Thursday, January 8, 2015

Beginner's Flight: Brandy

This is going to be a series of posts about how to start sampling different types of spirits if you are a beginner drinker. With so many options out there I thought it would be nice to give newbies a jumping-off point into their world of spirits. I'm trying to find bottles that are available at nearly every liquor store or can be acquired fairly easily. Today, I'm talking about brandy. 

You're probably familiar with the idea of brandy, maybe even tasted a bit in your eggnog at Christmas. You know the notion of an old man enjoying a snifter of brown liquid in his robe by the fire. It looks good, doesn't it? What's he got that you can't have? Nothing. Well, maybe where you live you can't have a real fireplace. But the relaxing with a brandy idea, that's a good feeling. But how do you know what you'll like? Start trying things.

1. E&J Brandy XO. 
This is a pretty staple domestic brandy. E&J is one of the bigger brandies available in the United States. They have a decent line featuring a basic brandy, as well as a VSOP and the XO. All of which are very reasonably priced. See if you like the smoothness and sweetness of this product. You'll find a lot of variability in the fruit flavors of brandy, as well as the alcohol burn. 

2. Martell Cordon Bleu. 
Martell is actually the oldest brand of cognac on the market today. Cognac naturally being french made, Martell was the first of the major cognac houses, the others being: Hennessy, Remy Martin, and Courvoisier. In fairness, there are also Camus, Hine, and Frapin, but they haven't reached global popularity yet. Martell Cordon Bleu has been around for over a century now. It is a fantastic brandy for sipping neat. Try adding a splash of water like you would with whiskey to open up the aroma and oils.

3. Laird's Applejack. 
This is actually an apple brandy from the oldest licensed distillery in America. Some people do think of this as more of an apple whiskey, but semantically this is closer to a brandy, in that is uses fruit, not grain. There are more premium lines of this product if you are interested in tracking them down, including their bottled-in-bond and their white "Jersey Lightning" This is a staple ingredient in a number of cocktails including the Jack Rose. Some bars will use calvados instead of Applejack however

4. Alexander Grappa di Cabernet.

Grappas are traditionally Italian made. They are very similar to a number of other grape-based brandies from around the globe. As with many brandy style liquors, grappa is usually made with the remnants of the grapes after they're used for winemaking, or pomace. Brandy itself is commonly fermented from just the grape juice, rather than the entire grape. Many grappas, including this one, choose to name themselves in a similar fashion to the wine made. When you smell this you can really understand the grape flavors in the spirit

Special mentions to: calvados,

"Claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy."
-Samuel Johnson

Photo Credit: Needpix, pikist

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