The fire crackles besides you, snow piles up on the sill, you lean over and pick up a sifter and delicately pour a small glass of brandy. A well deserved respite after a long days work. But where does this delicious brown liquor come from? Why do we drink it? Why does it taste so good after dinner or a long day. The history of brandy is long one tracing back to the middle ages in Europe and is now experiencing a surge of popularity due to the hip hop movement.
The most famous regional brandies are Cognac and Armagnac. Both located in the southwestern portion of France.
What is Brandy?
Simply put, Brandy is type of distilled wine and fermented fruit. It is generally produced from grapes, but brandy made from other mashes of fruits is not uncommon. Fruit brandies are another form of popular brandy that is known as eau de vie, french for water of life.
Where did the beverage start though? Brandy is in fact one of the first alcohols made by the process of distillation. The spirit began being produced in earnest around the fifteenth century in France. Prior to the popularity of Brandy, Port wine from Portugal was the preferred alcoholic beverage.
As Atlantic trade surged between Europe and the new world, demand for an alcoholic spirit that wouldn't spoil surged. Brandy was a natural fit because it could be transported in oak casks or oak barrels. The aging process throughout transportation also contributed to the flavor profile of the spirit.
As the French and Spanish empires grew, demand for their brandies dominated both the new and old world. Spanish brandies we're especially popular in Spanish and Portuguese regions whilst in English and French sphere of influence, Cognac and Armagnac dominated those regions.
What is Armagnac?
Armagnac is obviously a brandy. But this type of Brandy is produced in the Armagnac region of the Gascony region of France. Armagnac is supposedly the very first liquor to ever be produced in human history. The first recorded production of Armagnac began in 1310. Armagnac production is still dominated by small batch producers and makes only 4 million barrels of Armagnac a year compared to 220 million barrels of Cognac.
Armagnac is aged in wooden barrels and then processed in a distillation still.
What is Cognac
Cognac is the most popular type of brandy distilled in France. Cognac has bar fart the most recognized brands associated with it including
Cognac is also a fortified wine and has strict rules on how it is produced including
Brandy must be distilled twice in Copper Stills
Must be aged in wooden barrels for a minimum of two years
Cognac is graded on a sliding scale in terms of age and quality
V.S. (Very Special) Minimum of two years
V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) Minimum four years in a wooden cask
Napoléon Minimum of Six Years
XO (Extra Old) 10 years Minimum aging process
XXO Minimum of 14 years
Hors d'âge (Beyond Age) to signify an extra special batch
What is the Difference Between Cognac and Armagnac?
The primary difference is the region of France where they are produced. Cognac is generally focused on large batch production for shipment overseas while Armagnac is focused on artisan crafting as is primarily enjoyed in France.
Where is Brandy Produced?
Brandy is primarily produced in France or Spain. Brandy is made across the world as well, but we tend to enjoy the French varieties of brandy.
Best Glasses for Brandy
If you're going to enjoy Brandy, then you need the right glass
The snifter is perhaps the most elegant of the glassware. The snifter's small opening concentrates the nose of the liquor. An essential piece of any barware collection.
The Tulip Glass is another elegant glassware that concentrates the nose but at a less dramatic scale. These glasses are more versatile as well.
The wine glass is a perfectly acceptable option for brandy or eau de vie or apple brandy.