Brandy — it’s one of the most intriguing forms of all liquor. Brandy alcohol also has one of the widest ranges of quality out of them all too. That alone justifies the search for finding the best brandy via online reviews and other resources. But unlike other liquors that are distilled from vegetables, grain, and other things, brandy is distilled in an entirely different process altogether. It’s also one of those liquors that are treated with great care when it comes to aging and storage.
We’ve discussed this at length throughout. But if you simply want to find the best brandy liquor currently on the market, have a look at the table presented here. These brandy bottles are right up there at the top of the tree and we can assure you now, you’ll struggle to find much better.
What is Brandy?
Above all else, what is brandy? It’s a fair question, especially because brandy alcohol doesn’t really reflect any other form of liquor in the industry. For that reason, let us give you a brief overview of what brandy is. Brandy is a liquor that gets distilled in the same way as wine, and it certainly has an upper-class vibe about it. Most types of brandy fall into the 35-60% alcohol region, and instead of going with cocktails and other drinks, it is typically drunk neat.
That’s because the unique flavorings of brandy are what pulls in the customers, and these tastes get lost if they are mixed. Some of the lower end brandy variations are produced from fruit juice, but at the high end of the scale, the best brandy is only produced by a handful of grapes from certain regions. So while brandy alcohol is processed in similar ways across the board, the quality is incredibly diverse.
Types of Brandy
Start searching for brandy liquor and you will find an enormous number of brands and bottles. But while there are many different brands and bottles out there these days, the underlying type of brandy doesn’t vary all that much. We can highlight the most common types of brandy right now:
Cognac is the most luxurious form of brandy liquor, hence why it is also the most expensive! Much like Champagne, Cognac is a region of France, which is where the name of this brandy alcohol comes from. You won’t find any Cognac that has been aged less than two years, and this is to retain the quality of this type of brandy. VSOP and XO are the most exclusive of Cognac brandy bottles, so you should look out for these if you are after a prestigious tasting experience.
Just like Cognac, Armagnac also relates to a region of France. This is effectively a subcategory of Cognac brandy because it is made with the same grapes. The only difference is the actual manufacturing process. Armagnac brandy is only distilled once compared to several times for Cognac, which is why the taste is very different from Cognac. With that said, this is still a very luxurious form of brandy liquor.
Since all types of brandy are made in a similar way to wine, fruits, and their juices are always involved. With Calvados brandy, the liquor is created from apples, which is what gives Calvados a very different flavor from others. However, for a brandy to be a legitimate Calvados, it has to be made within the Normandy region of France.
While other types of brandy have been around for centuries, Applejack is very much a new kid on the block. As you’ve probably guessed from the name of this brandy alcohol, it is made from apples - unlike some of the more luxurious brands.
Applejack started being made in New Jersey back in 1968, and of course, it has proved to be a major hit with Americans!
Kirschwasser is a good brandy, but it’s unlike any of the others on this list. Why? Because it is made through cherries rather than grapes or other fruits. As you’d expect, this gives Kirschwasser quite a sweet flavor, which some people love. In contrast, this sweeter flavor doesn’t suit everyone!
For a brandy liquor to be classed as a Pisco, again, it has to be made using grapes from a particular region. There are only two countries that produce this particular grape, and those countries are Peru and Chile. Now, the reason that Pisco is highly sought after is due to the conditions that these grapes grow under in these tropical climates. This gives Pisco brandy a terrific taste and texture!
Brandy de Jerez
You might be noticing a trend here relating to brandy alcohol and these names are established. Since we now arrive at Brandy de Jerez, we can confirm that this brandy is made using grapes from a particular Spanish region. This region is known as the ‘Sherry Triangle’, and while most forms of this brandy are done using grapes, other forms can be made using fruit too.
Last but not least, Grappa is a popular form of brandy alcohol that comes from Italy. Of course, Italy is well known for producing awesome alcoholic beverages like popular wines and others, but brandy hasn’t escaped Italy’s grasp. Unlike all other types of brandy we’ve mentioned here, Grappa is made using the skin and pulp that is leftover from making wine. As you’d imagine, this gives Grappa brandy a rather unique taste.
How to choose the best Brandy?
At the end of the day, you have come here looking to find the best brandy that suits your budget. Now, unless you are an absolute expert in brandy alcohol and what to look for, we recommend that you read up on the points below:
This is one of the most important factors of them all. The aging process is critical in brandy, as the longer it ages, the better the taste. There are many terms associated with brandy alcohol and its age, and key examples include VO, XO, VSOP, as well as Hors d’Age. Each of these identifies the brandy age, but just to keep things simple, make sure you have a cheat sheet so that you know what each of the initials means!
The flavor itself
Since we’ve discussed the various types of brandy above, you should now have a pretty good idea that brandy has different flavors. This all stems from what the brandy is distilled from, and since there are grapes, as well as other fruits are seen across the board, you should keep this in mind when trying to find the best brandy. After all, the ‘best’ is always a matter of perspective, so unless you like the flavor - you don’t like the brandy, period!
In a similar fashion to cigars, fake brandy alcohol can be found all over the internet these days. Certain types of brandy like Cognac and Armagnac are often sold as authentic, but sadly, they aren’t. So even if you see a bottle of brandy with these titles, make sure you look on the back of the bottle for authenticity marks. Only then will you know that the product you are buying is legitimate.
Benefits of Brandy
Brandy is just one liquor among a sea of alternatives, so why pick brandy over the rest? We’re glad you asked:
A luxury alternative
It should be apparent at this point that brandy is very much a luxury liquor. After all, it is usually drunk after dinner, and it is the drink of choice for many high-flying executives in this world. Given how exclusive certain types of brandy are too, this adds to the appeal.
The way in which brandy alcohol is made is surprisingly diverse. And it is thanks to this diversity that brandy has so many different flavors available. So even if you don’t like one brandy, you can always move on to the next before you find the right one. This is quite different from other liquors which tend to be a bit one-dimensional.
Promotes restful sleep
Drinking a good brandy after dinner isn’t done by accident. Not only does brandy work as a bit of digestive aid, but the real magic here is that brandy helps you to relax and subsequently have a restful night's sleep. Of course, brandy should be drunk in moderation after dinner, as too much has the opposite effect!
How old is brandy?
Finding the correct brandy age for any variety can only be known by looking at the initials on the bottle. There is an entire list that you should familiarize yourself with, including XO brandy, VSOP brandy, and many others!
What's the difference between brandy and cognac?
A Cognac is simply a form of brandy, as identified above. Cognac is made specifically with grapes from that region of France, whereas other types of brandy can be made using other materials.
What's the difference between brandy and whiskey?
Sipping on a brandy drink is very different from drinking whiskey. Brandy is distilled from fruits or grapes used in the wine. Whiskey, on the other hand, is distilled from grain - leading to a very different taste indeed.