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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Review: Remy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Cognac

By Christopher Null | May 14, 2011 |

I regret to inform the reader that Remy Martin’s new Cognac, 1738 Accord Royal, is not 273 years old. It is rather a new blend of some 240 eaux de vie, 65% Grande Champagne and 35% Petite Champagne grapes, aged between 4 and 20 years in Limousin oak barrels. The name derives from a 1731…

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Review: Manso & Contreras Spanish Brandy de Jerez

By Christopher Null | May 8, 2011 |

Spanish brandy is not a product most drinkers have a familiarity with — nor does it resemble French brandy in any shape or form. Hailing from Jerez, Spain, Manso & Contreras comes from a distillery that has been making brandy since the 1800s. While it’s a new brand — Manso is a native Cuban who…

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Review: A. de Fussigny Cognac Selection and Superieur

By Christopher Null | April 29, 2011 |

Fussigny Cognac has been made since 1814 but it’s been absent from the U.S. for years, lacking an importer. Now Castle Brands has picked it up and is bringing Fussigny back to the states. We tried two of the three main expressions that this independent Cognac house is offering here. (Tragically our XO sample broke…

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Review: Laird’s Rare Apple Brandy 12 Years Old

By Christopher Null | April 7, 2011 |

Aged apple brandy, or applejack, is a rarity, and Laird’s is one of the few U.S. brands that makes the stuff. This 12 year old is a classic example of the product. Intensely woody on the nose, you might think you’re dealing with a whiskey. Apple character comes along quickly when you sip it, though…

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Tasting Report: Whiskies of the World Expo San Francisco 2011

By Christopher Null | April 2, 2011 |

The San Francisco Belle was packed but the crowds were manageable at this year’s San Francisco Whiskies of the World event. With much more room to move around than last year’s cramped fest, lots more seating, and plenty of whiskey, guests seemed to be having a great time, myself  included. Who knows what venue will…

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Review: “Original Gangster” XO Brandy

By Christopher Null | March 28, 2011 |

Sometimes, dear reader, words fail me. I’ve been looking at the decanter for OG XO for days now, unable to form a coherent thought about how it makes me feel. OG, as any hipster, ’80s child, and thug knows, stands for Original Gangster. And now that cognac has become popular in the world of hip-hop…

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Review: Macchu Pisco “La Diablata” Pisco

By Christopher Null | March 6, 2011 |

A new entry from Macchu Pisco (one of the bigger distributors of this Peruvian brandy worldwide, but whose standard product we’ve never reviewed), La Diablata is an “acholado” style pisco — a blend of three grapes: Quebranta, Moscatel, and Italia — which puts it in the same wheelhouse as Encanto. La Diablata, as the name…

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Pisco 101 with Duggan McDonnell

By Christopher Null | February 8, 2011 |

I can safely say now that I know more about Pisco than I ever thought I would. More than I ever thought there was to know, actually. And yet, I’m still little more than a novice. Pisco is, put simply, unaged, grape-based brandy from Peru (or Chile, which we’ll discuss later). Peru puts strict controls…

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Review: Pisco Porton

By Christopher Null | January 4, 2011 |

I’ve learned more about pisco in the last 48 hours than I’ve ever wanted to know. In a nutshell, pisco is the Peruvian or Chilean take on brandy (the two countries are virtually over war over which pisco is “real”): Made by distilling wine then bottling it without aging, pisco is a white spirit that…

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Review: Single de Samalens Armagnac 8 Years Old

By Christopher Null | January 1, 2011 |

Good armagnac can be elusive, but Single de Samalens makes a compelling case for its revival. This armagnac is “single distillery, single grape” — Samalens is 100% ugni blanc, aged 8 years — and is designed to be dry (like whisky) instead of sweet. Sure enough, Single de Samalens has an intensely woody character, not…

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