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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Chateau Arton makes both wine and brandy, where Patrick de Montal has been producing Armagnac for a relatively young 30-some years. The brand focuses heavily on single-vintage bottlings, one of which we review here along with its unaged fine blanche expression and its more readily available La Reserve expression. Chateau Arton Armagnac Fine Blanche –…Read More
Meukow is the Cognac with the panther on the bottle. Or rather, in the bottle, part of the bottle. There’s more to it than that, I’m sure, but I don’t know a whole lot more about it than that — except that the house dates back to 1862. This VSOP is reportedly aged for five…Read More
Jean-Luc Pasquet produces this Cognac expression from ugni blanc grapes, grown in Grande Champagne, taking two vintages of Cognac, each at least 7 years old, and blending them together. The idea is that Pasquet can find a better sense of balance by combining the styles of two vintages. All of it is organic. Let’s…Read More
This entry level Cognac is a blend of 25% Grande Champagne/Petite Champagne eau de vie and 75% Fins Bois eau de vie. It spends just two years in small oak barrels before bottling, qualifying it as a VS expression. Let’s dive in. The nose has many of the hallmarks of young Cognac — slightly astringent…Read More
Castarede isn’t a household name in the U.S., but it actually lays claim to being the oldest Armagnac in existence, dating back to 1832. The house makes the full range of standard expressions, from blanche to XO, as well as various reserve bottlings and single vintage expressions of its spirits — the oldest dating back…Read More
I first became acquainted with rakija — widely known as raki — through Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, where it seemed like he was always sipping on the stuff, invariably with a grimace on his face. Raki is the national drink of Turkey and is widely produced in eastern Europe and the western countries of the former…Read More
Armagnac producer Chateau de Laubade got its start in 1870 in Gascony, and today it farms 260 acres of grapes used for its brandies. Laubade’s claim to fame — one of them, at least — is that it is one of few properties producing all four grapes allowed by the Armagnac appellation: ugni blanc, folle…Read More
Apricot is a tricky flavor to work with, but if you’re exploring classic cocktails, you’ll find apricot brandy or liqueur a component in dozens of recipes. When recipes call for apricot, they often call for plenty of it. The PDT Cocktail Book offers a recipe for an Apricot Flip which includes a healthy 3/4 oz…Read More
Pellehaut is an Armagnac producer with which I was unfamiliar before receiving a sample of its Reserve Le Bel Age bottling, which is made from a blend of ugni blanc and folle blanche grapes planted between 1990 and 1992. Aged for an average of 10 years in barrel, it isn’t billed as an XO though…Read More
Rootstock Spirits is a craft distillery in western New York that focuses on the many fruits grown in this region, especially apples. One of the specialities of the operation is, of course, applejack. This bottling is a 5 year old expression (the black label in the photo above), which is an upgrade over the distillery’s…Read More