brandy. Most brandies generally carry an alcohol percentage of about 40%.
Distillation is the main differentiating factor between Cognac and Armagnac. Cognac is distilled twice, while Armagnac is only distilled once continuously in a copper still and aged for over 10 years. Brandies that are aged for over 30 years are considered over-lived brandies. Cognac brandies are usually distilled in French regions, while Fruit Brandies are made in many different countries, such as the United States, Germany, Spain, Greece, etc. The name brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewjin, which translates as ‘burnt wine.’ Most regions that produce wine are also commonly distilling brandy.
Even before the 16th century, wine was an incredibly popular product for trade around the European continent. However, in the early years of the 16th century, a Dutch trader innovated a method of shipping wine while saving a significant amount of cargo space: he took the water out of the wine and just add the water back to the same concentration levels once the destination is reached—this drink would eventually be known as the prototype blend for Brandy.
In the 17th century, Cognac was invented. The double distillation process was produced in pot stills and then aged for approximately one year in new oak cask. As the centuries went on, the first brandies to be made and introduced in the United States were by Spanish Missions. From then on, American brandies have been initially known to be aged in wood for at least a timeframe of two years prior to packing and distributing.
Besides a short number of major distilleries, the process of brandy distillation as well as serving conditions significantly vary depending mainly on the region. Brandy, which has been made from different types of grapes, is known as wine brandy. Elements such as smell, character, and overall distinctness are critical factors to labelling and identifying high-quality brandies. In general, brandy is extracted from what is called a base wine –this is vastly different and distinguishable from ordinary table wines. Base wine generally contains less amount of sulfur in contrast to regular drinking wines. Depending on brandy style, yeast from fermentation may or may not be included in the final blend.
The final output of the general distillation process of brandy is without its distinct flourishes; it is when the brandy is aged that it comes to its final flavorful form. The maturation of unaged brandies transpires in oak barrels. Aging in oak casks (or single-barrel aging) is the method and approach that give some brandies their natural color of a golden brown shade. Spain is a country that is very well-known both for their brandy production as well as their overall appreciation for the beloved drink. The Spanish have their own developed system for brandy aging known as the solera system, wherein after each year, the barrel is changed by the producer and finally blended with water before bottling and shipping.
Traditionally speaking, brandy is served neat or at room temperature in either a tulip glass or a wine glass. Brandy is generally warmed from gently holding the glass. Too much heating, however, has the possibility of causing the alcohol levels to become stronger in vaporized content as well as harnessing an overwhelming aroma. Seasoned brandy drinkers prefer that their glass is pre-heated before the brandy is poured in and served.
Besides being an amazing beverage on its own, brandy is also known for having many culinary uses. Brandy is commonly poured onto pans as a sauce for different meats due to it being an ideal deglazing liquid substance; it creates a strong flavor that adds intensity to soups, such as onion soup.
Culturally speaking, brandy is a widely embraced and appreciated alcoholic beverage across the globe. Some interesting and signature cocktails that owe their magic to the warm allures of brandy include: The Brandy Alexander, the Sidecar, the Brandy Old Fashioned, the Brandy Sour, the Brandy Daisy, and many more iconic mixtures that are staple to any bar.
A few brandy selections you might want to explore are the following:
- Alfonso I Solera is a brandy that is fitted within medium and high spirited wines, and aged in oak casks. This product by Brandy de Jerez Solera has an exact alcohol content of about 36%.
- Alfonso Light is a brandy that has only an alcohol content of 25%. Despite this, it carries the same richness and aroma of Alfonso I Solera.
- Carlos I belongs in a brandy line that is a dedicated to the Spanish emperor Charles V. This line has an average maturity aging process of about 5 years.
- Fundador Solera is the leading forefront in Spanish grape brandies—extracted from Palomino and Airen grapes.
Have a taste of these fine selections of brandy by shopping from our list above.