Brandy is a wine spirit i.e it is produced by distilling wine. The term ‘brandy’ comes from a Dutch word ‘brandewijn’ (meaning burned wine). It stands for the ‘liquor distilled from pomace, fruit mash or wine. Eau de vie is another term for the products obtained from the process. Eau de vie means ‘Water of Life’. It is an after dinner drink, usually enjoyed as an digestif around the world. The alcohol content in brandy varies between 35% – 60%.
As believed, the distillation of wine was started by a Dutch merchant in order to make it easier to transport. Also, there is a theory that believes wine was distilled in order to lessen the tax which was implied as per the volume. The purpose behind the practice was to add the water before the consumption. The distilled product was stored in wooden cask, giving a better beverage. So yes, it is safe to say that brandy has Dutch origins.
During the 15th century, in the triangle trades the guards were paid Portuguese Wines. Up until the 16th century, when brandy replaced the wines as the exchange spirit, only to be replaced by rum in the late 17th century.
There are various types of brandies available in the world. Some brandies are aged in wooden cask, some are added with caramel colouring to make it look like it’s been aged and some are mixed with both (aged and coloured brandies). But as other distilled liquors, brandy does not improve after bottling. Though there are many variants of brandy, but some of the most recognised brandies in the world would be Cognac, Armagnac, Metaxa and Pisco.
The name armagnac is given to the brandies produced in Gascony area of France. It is distilled and then aged in Oak casks. Armagnac was also the first distilled liquor in France. It is required to maintain the traditional method of producing the armagnac brandy. The significant thing about armagnac is that they have vintage traits to offer.
For cognac, it is said that ‘all cognacs are brandies, but not all brandies are cognac”. Cognac is considered to be the best brandy of all. The name cognac for this brandy comes from the region in France, Cognac. Only a brandy produced in Cognac can be referred to as cognac brandy. Any other identical brandy, produced elsewhere can not be termed as cognac. Cognac is produced from the double distillation of wine. Cognac too is required to be prepared by the traditional techniques only.
Metaxa is a Greek Brandy produced by diluting the aged cask brandy. It was first introduced in the year 1888 by Spyros Metaxa. Spyros Metaxa along with his brothers Elias and Alexander established their first distillery in 1888 in the Port of Athens.
Pisco is basically a distillation of Peru wines and produced in Peru and Chile only. The name pisco was given to it after a port in Peru of the same name. Chile and Peru are always in spat for the rights to produce and sell pisco.
Armagnac and Cognac comes in different grades such as XO, VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Original Pale), Napoléon and Hors d’âge.