The Beginner’s Guide to Brandy

Whether enjoyed on its own, in a classic sidecar cocktail or paired with a full-flavoured meal, brandy is a definitely a drink to savour and appreciate.

Brandy has a reputation for being a beverage enjoyed by the older crowd. An old man sits in a plush leather wingback chair, next to a roaring fire, a cigar balanced between his lips and and a glass filled with Brandy in his hand – the stereotypical image of a brandy drinker. However, brandy is so much more than this stereotype.

These days, Brandy is enjoyed across the board from the cigar puffing gentleman clutching glasses of cognac to young, musical artists sipping on glasses filled with Hennessey. Brandy is a spirit packed with flavour and aromas.  

What is Brandy?

Brandy production dates back to the 12th Century. Technically, brandy any spirit that is distilled and made from fruit juice. In the brandy making process, fruit is crushed, removing its juice, and is then fermented to make wine. Following this, the wine is distilled which creates brandy. This distillation process enhances aromas, taste and flavour, giving brandies a strong, flavourful character. A further step of ageing the brandy in barrels is optional. 

Different Types of Brandy:

Basically any kind of fruit can be used to make brandy, with grapes being the most popular. There are arrays of brandies that fill shelves across the world. Here are a few:

Cognac is the most prestigious brandy, named after the French town in which it is produced. Two of the world’s most recognised cognacs are Courvoisier and Hennessey.

Armagnac is similar to cognac, named after the town in France in which it is produced - slightly south of the town of Cognac. It has been around longer and is a slightly more affordable option. 

Other types include: American applejack brandy made from frozen apple cider, Calvados which is a French apple brandy, and Spanish Brady de Jerez. In addition to regular brandy there is ‘pomace’ style brandy which is distilled using the skins of the grapes. Italian grappa and South American Pisco are examples of Pomaces.

Know Your Brandy Labels:

VS Very Special – Aged for at least two years

VSOP Very Special Old Pale – aged for at least four years

XO Extra Old – aged for at least six years

How to Taste Brandy like a Professional:

To make the most of your brandy experience, drinking it with a brandy snifter is your best option. The snifter glass shape enhances the aromas and overall tasting experience. While tasting your brandy, sip slowly to savour the flavours and appreciate the varied taste profiles. Sip it neat or with a dash of soda water to get the full brandy experience!

Brandy is also a fantastic sprit to use in cocktails. Some popular cocktails include metropolitans, mint juleps, and New York sours. A true classic brandy cocktail is the sidecar. 

Brandy and Food Pairings: 

While wine is always a widespread option to pair with meals, thanks to the strong character and aromatic features, brandy is a fair contender for food pairings.

The general idea is to enjoy a glass of brandy alongside foods that are rich and aromatic. Brandies go well with strong cheeses and rich, decadent desserts. 

Whether enjoyed on its own, in a classic sidecar cocktail or paired with a full-flavoured meal, brandy is a definitely a drink to savour and appreciate. 

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