Liquors, such as scotch or bourbon, are made from grains and distilled. In contrast, wine is the product of
fermented grapes. Brandy liquor on the other hand is a beverage that is a fine combination of the two processes.
The name is short for brandywine, which sounds similar to burned wine, suggestive of what it is and how it is
How is Brandy Liquor Made
The specific grapes used, not surprisingly, have a great influence on the final product. Everything from the
Ugni Blanc to pomace or sherry grapes might form the base. The first are grown in the Cognac region from which that type of brandy gets its name. Pomace, on the other hand, is
produced from the pulp, seeds and stems that are left over after the juice has been extracted. The traditional
Italian form of brandy liquor, called Grappa, is made this way. Sherry is an anglicized word form of Jerez, the
region in Spain that lends its name to the product of that country. This type uses grapes grown specifically for
making that native brew.
Some brandies do not use grapes at all. The Polish Slivovitz for one uses plums instead. Nevertheless, the name
in the English-speaking world usually refers to the product made from grape juice.
Brandy Liquor Alcohol Content
However, whichever grape or grape component is used, the process is much the same, and much the same as making
whiskey. Wine is fermented, producing anywhere from 8-12% ABV (alcohol by volume). To achieve the 30-40% of brandy,
the liquid is heated in a still typically made of copper. The evaporate passes up where it ultimately condenses
into another vessel. Because alcohol boils more readily than other liquids, the result has a much higher
The end product is not merely more potent, though. Part of the process usually involves aging in casks, similar
again to the way whiskey and other spirits are made. Pomace and fruit brandies are not aged at all. The specific
type of cask and how it is prepared have a substantial impact on the final flavor.
Oak is by far the most common choice of wood from which to make the aging barrels. The so-called single-barrel
process produces a golden brown liquid whose taste has to be experienced rather than described. The oak suffuses
compounds into the wine at the surface, which gradually diffuse throughout the liquid inside. The result is a brew
that is part wine, part spirit - and all divine.
When the aging is halted at two years, the produce is an A.C. brandy. The Very Special or V.S. designation is
reserved for those aged at least three years. Only those aged five years receive the Very Special Old Pale or
V.S.O.P. label. For those who can afford the very finest, three more exist: the X.O. (Extra Old, aged at least six
years), Vintage (stamped with the date first stored) and Hors d'Age, which have seen at least 10 years in the
Fine grapes, careful distillation and superior aging techniques combine to produce the glorious nectar known the
world over as brandy liquor. But then, saying it does not prove the point quite like tasting it.