Amber Dias helps you taste the difference between cognac and other brandies.
Warm, soothing, rich and a little sweet, a glass of brandy never fails to hit the spot. It is crafted by fermenting fruit like grapes, apricots, cherries, and even apples, distilling with low heat and ageing in oak barrels. So it’s no surprise that it gets its name from the Dutch word brandewijn – meaning burnt wine. Brandy is a good choice on its own for an after-meal drink, but works its magic in a variety of cocktails too. It has a fruity, subtly sweet taste that grows mellow and complex as it ages. However, not all brandies taste the same. Let’s take a look at some of the different types you can tease your tastebuds with.
Perhaps the most popular or the grande dame of brandies – as some like to say – this elixir is crafted with grapes from the southwest region of France. It boasts of a tremendous depth of flavour and while younger Cognacs have light fruit and oak notes, aged ones have a distinct dried fruit and spice flavour. Only brandies produced in Cognac, France, can be referred to as such.
Like Cognac, this brandy gets its name from the region of France where it is produced and is made with grapes. More fruity than its counterpart, it is distilled only once and tends to take on more character from the wood of the barrels as it ages. Hence, the flavour evolves to offer notes of caramel and toffee.
As the name suggests, this brandy is made with apples – originally using a freeze distillation process that separates the alcohol and water content. It is often supplemented with other grain spirits. While apple brandy finds its origin in France, Applejack is distinctly American and has a more robust apple flavour. It also has notes of spices and caramel that come from the barrels it has been aged in.
- Vieux Carre
- Singapore Sling
- Jack Rose
This grape-based brandy hails from Peru and Chile. Unlike other brandies, it is aged for only three months and has a distinct grape flavour at the forefront. It is a clear brandy, though on occasion displays a light yellow colouring. Chilean Pisco, however, is aged longer and has a stronger grape flavour. This brandy is a favourite for cocktails.
Hailing from Germany and Switzerland, this brandy is made by double-distilling morello cherries – though it is now made with other types of cherries as well. Key to note is that the fruit is fermented with their stones. It is a clear brandy and unlike other cherry spirits, it is not sweet. In terms of flavour, notes of cherry are definitely the most pronounced with hints of nutty and floral ones as well. Because it is fermented with the pits, there is a subtle bitterness to it.
Brandy de Jerez
Originating in Spain, this brandy shares a lot of similarities with sherry, including the grapes used to craft it. It is very different from other types of brandy. Aged in American oak barrels that were previously used to age sherry, it takes on some of its signature notes. Brandies aged for a little over a year tend to be light and fruity, while those aged for around three years have earthy, oak characteristics and those aged for up to ten years boast of roasted nuts, dried fruits and toffee-like notes.
Indian brandy is made primarily with grapes and is usually known for its golden hue. It has a strong aroma and is very smooth. Some concoctions include honey which adds a touch of sweetness. Some brandies are distilled with cane sugar and vegetable extracts that lend notes of caramel to their flavour.
There are several more types of brandies to sip on, but this list is a good place to start. It makes a flavorful addition to cocktails and is a good choice to wind down with. So if you’re looking for a drink to round off a good meal or a nightcap, give brandy a shot.