Brandy is a revered alcoholic drink made from fruit wine. Regular brandy is manufactured by fermenting wine from grape juice and can be sold aged or unaged. It’s either clear, especially if it’s unaged, or golden brown if it’s aged in wooden barrels.
While countries like France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain are the brandy-making trailblazers others look up to, there are many notable brandy varieties across the globe.
So read on as we take a look at different types of brandy, where they hail from, and more.
Like the label hints, applejack brandy is made from apples. This brandy is manufactured in the US and has a distinct apple flavor similar to French brandies.
Traditionally, applejack brandy was made by freezing hard apple cider and collecting the top layers to have a brandy with the right alcohol content. Today, producers use similar modern techniques to avail applejack brandies of at least 35% ABV.
Popular applejack brands in the market include E & J Brandy Apple, Christian Brothers Apple Brandy, Laird’s Apple Brandy, Osocalis Brandy Apple, and Lairds Rare Apple Brandy.
Ararat brandy is a drink of the nobles that originates in Armenia. It is produced by distilling and aging wine for 3 to 6 years.
It has an alcohol content of between 35 and 60%. Ararat brandy’s main ingredients are white grapes and spring water.
Its sweet aroma comes from ripe plums, black currant, and Armenian peaches, which may be used as additional ingredients to add flavor.
Armagnac brandy is produced in the Armagnac region in Southwest France. It’s a famous top-shelf French brandy that has aged for a minimum of ten years.
This brandy is made from one or more of ten grape varieties grown in vineyards in France’s three main terroirs.
Armagnac undergoes slow distillation to get a stellar end product full of flavor and rich compounds. Different armagnac bottles have ratings on the label that tell you how long it’s been aged.
Armagnac has between 50 and 60% ABV and is best served neat.
Brandy de Jerez
Brandy de Jerez is a type of brandy manufactured in Southwestern Spain, Jerez, Andalusia. By law, Brandy de Jerez can be distilled anywhere in Spain but can only be aged in Jerez.
This Spanish brandy is aged in Sherry casks and has an alcohol content between 36 and 45%. Manufacturers use the solera technique during aging to make the brandy more flavorful and unique.
This means adding the youngest brandy into older casks. Not all brandy is bitter because, in this case, the final result is a sweeter brandy with the most composite flavor.
The best way to drink Brandy de Jerez is by savoring it as a mixed drink. Bartenders like mixing this brandy with other softer drinks like tonic water, cola, fruit juice, or ginger ale.
Yet another high-end brandy from France is calvados, a fruit brandy produced specifically in Normandy.
Just as cognac is distilled from white wine made from a specific type of grape, calvados is made from a particular kind of apple and is considered Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée-AOC, one of the highest-status brandies.
In France, people take calvados neat or mix it with their morning coffee. This brandy makes for an excellent base for mixed drinks and cocktails in other areas like the US.
Calvados has a high alcohol content right after production, which requires it to be diluted with the youngest brandy or water to bring down the alcohol concentration to meet the legal standards. Calvados has a 40% ABV.
Cognac region in western France is where the famous cognac brandy is manufactured. Cognac is made from a specific variety of white grapes and is enjoyed by adults across the globe.
The Cognac region laws dictate that cognac can only be made from one or two of three grape varieties, including Folle Blanche, Colombard grapes, or Ugni blanc.
Standard requirements ask that cognac be distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged to reach VS or VSOP (very superior old pale) age distinctions. Cognac has 40% ABV.
Most cognacs are aged from one to two years in wood barrels. However, the older cognac is, the smoother it tastes and the more refined it is. In the Cognac region, it’s no surprise to find a few cognac bottles aged 40 years.
As its name suggests, Cyprus brandy hails from Cyprus, a Mediterranean island. Its production started in the late 19th century when a pot still was imported from the French region Cognac.
Notably, Cyprus brandy is produced from a fermented white grape variety known as the xynisteri grape that is indigenous to the island.
Unlike most other types of brandy from Europe, Cyprus brandy is fairly light, as it has an alcohol content of 32%. However, there are stronger varieties at 40%, such as Keo Five Kings, which is aged for at least 15 years and features a sweet aftertaste of raisins.
Divin is Moldova’s version of cognac. Interestingly, before France patented the name cognac for their brandy, Moldova also called their brandy cognac.
Later, the country drafted and signed the Lisbon agreement, which changed the name of their brandy to Divin.
Cognac and Divin are produced using the same methods and using similar ingredients. This brandy has a 40% ABV and is aged for at least three years.
Divin stands out as a top-quality brandy because of its distinct taste featuring whiffs of dried plum, iced coffee, and cigar leaf.
To make Dutch brandy, manufacturers in the Netherlands use alcohol from fermented grain or molasses. The legal requirements for all Dutch brandies require the drink to have an alcohol content of at least 35% and a maximum of 20 gm. of sugar per liter.
Upon maturing, Dutch brandy is diluted by adding traditional Cognac, Eau de Vie, or other grape-based distilled products.
The brandy is flavored using agents like Oak curls, Vanilla, Fusel oil, Prune extract, Amyl alcohols, Licorice root, or Esters. Caramel or artificial coloring is added to Dutch brandy to deepen its brown hue.
Italy’s finest brandy, Grappa, is, by far, one of the best quality Pomace brandies you’ll ever come across. Pomace is leftover solids like grape skins, seeds, and stems from winemaking.
Instead of throwing it away, manufacturers further process the pomace to make Grappa brandies. Grappa is packaged and sold unaged hence it’s clear in color. It is also perfect for mixing tasty cocktails.
