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When it comes to talk of Brandy, Cognac usually gets top billing. And don’t get us wrong — it’s damn good stuff. But it’s far from the only game in town.
In fact, if you point your coordinates to Gascony, you’ll be rewarded with Cognac’s older, less-demanding cousin Armagnac, which predates Cognac by a good 200 years. It also isn’t as much of a stickler for the grapes, stills and barrels it uses in the production process, which gives it some kicky variation that’ll keep your palate guessing.
The Spanish also have some skin in the game, using American oak barrels and the solera aging method to produce their sweet and smooth Brandy de Jerez. And not to be outdone, our Armenian friends — who’ve been producing Brandy since the 12th century — double-distill their juice in oak casks and was once the favored tipple of Russian czars.
In this box, we’ve lined up a powerhouse tasting of all three: the well-rounded and fruit-forward Domaine Tariquet Bas-Armagnac XO, the smooth and seductive Cardenal Mendoza Carta Real from Spain and the thrilling spice of Shakmat 23 YO, an Armenian Brandy.
Instead of turning to Cognac, take a cue from Beckham and bend it… toward a bottle of Brandy. Cheers!
1) In general, Brandy means any kind of distilled spirit made from fermented fruit juice. While the fruit is typically grapes, there are a number of Brandies made from apples, pears and other sweet fruits.
2) The Spaniards are second only to the people of the Cognac region in the quantity of Brandy they make, and they drink far more of their own Brandy than the French in Cognac do.
3) With the exception of a few producers, Armagnac is distilled in an alembic continuous still (Cognac uses copper stills). And that matters — because of its distillation method, Armagnac is typically aged longer than Cognac, usually upwards of 10 years.
4) You can have your booze and eat it, too. Yep, Brandy is often used as a cooking wine, and can be added to savory or sweet sauces, as well as desserts, for a rich, fruity punch.
5) Nikolay Shustov, an Armenian Brandy producer who supplied the spirit to Russian Tsar Nicholas II’s court, was briefly given the permission to label his Brandy as Cognac. His company eventually became the Yerevan Brandy Company, the largest Brandy producer in Armenia.
6) It’s said that Augustine monks hung Brandy barrels around the necks of St. Bernard rescue dogs to revive frostbitten travelers in the Swiss Alps. Talk about a ‘ruff’ job.
7) “The most sensible thing to do to people you hate is to drink their Brandy.” – Elizabeth Taylor