Impress your dinner party chums with expert knowledge of a classic after dinner tipple!
What is it? A spirit made from distilled fruit, generally around 35-60abv. Different methods of distillation and maturation provide different characteristics.
Grape brandy is made from distilled wines where grapes are the base – Cognac & Armagnac are perhaps the most well known of and are reflective of their origins; the grapes are from the Cognac region in France or the Gascony region respectively. These are generally branded so you may have heard of: Courvoursier or Hennessey or recognise the signature frosted green bottle of Champagne Cognac, Remy Martin.
Fruit brandies are made from fruit other than grapes; apples, peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and more. You may have heard of: Applejack (American) and Calvados (French Normandy) from apples or Eau de Vie (French) for a colourless fruit brandy.
How old?! Labelling terms on grape brandies dispelled… Yes, a label can be ultra confusing but in short, the longer a brandy has been aged, the more complex, and generally more expensive, it becomes!
AC has been aged a minimum of 2 years.
VS (Very Special) has been aged 3 years or longer.
VSOP (Very Special Old Pale)has been aged for at least 5 years.
XO (Extra Old) has aged for 6 or more years.
Vintage brandy has been stamped with the date it was first stored.
Hors D’age brandy has been aged in the barrel for at least 10 years. This is the most elite (and expensive) brandy
How to enjoy it: Typically enjoyed as an after dinner drink, best served at room temperature in a brandy snifter. Check out these lovely classic Brandy glasses from John Lewis. If you prefer to ooze sophistication with a cocktail in hand (like me !), try a Sidecar . This recipe from In The Spirit is fantastically easy and quick;
2 measures Brandy, 1 measure Cointreau, 0.5 measure lemon juice. Shake with ice and serve in a chilled Martini glass.
I want it! Where can I get it? The Drink Shop have a fantastic online range of both grape and fruit brandies starting from around £15.00 for 70cl bottles.
Actually factual: The name brandy means ‘burnt wine’ from Dutch ‘brandewijn’ or ‘brandywine’ (Wikipedia)