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Brandy

jcusey

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Knowing full well that starting this thread might cost me some money (the Scotch thread was indirectly responsible for me dropping $80 for a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black and a bottle of Genmorangie Madeira Wood Finish), what are your favorite brandies? Primarily, I'm interested in Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados, but there are certainly other good ones out there.

Cognac: I've purchased and enjoyed Pierre Ferrand Ambre before. I'm interested in trying some single-distillery versions instead of the commonly-available blends, but I really have no idea what some of the producers to look for are.

Armagnac: I've tried and enjoyed Grassa et Fils (a Robert Kacher import, for you wine buffs), and I've also tried and enjoyed somewhat less Cerbois VSOP. I don't know much about what else is out there.

Calvados: Apple brandy from Normandy, for those of you who don't know. I really enjoy Daron Fine, but there must be some other good stuff out there.
 

Thracozaag

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I'm a Calvados freak (thanks to Remarque), the two best I've ever had: Cor de Lion (1976), and Michel Huard (1986).

koji
 

VMan

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I just bought a bottle of Courvosier VSOP based on a friend's recommendation - he said that if I liked Scotch, I'd like Cognac. I can't stand the stuff. Scotch has a mild, pleasant flavor to me, but the Courvosier is just harsh. Hopefully it will grow on be.
 

jcusey

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he said that if I liked Scotch, I'd like Cognac.
You know, I can appreciate both spirits, but Cognac is nothing at all like Scotch to me.
 

PeterMetro

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I drink both cognac and scotch. I'm not sure what your friend meant; really the only thing that comes to mind that they have in common is that they can both be very expensive. And they're somewhat borwn in hue. And they'll both get ya drunk.

Like scotch, you can spend thousands of dollars on cognac. I'm going to keep my recommendations to the reasonable. I'm also going to stick to the four biggest makers of cognac: Remy Martin, Courvosier, Hennesy and Martell.

The grades of cognac go: No Grade, VS, VSOP, XO and above. If you're anything like me, you can afford to drink anything up to XO. Again, if you're anything like me, you won't drink below a VSOP. With that said:

VSOP - My favorite here is Hennesy, I think it's the smoothest out of all of them. The Courvosier is a bit sweet, the Remy a bit sharp. I don't like the Martell much at all.

XO - It's tough to go wrong with an XO. They'll all be good (and $75+ a bottle). I'd choose the Remy here, it's just sublime. I'd then rank them Courvosier, Martell and Hennesy.

Really, the thing to do is to try them at bars and remember what you like. Also, buy yourself a brandy snifter - you can find crystal ones pretty cheap. It makes a difference.
 

GQ Lawyer

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I enjoy a glass of cognac and armagnac every now and then (try heating the cognac in the microwave and then taking a giant sniff before snipping - wakes you up&#33
As far as cognac goes, I prefer Remy Martin to Courvosier (VSOP at the bare minimum). Lately, I have been drinking Cles de Luc armagnac. Nice smooth taste.
 

VMan

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Peter,

Thanks for the info. I don't think I can afford anything above a VSOP right now - even the bottle I bought was meant just for 'special occasions'. I will buy a snifter - how much difference does it really make, and why? I assume it has to do with exposing more of the drink to the air?

GQ L,

I'll try that microwave trick - sounds interesting.
 

PeterMetro

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I will buy a snifter - how much difference does it really make, and why?
I've found it makes a significant difference. As for why, I'm not really sure.

I think it has less to do with exposure to air, and more to do with keeping the aroma in the glass and ultimately near your nose. The bigger the glass, the more instense the aroma. Also, the shape is such that you are supposed to hold the bulb with the palm of your hand, thereby warming the brandy a bit. Surely not as effective as a microwave though.
 

faustian bargain

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i'm pretty sure it does have to do with the exposure to air. you pour enough brandy in the snifter to reach the widest diameter, or maybe a little less, and this gives you the largest surface area. the snifter's tapering-in toward the rim then concentrates the aroma to best effect.

indeed holding the glass in your palm warms the brandy, as intended. also, swirling the drink in the glass helps expose more liquid surface to the air, further enhancing the aroma concentration. (similar to the process of tasting red wines.) after all, the aroma is just evaporated liquor. anything that spurs on evaporation is going to help.

you find similar logic in most drinking glasses.

/andrew
 

TomW

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A topic near and dear to me -

A bit on grades:

No grade: not regulated, no legal restriction on usage. Often colorants are added to acheive the characteristic shade.

V.S. (Very Special): 2-4 years barrel aged, pale amber in color and still fresh on the palate.

V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale): 4-10 years barrel aged, more color and smoother with a reduction of tannins when compared to V.S.

Napoleon: 10 + years barrel aged (as many as 100 years in some cases), smoother and darker than V.S.O.P. Hints of Vanilla and very few remaining tannins.

X.O. (Extra Old): minimum 12 years barrel aging and often a blend of 12 to 100 year vintages for maximum smoothness, more pronounced Vanillia and spice, very little of the original fruit flavors remain. An exceptional beverage

Extra, Very Old, Century, etc: More aged than X.O. - exceptional vintage years, the ne plus ultra of a particular house. Often found in serial numbered custom decanters (though some producers use these for bottles of special Napoleons and above)

The designation Cognac can only be legally applied to those spirits distilled from grapes originating in the Champagne region of France. Brandy is the correct term for anything produced elsewhere - though other regions may use a style/region/brandname for these.

My favoites are Remy Martin V.S.O.P. or Courvosier V.S.O.P for most occassions. I have a bottle of Louis XIII de Remy Martin/Age Inconnu which was purchased by my grandfather on the occassion of my birth and presented to me on my 30th birthday, which is reserved for the most special of occassions.
 

jcusey

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I'm not a big fan of snifters. They focus the alcohol right at the opening of the glass, and that just leads to an unpleasant experience. I much prefer either a tulip glass like this one from Riedel:
or a rocks glass or even a Scotch glass:
 

faustian bargain

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i guess drinking a brandy is meant to be a 'heady' experience, hence the alcohol concentration. i dunno. i don't drink much brandy. more of a port/madeira man myself, when it comes to the fortified drinks. (am i correct - are those all fortified?)

i drink my scotch (and other whisk(e)ys) from a glass like that. not a riedel, just a similar shape. it's a nice size and feels good to hold. more refined than a shot glass, for sure.

also i bought some cheap tulip-style wine glasses from IKEA, just for a change of pace from the regular wine glasses we had, which had gotten fogged.

/andrew - getting thirsty.
 

mbc

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i guess drinking a brandy is meant to be a 'heady' experience, hence the alcohol concentration. i dunno. i don't drink much brandy. more of a port/madeira man myself, when it comes to the fortified drinks. (am i correct - are those all fortified?)
not entirely.. while port and madeira are fortified wines, brandy is the product of distilled wine or other fermented fruit juices.
 

faustian bargain

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thanks for the clarification.
 

Huntsman

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I'm not a big fan of snifters. They focus the alcohol right at the opening of the glass, and that just leads to an unpleasant experience. I much prefer either a tulip glass like this one from Riedel:
Beautiful glasses. The Riedel Sommeliers brandy glasses (there is a VSOP and an XO) are exquisite too...

Agree generally on snifters. Smallish ones are ok, but those huge ones are better for goldfish (kidding) than spirits.

Regards,
Huntsman
 

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