A few distillers will age their grappa brandy, giving it a distant red or yellow shade. The color is determined by the type of barrel used during aging.
Grappa boasts 35 to 60% ABV. It looks and almost tastes the same as Italy’s Grappa brandy or France’s eau-de-vie de marc.
Kanyak is essentially Turkish cognac. Kanyak is Armenia’s gold standard brandy. It is a popular drink that most locals share with family and friends at the end of a meal or during special occasions.
This brandy is made from Armenian grapes like Garan dmak and kangun voskehat, grown in the Ararat and Armavir areas close to the Turkish borders.
The grapes are pressed to make fresh grape juice which is left to ferment to make dry white wine. The distilled wine is further processed using French methods of making cognac.
The liquid is then poured into Caucasian oak barrels for aging. The brandy is left to mature for up to ten years. The result is a golden caramel brandy with a 35 to 60% ABV.
Also known as Kirschwasser, Kirsch is a colorless distilled spirit produced in Germany’s Black Forest, some German-speaking regions in Switzerland, and Alsace, France. Kirsch brandy is a colorless dry brandy made from the fermented fruit juice of Black Morello cherries.
Kirsch brandy has 40% ABV. It tastes better when served cold, in a small glass, apéritif (before meals), but some prefer to take the brandy after meals (digestif).
Kirsch brandy is also an ideal base for popular cocktail drinks like Rose, Brandy sour, Ladyfinger, or Florida.
L’eau de Vie
Eau de vie translates to ‘water of life.’ Thus, L’eau de vie is a French brandy that’s colorless and unaged. This French brandy is produced from fruits like pears and raspberries. Other fruits distillers use to make L’eau de vie include peaches, apples, yellow plums, and pomace.
Despite being a fruit brandy, L’eau de vie has a distant fruit flavor compared to other fruit brandies like Calvados, Applejack, or German Schnapps.
L’eau de vie has a 40 to 45% ABV and is best served at room temperature or slightly chilled. You may take this brandy as a mixed drink with your lemon juice, sparkling wine, or as part of your favorite cocktails.
Obstler is the Austrian version of Schnaps. Schnaps is the common name for fruit brandies. Also known as Obstbrand, Obstler can also be sourced from Southern Germany and Switzerland.
Distillers make Obstler from fruit must by mashing fruits like plums, apricots, apples, cherries, and apples. Other Obstler brandies infuse vegetables and herbs to produce a clear brandy bursting with flavor.
This brandy is sold and distributed as an unaged drink. Obstler brandy comes in handy during cold seasons and is best served before or after meals. It has a 40% ABV.
Peach brandy is made either from peaches alone or peaches and grapes. Peach brandy is produced mainly in the US and a few Dutch-speaking countries.
Peach brandy is also known as Peach Schnapps or crème de pêche. In the 8th century, the Muslims stumbled upon peach brandy on their quest to develop medicines.
Today, distillers use intricate methods to make better quality pure peach brandy or brandy infused with flowers and vanilla flavors.
E&J Brandy is America’s most popular peach brandy with 40% ABV. Beware of buying poor quality Peach brandy that’s essentially comprised of artificial peach flavor and neutral alcohol.
South America’s Chile and Peru are the leading producers of Pisco brandy. There are four pisco varieties that differ in the grapes used to make the drink. They are:
- Pisco Aromatico: Made using fruity, aromatic grapes like Albilla, Muscatel, Torontel, or Italia grapes.
- Pisco Mosto Verde: A sweeter brandy made using partially fermented grapes.
- Pisco Puro: A dry brandy made from the Quebranta grape or other non-aromatic grape varieties.
- Pisco Acholado: Made using two or a blend of many non-aromatic grapes.
Pisco has a 38 to 48% ABV. There’s unaged Pisco from Peru and aged Pisco from Chile. Pisco brandy is a grape brandy that makes a perfect base for classic or sour cocktails.
Rakia hails from the Balkan region in Europe. It’s a double-distilled brandy made from fruits like cherries, apricots, raspberries, quince, pears, etc. The type of fruit used to make rakia depends on the fruit in season during production.
Rakia can be aged in oak barrels to add more aroma and flavor. The idea is to soften it and make it as pleasant to the palate as possible.
This fruit brandy has a 40% ABV for industrial batches. However, domestic rakia can have alcohol concentrations of between 50 and 70%.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most frequent questions people have asked about brandy.
What culinary uses does brandy have?
Brandy goes well when served with different types of meat and seafood. Professional chefs also pour a little brandy on a pan to deglaze it before braising a cut of meat. Cooks use brandy to flambé desserts like bombe Alaska, bananas foster, or cherries jubilee.
Should brandy be warmed up?
Professional connoisseurs heat brandy using an open flame to ignite a chemical reaction that opens up the molecules in the brandy, thus releasing the aromas and flavors. Warming up a glass of brandy on your palm has the same effect, only slower.
What medical applications did brandy historically have?
Historically, brandy was used to treat patients suffering from hypothermia, frequent fainting spells, Hemorrhage, and difficulty in pregnancy. Today, brandy is an excellent treatment for colds, coughs, and sore throats, thanks to its anti-bacterial properties.
Brandy is the popular celebratory drink in many countries best enjoyed in the company of friends and family either straight up or in a delicious cocktail. The above countdown of various brandy from all over the world showcases how diverse this drink is.
So feel free to explore all the options and let us know in the comments below which types of brandy you’ve enjoyed the most!