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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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2011

By Christopher Null | October 28, 2011 |

WhiskyFest remains the whiskey enthusiast’s festival to beat. With hundreds of whiskeys, it is a mad dash for all sorts of great stuff — if only you can find it in the scattered auditorium and muscle your way to the front of the line. Don’t worry, you can do it, and even though the 2011…

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Review: Pur Spirits Pear Williams, Raspberry Vodka, and Bierbrand

By Christopher Null | September 9, 2011 |

Pür Spirits is based in a small village in Germany, so it makes sense that its artisinal liqueurs and other products, made from recipes handed down over the generations, are only just now making it to the U.S. At the present, the company offers six products for sale. We reviewed three. Notes follow. Pur Spirits…

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Notes from Grappathon 2011

By Christopher Null | September 8, 2011 |

Grappa, something of a national spirit in Italy, doesn’t have to come from the famous country. Anyone can make the stuff — and, arguably, it’s far easier for a grape-grower in, say, Virginia, to produce good grappa than good wine. Recently I gathered with friends to sample and compare a host of grappas from all…

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Review: Samogon Russian Grappa

By Christopher Null | August 31, 2011 |

Yeah, you read that right: Grappa from Russia. Samogon is actually the Russian term for moonshine, so using it as a brand name is a little confusing. Samogon, from Phenix Brands, is also not really moonshine (in Russia, it’s typically a sugar-based spirit), but rather a grappa, made from grape stems and seeds left over…

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Review: Hardy Vanille Cognac & Vanilla

By Christopher Null | August 11, 2011 |

Flavored cognac is not exactly a big market, but let’s run with it (particularly since a reader requested coverage of this very spirit): A. Hardy blends authentic, French, 8-year old Hardy VSOP Cognac with natural vanilla (plus caramel color) to come up with, well, a vanilla-flavored Cognac. Bottled at 80 proof, if nothing else it…

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Review: Metaxa Greek Spirit 5 Stars and 7 Stars

By Christopher Null | July 29, 2011 |

And you may ask yourself: What exactly is Metaxa anyway? A staple of every liquor store in the country, it sits there untouched in its odd-shaped bottle. The stalwart shopper who picks it up finds only that it hails from Greece before setting it back down. The only hint on the bottle: “Greek Specialty Liqueur.”…

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Review: Germain-Robin Apple Brandy

By Christopher Null | July 23, 2011 |

Not your father’s Applejack, Germain-Robin’s artisanal apple brandy is not cloyingly sweet but rather a fruit-tinged brandy, just as good fruit brandy should be. Dry and smooth, the nose offers vanilla and light chocolate notes, and really little more than a hint of apples. That’s right: The apple orchard takes a back seat to the…

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Tasting Report: Winebow’s Wines of Italy, 2011 Releases

By Christopher Null | July 11, 2011 |

Winebow isn’t a name I expect you have ever heard of, but you’ve surely consumed its wines: The company is the largest importer of Italian wines in America, and as such it has the volume to be able to put on an event where it pours its Italian offerings… and nothing else. (Winebow also represents…

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Review: Germain-Robin Select Barrel XO Brandy

By Christopher Null | June 9, 2011 |

Craft Distillers’ Germain-Robin makes just ten barrels a year of this California brandy, now featuring a blend of 12 varietal brandies, seven of which are Pinot Noir. At 17 years of age, this spirit is young and a little brash by European standards but stands now as one of the best American brandies being produced…

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Review: Courvoisier Rosé Cognac Liqueur

By Christopher Null | June 8, 2011 |

A rose wine: Sure. But how does one make a rose brandy? By blending cognac with red wine, that’s how. Courvoisier calls this a “Cognac Innovation,” and that’s an understatement. Adding wine to cognac — something I didn’t previously think was possible but which, in retrospect, makes plenty of sense on its merits — creates an…

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