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Brandy cheat sheet

Brandy. Just uttering that word with a breathy weltschmerz makes you want to don a bathrobe, grow a pencil mustache and write poetry by a roaring hearth. It is the epitome of classy. It is the George Clooney of spirits, a mellifluous baritone whispering sleepy sweet nothings in your ear.

To understand brandy, it’s best to start at the beginning. And that beginning is fruit, most often grapes, which are fermented and then distilled into liquor. This process sometimes leads people to confuse brandy with wine — in fact, brandy is distilled wine, though there are several brandy wines on the market. Furthermore, fruits like apples, peaches, apricots and others can be used to create this versatile beverage, leading to a buffet of different flavors and textures.

In addition to brandies branded here in the United States, brandy also comes from other parts of the world carrying distinguished names like Cognac, pisco, Armagnac and others.

How is brandy made?

Brandy’s production process varies significantly between distillers, but four essential steps are common to all:
    1.    Ferment the fruit into wine
    2.    Distill the wine into liquor
    3.    Age the liquor
    4.    Blend the liquor with water and other barrels to achieve the desired strength (around 80 proof)

The result is a subtly sweet, fruity beverage rich with mellow oak and an alcoholic punch. Because the first and second steps involve dealing with wine, the sky is the limit. Some makers will even start their brandy with fine wines like cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay or pinot noir.

What types of brandy are there?

Well, there are plenty. Here are some of the most prominent brandies out there:

Cognac

Oui oui, you have certainly heard of cognac. Named after and produced exclusively in the cognac region in France, this high-end and expensive drink has not changed formulation since 1938. Its grape formulation is incredibly specific and produces high acidity (and delicious flavor). Cognac takes some flavor cues from champagne; some people even like to spice things up by adding cognac or tequila to their champagne.
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Armagnac

Yet another French pillar of distilled perfection, armagnac is also produced in its titular region. Defining traits of this strong-flavored drink are its woodiness, as certain types of oak must be used for aging. It may spend between one and 30 years maturing.
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Sherry

For a sweeter variety of brandy loved for its after-dinner vibes, try sherry. So full and rich you can almost hear the flamenco bulerías in the background, sherry is made from Palomino grapes grown in and around Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. This fortified wine forms a layer of yeast on top during fermentation that protects it from spoilage.
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Pisco

Repping the South American continent is pisco, a delicious brandy commonly distilled in Chile and Peru. With four different sub-styles within the pisco genre, there’s a lot to dive into here. Pisco tends to have a higher alcohol content than other brandies and ranges from 60 to 100 proof.
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Fruit brandy

As noted earlier, brandy can come from any fruit as long as the fruit was first turned into wine and then distilled once more. fruit brandy can include apple brandy, peach brandy and others — many of these are distilled in the United States.
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Note that fruit brandies can also include “flavored brandies,” which could technically fall into the liqueur category depending on the added sugar content.

Keep a brandy handy with Drizly

There are more types of brandy out there, but this is a blog, not a dissertation. But we encourage you to do some research yourself — and what better way to start than by having the finest brandies on earth delivered straight to your door in under an hour? Peruse our offerings and enjoy diving into the world of brandy.