5+ Best Types of Brandy

12 July 2022

Learn all about the most popular types of brandy and why they’re special. This is all you need to know about brandy worldwide. What’s your favorite brandy?

Types of BrandyPhoto By Canva

Brandy is a popular brown spirit worldwide and is more varied than you think. There are many types of brandy, and they’re all unique.

Let’s talk about brandy, the most common types of brandy and their history. Brandy is a unique spirit that’s worth knowing because the spirit is not only trendy but delicious!

What Is Brandy?

Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fermented fruit, whether grapes, apples or others. Of course, things are a bit more complicated than that. Brandy is a complex drink that gives endless hours of enjoyment. Let’s talk about brandy and the different types of brandy you’ll find on the market.

To make brandy, you need a fermented beverage, like wine made with grapes or cider made with apples. By distilling the fermented beverage in a pot or column still, you separate the alcohol from the rest of the constituents, resulting in a potent spirit. Producers can age the distilled spirit in barrels or bottle it as is; that’s brandy right there.

What Is The Difference Between Brandy and Cognac?

The most frequently asked question about brandy has to do with one of the most popular types of brandy, Cognac.

All Cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac. Cognac must come from the French appellation allowed to produce the spirit with locally grown grapes and well-established procedures. Other brandies can be as good as Cognac, but if they’re made somewhere else, they’re not Cognac.

Sure, we all consider Cognac amongst the finest brandies on earth, and it’s because the region has centuries of tradition and strict quality measures. Still, many other brandies worldwide are just as enjoyable.

What Are The Different Types of Brandy?

Brandies are called differently depending on where they’re made, but the ingredients used and the production method also matters. Learning about the brandy’s origin is a great place to start, but we’ll also discuss how every brandy is made.

Let’s explore the different types of brandy, including Cognac. These spirits might look the same, but they’re entirely different — they taste and smell differently! Knowing about the popular brandy styles can open your eyes to exciting opportunities. After all, sharing a glass of brandy with someone is always deeply enjoyable.

1. Cognac

Cognac is the king of brandies. Some of the most expensive spirits in the category are made in the French region of Cognac, not far from the country’s Atlantic shores.

Here, producers make brandy with grapes from diverse and well-established regions, and yes, some grapes are considered better than others. Still, all Cognac is made with the region’s fruit, fermented and distilled in a Charentais copper alembic still, resulting in a spirit with stunning volume strength of around 70%. Producers then age their spirit on oak barrels for up to ten years, resulting in the different Cognac styles.

VS Cognac spends two years in oak, VSOP Cognac is aged for at least four years, and XO Cognac is aged for at least six years.

2. Armagnac

Armagnac is another French region specializing in brandy. The result is not Cognac but Armagnac, a rustic grape spirit distilled in copper column stills, resulting in a spirit with around 52% Alcohol by Volume (ABV). Unlike Cognac, producers don’t always blend different vintages to create a consistent house style, so Armagnac tastes different every vintage.

Armagnac also spends time in oak barrels. VS Armagnac is aged for at least one year, VSOP Armagnac ages for four years and XO (or Hors d’âge) spends ten years in cask. If you like brandy, you’ll love Armagnac, even if it’s not as popular as Cognac.

3. Grappa

Glass of GrappaPhoto By Canva

Grappa is a unique type of brandy from Italy, although versions of the style exist in every wine-producing country. To make grappa, producers don’t distill fermented grape juice but spend grape skins, pulp, seeds and stems left after pressing grapes to make wine. This is why grappa is known as pomace brandy.

The result is a rustic spirit, often with high alcohol. And, unlike Cognac or Armagnac, grappa is rarely aged, so it is a clear spirit with a fiery personality. Aged grappa exists, but un-aged styles are prevalent. Expect alcohol levels between 30% and 60%.

4. Pisco

Pisco is a South American brandy claimed by both Peru and Chile. Spanish conquerors took grape vines to the region in the 18th century and established a wine and brandy industry. The region’s wine is good, but their brandy is spectacular.

There are several types of pisco, and the terms and methods differ between Chile and Peru. Some pisco spends time in oak barrels, while others are bottled without aging. The grapes used to make Pisco, often aromatic varietals from the Muscat family, give the spirit a distinct floral scent, but Pisco is no soft drink; it can have over 40% ABV.

5. Brandy de Jerez

Spain has long-lasting brandy traditions, mainly in the most traditional winemaking regions. The most popular Spanish brandy comes from Jerez, and it’s made by distilling wine made with Palomino and a few other local grapes.

The aging process makes Brandy de Jerez unique. Producers use the local “solera” system to blend new vintages with old ones, resulting in overly complex spirits with great flavor intensity. Also, unlike Cognac, Brandy de Jerez is aged in American oak barrels instead of French oak casks — American oak is much more expressive and gives a bolder personality to the spirit.

6. Calvados

Glass of CalvadosPhoto By Canva

Calvados is a traditional brandy made by distilling cider. Apples are the main ingredient in the aromatic spirit but to label brandy as Calvados, it must come from a specific region in northern France, specifically Normandy.

The Calvados appellation has its own set of rules and styles. Some brandies in the area are distilled once, and others are twice in an alembic pot still. Some Calvados, like Calvados Domfrontais, is made with pears, not apples. Regional styles abound.

All Calvados spends time in French oak barrels, and although it is relatively affordable, the finest examples are up there with the most exclusive Cognacs.

What Is Your Favorite Type of Brandy?

There are many other brandies out there, from those made with plums to those based on fermented cherries. If the spirit is based on fruit, it’s a proper brandy. There are also dozens of regional brandy styles, and companies produce the spirit worldwide! The question is, what is your favorite brandy? You’ll have to taste quite a few to find the right one for you!

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