Brandy is a spirit mostly made by distilling wine. The name comes from a Dutch word, brandewijn, which means “burned wine.” Two of the best-known and indeed best types of brandy, whose production is governed by strict rules, are Cognac and Armagnac, both from France. So, all Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. Many wine-growing regions of the world also produce brandy, and the flavors vary according to both the types of grape used for the wine and the differing production processes. Most U.S. brandy comes from California. Brandy is also used as an ingredient in spirits such as Metaxa, a Greek spirit. A distinct type of brandy is fruit brandy, which is made from fruit juice, wine, or pulp from fruit other than grapes. Grappa, common in Italy, and the South American spirit called pisco are also types of brandy.

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How Is Brandy Made?
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Paul Masson Grande Amber VS Brandy

Review: Hennessy Black Cognac

By Christopher Null | June 30, 2010 |

First let’s cover the color: Hennessy Black, a spinoff of standard Hennessy cognac designed as a cocktail ingredient, is not black. It’s a dark gold color, much like any cognac you’re likely to encounter. A blend of up to 45 eaux-de-vie, Hennessy Black is aged five years and dropped into a wholly opaque bottle designed…

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Review: Marzadro Le Diciotto Lune Stravecchia Grappa

By Christopher Null | May 30, 2010 |

Ah, grappa. Brandy’s skunky cousin. I’m still a bit lost on the appeal of grappa — which is made from grape pomace — skins, seeds, and stems leftover from the winemaking process, rather than the grape juice itself, as brandy is made. But even I will recognize there are some fine grappas out there, especially…

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Have You Seen This Armenian Brandy?

By Christopher Null | May 6, 2010 |

Like the Scooby-Doo gang, I love a good mystery. And so, when I was presented with this bottle (see photo below) of purported “Armenian whiskey,” I had to sample it and give it a little ink. The owner knows nothing of the bottle and asked if I did. The clues are limited: Only his statement…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2010

By Christopher Null | March 29, 2010 |

Was it the crowds (insane), the heat (manageable), or the rumor that some lady had thrown up near the buffet an hour into the event (just gross, yet credible)? Whatever the case this year I found myself not in the whiskey groove at the ordinarily smashing Whiskies of the World San Francisco event. It was…

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Review: Bache-Gabrielsen XO Natur & Eleganse Cognac

By Christopher Null | January 2, 2010 |

From the maker of one of my most treasured spirits of the year comes Natur & Eleganse, a cognac aged at least 10 years in oak casks. What’s immediately surprising is how this spirit, deep amber in the bottle, is a pale gold when poured into a glass. The oddities don’t stop there, though. The…

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Review: Pierre Ferrand Reserve Cognac

By Christopher Null | December 25, 2009 |

On the heels of Pierre Ferrand’s 10-year-old Ambre, I gave the distillery’s 20-year-old Reserve cognac a try. I was less of a fan of this edition of Ferrand’s brandy, which is considerably darker in color but comes off as a bit brutish and somewhat unbalanced. The flavors are relatively typical of the space, veering more…

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Review: Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac

By Christopher Null | December 17, 2009 |

Unassuming at just $45 (at most — I’ve seen if for $35 sometimes), Pierre Ferrand’s Ambre is hardly an ultra-luxe cognac. And yet for the price you pay you’re getting an exceptionally high-quality brandy that I find hard not to recommend to any cognac fan. In fact, I like it quite a bit better than…

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Drinkhacker’s 2009 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

By Christopher Null | November 27, 2009 |

Booze: The gift that keeps on giving, whether you like it or not. It’s now tradition at Drinkhacker to look back at the best new spirits of the year, offering our suggestions on our favorite tipples — and the stuff that’s most likely to impress your holiday giftee should he find a neatly wrapped bottle…

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Review: Bache-Gabrielsen Hors d’Age Cognac

By Christopher Null | September 30, 2009 |

The top shelf bottling of the Bache-Gabrielsen lineup, here’s a cognac that’s worth its fancy bottle, its wire-sealed lid, and its wooden box. This pure Grande Champagne cognac includes spirits that date back to 1917 — the youngest was distilled in 1960. That’s 49 years old at least, and it’s obvious once you pour the…

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Review: Conjure Cognac

By Christopher Null | September 26, 2009 |

If nothing else, I recommend you get your hands on the press book for Conjure Cognac, a new spirit brought to you by rapper/actor Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Filled with pictures of Bridges sniffing samples at France’s Birkedal Hartmann while surrounded by dapper Frenchmen, it’s as bizarre a promo for a spirit as I’ve encountered. As…

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