Brandy is one of the world’s best-loved spirits, and it can be drunk in a variety of ways, though it is most enjoyed as an after dinner digestif. It is made across the world, and is essentially any spirit distilled from fruit – with grapes being the most commonly used.
The term brandy derives from the Dutch “brandewijn” – literally meaning “burnt wine” – a reference to grape brandy’s production (and the distillation of wine). It is often aged and can be drunk neat, mixed in a variety of cocktails (including such classics as the Brandy Alexander and the Sidecar) as well as being a popular culinary flavouring. Because of the breadth of styles of brandy, and the number of fruits used in its preparation, the flavour can vary from the floral, nutty bouquet of a Fine Cognac, to the bittersweet tanginess of a well-aged Grappa.
The most popular variety of brandy, grape brandy is made by distilling fermented grapes. Cognac, Armagnac and Brandy de Jerez dominate the genre in terms of reputation - the former two are made in the areas of the same name in France and the latter is made in Spain. America, Portugal and South Africa are also known for their grape brandies, and more or less every country in the world has its own variant.
Brandy can be distilled from pretty much any fruit. Apples, plums, cherries and apricots are amongst the most common, and there is a wide breadth of variants from around the world. Well liked fruit brandies include: Applejack (an American apple brandy), Poire William (a French pear brandy), Slivovitz/Slivovice (an Eastern European plum brandy) and, perhaps most popular of all, Calvados – a French spirit distilled from apple cider.
Pomace brandy is made by distilling the fermented by-products of wine production. These include grape seeds, skins and stems. The Italians have the famed Grappa, the French have Marc and there are a number of other Pomace Brandies made around the world.
Did you know?... ...The earliest brandy (as we know it today) first appeared in the 12th century AD.