September 2016: Brandies of the World

by Lee Bullock

Brandy, derived from the Dutch word brandewijn “burnt wine”, is a spirit made from fermented fruit juice that is distilled and aged in oak barrels. While most brandy is made from grapes, brandy is also produced from a variety of fruits such as apple or pear. These are typically named eau-de-vie, French for “water of life.”

I selected Brandies from different countries to highlight the varieties of “standard” Brandies available and see how they varied from country to country.

  • Cocktail:
    • Name: Brandy Old Fashioned (Sweet)
    • Ingredients: 2 oz Brandy, 1 Sugar Cube, 4 dashes Angostura Bitters, 2 Orange Slices, 2 Maraschino Cherries, Sprite
    • Recipe: In an old fashion glass, combine the sugar, bitters, 1 orange slice, 1 cherry, and a splash of Sprite. Muddle the ingredients.  Fill glass with ice and add the brandy. Stir until chilled. Garnish with an orange slice and 1 cherry.
  • Bottle 1 :
    • Name: Ysabel Regina (used in Old Fashioned)
    • Country of Origin: Spain
    • Age: Minimum of 10 years
    • Price: $58.63
    • Purchase location: Master of Malt
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Toasted raisin, rhubarb crumble and a hints of spice
      • Palate: Vanilla, sweet latte and prunes with a little demerara.
      • Finish: Soft, finely ground pepper, dark caramel, fruit flapjack.
  • Why this bottle is featured: This is a blended brandy with very high rankings, preferred for cocktails.  From the website: “Ysabel Regina is a blend of the finest brandies and cognacs aged in “moist” Pedro Ximenez casks; the perfect start for a noble spirit. This pedigree cross-breeding is at the heart of Ysabel Regina, adding to our enjoyment of each cocktail which uses her as a base.”
  • Bottle 2:
    • Name: Vecchia Romagna Etichetta Nera 
    • Country of Origin: Italy
    • Age: No age statement but stated as long ageing process in small casks
    • Price: $29.56
    • Purchase location: Master of Malt
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: An aromatic, complex bouquet.
      • Palate: Rounded vanilla notes
      • Finish: Baking spice with taste of honey and vanilla.
  • Why this bottle is featured: One of the oldest brandy labels in the world, over 120 years old, and well recognized in Italy as its bestselling brandy. The highest ranked brandy in Italy.
  • Bottle 3:
    • Name: Gran Duque d’Alba Solera Gran Reserva 
    • Country of Origin: Spain
    • Age: No age statement, oak casks
    • Price: $50.41
    • Purchase location: Master of Malt
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Tense with a hint of raisins, grape, plum and vanilla
      • Palate: Complex and majestic
      • Finish: Smooth and full bodied with hints of vanilla, caramel, chocolate, and orange with a long finish.
  • Why this bottle is featured: Highest ranked Spanish brandy.  From the website: “The extraordinary characteristics of this brandy are a direct consequence of its raw materials: a combination of soleras of Gran Duque de Alba and Gran Duque de Alba Oro. Excellence upon excellence. A very old brandy with a complexity which only time can bestow.”
  • Bottle 4:
    • Name: Metaxa Private Reserve 
    • Country of Origin: Greece
    • Age: 30 years old, limousin oak casks
    • Price: $83.09
    • Purchase location: Master of Malt
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Flower petals with oak, citrus, spices and fruits from orchard
      • Palate: Honey with gentle oak, dried figs, orange peel and tobacco all embodied in a smooth as a silk touch.
      • Finish: Prolonged aromatic finish, there is a bit of smokiness involved with a sensual aftertaste of dried fruits.
  • Why this bottle is featured: Highly rated brandy with longest age statement I could find.  Very old distillery founded in 1882 by Spyros Metaxas and his two brothers.
  • Bottle 5:
    • Name: Germain-Robin XO 
    • Country of Origin: USA
    • Age: Approximately 17 years old
    • Price: $139.99
    • Purchase location: com (have seen in Wichita since buying)
    • Tasting Notes:
      • Nose: Toffee, nougat, red berries, and spice
      • Palate: intense caramel
      • Finish: Modest wood, and a butterscotch finish.
  • Why this bottle is featured: I wanted to add a US Brandy and was ranked #1 in world when first introduced.  Also President Ronald Reagan used to boast about Germain-Robin brandy to his White House drinking buddies, guys like Mikhail Gorbachev. Germain-Robin president Ansley Coale is justifiably proud to count Reagan among his company’s first boosters. “We met waiters who told us, ‘Reagan used to wave it around. He’d say, I used to be governor of this state’,” Coale says. “He forced (then-French president Francois) Mitterand to drink it.”
Gentlemen devoted to the finest.

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