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: 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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Drinkhacker’s 2010 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

By Christopher Null | November 25, 2010 |

Another holiday season is upon us here at Drinkhacker HQ, and again we take the opportunity to look back at the best — and most gift-worthy — spirits the year had to offer. Don’t settle for giving your boss a bottle of Crown Royal again (not that we don’t like Crown Royal). Step lively and…

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Review: Emperor’s Brand Giorgio G XO Limited Edition Cognac

By Christopher Null | October 25, 2010 |

Hardly a household name in America, Emperor’s is slowly stretching its legs into our shores. We had a chance to try the company’s Giorgio G XO cognac, a 35-year-old blend of over 70 eaux de vie from Grande Champagne. The results are a success. A tabby orange spirit, Giorgio G XO is lush with orange…

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Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2010

By Christopher Null | October 10, 2010 |

Whiskyfest has come and gone, and I’d consider it one of the best installments of the celebration of whiskey to date. It was packed, to be sure, but the crowd rolled with the frequent bumped elbows, stepped-on toes, and spilled spirits, and everyone had a good time. Yes, there were some misses — like companies…

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Tasting Report: The Tasting Panel Double Gold Winners 2010

By Christopher Null | September 15, 2010 |

Of all the events I attend, The Tasting Panel Magazine’s get-together of its Double Gold Medal winners is the only one that mixes wine with spirits. Nowhere else do I expect to sample a Turkish rose next to peaty Scotch. Somehow it works, and while the selections here were all over the map, some standouts…

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Review: Landy VSOP Cognac

By Christopher Null | August 10, 2010 |

Despite the Snoop Dogg endorsement (or, perhaps, because of it), the VSOP expression of Landy’s cognac is pretty pedestrian stuff. Harshly earthly and woody on the nose, it tastes strongly of apple with a finish that veers toward bitter. The finish is on the hard side, a reminder that this cognac is awfully young. (The…

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Review: Germain-Robin Craft-Method Brandy and Coast Road Reserve Brandy

By Christopher Null | August 1, 2010 |

These Germain-Robin brandies — crafted in California — showed up unannounced, in minimally-marked sample vials, with no additional information about their manufacture or sale. [UPDATE: Notes have been found, and info below has been updated. These are new products.] They are reviewed here without further knowledge — I’m unclear whether the first brandy is the…

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Review: Camus Cognac, Complete Lineup (2010)

By Christopher Null | July 18, 2010 |

You have certainly never heard of Camus cognac. But what if I were to tell you it was a major worldwide brand, the fifth largest cognac house on the globe — with its major markets Asia and Eastern Europe. Now Camus is coming to America at last, with retail in 15 states and more to…

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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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