Brandy is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as an alcoholic liquor distilled from wine or fermented fruit juice. As limited as that statement is, it is an accurate stating point. Brandy is usually bottled between 35 to 60 per cent alcohol by volume, sometimes it is aged in wooden (oak) casks although (depending upon the jurisdiction), it may be unaged and coloured with caramel instead of aged. Brandy may be produced from fruit grown anywhere in the world, and may be distilled upon a large variety of stills.
Pisco, for those who are unfamiliar with the spirit, is a style of brandy made in both Chile and Peru. It was developed by early Spanish settlers in sixteenth century. Although the spirit is sipped neat by some (especially in Chile and Peru), it is for usually intended to be a cocktail spirit.
Certain styles of Brandy have become much more refined in where how they may be produced, the most common of these refined styles are Armagnac and Cognac.
- CAMUS VS Elegance (85.5)
- CAMUS VSOP Elegance (89.5)
- Camus XO Elegance (Cognac) (91.5)
- CAMUS XO Borderies (92.5)
- CAMUS Extra Elegance (95)
- Courvoisier Cognac VS (86)
- Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac (87)
- Hennessy Very Special Cognac (85.5)
- Hennessy Priveledge VSOP (88)
- Hennessy X.O (Extra Old) Cognac (93.5)
- H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac (VSOP) (88.5)
- Hine Rare VSOP (87.5)
- Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula (90.5)
- Pierre Ferrand Ambre (Grande Champagne Cognac) (89)
- Pierre Ferrand Reserve (Grande Champagne Cognac) (90.5)
- Pierre Ferrand Cigare (Grande Champagne Cognac) (94)
- Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges (Grande Champagne) (93)
- Rémy Martin VSOP (Fine Champagne Cognac) (87)
The making of cognac is governed by strict rules designed to guarantee consistency of quality and character. All cognac must be produced from a specific region of France whose appellation was first set out by decree on May 1, 1909. Since 1938, this appellation has been composed of six crus: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bon Bois, and Bois a Terroir. (You can think of these crus a specific grape growing regions within the overall appellation.) The grape juice from which the cognac is distilled is produced solely from white grapes which have been grown within the appellation.
Cognac is distilled twice upon a copper Charentes Still. The resulting distillate must be aged in new french oak or french oak that previously contained only Cognac eaux de vie. The minimum aging for Cognac is 2 years, and if Cognac carries an age statement, it must be the youngest cognac in the blend which is represented. The youngest Cognac eaux de vie in a blend which is labelled VS must be at least 2 years; the youngest eaux de vie in a VSOP blend must be 4 years, and a Cognac labeled XO must not have any eaux de vie younger than 6 years.
A Quick Note Regarding Armagnac
It is not true to say that Armagnac is just Cognac grown in another region of France. Armagnac is actually significantly different from Cognac in not just where it is produced, but also in how it is produced.
It is produced from grapes (nine varietals allowed) grown in the Armagnac appellation of France (in Gascony). It is generally produced upon a column still and aged in oak casks. Armagnac is not as tightly regulated as Cognac allowing producers more choices in their distillation and aging techniques.