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Cognac and Other Brandy

Other types of brandy

  • Distillation in South America dates to the 16th century. Originally produced in the Ica Valley Tribe, port in Peru, this spirit is now produced in Peru and in the Elqui Valley of Chile. It is a trendy spirit now, having enjoyed its first wave of popularity during the 19th century California gold rush.


    Chilean Pisco
    In Chile, pisco is produced from clones of the Muscat grape or from PX. The grades of Pisco as it is produced in Chile are as follows:

    Seleccion - 30% ABV, unaged
    Reserva - 35% ABV, lightly aged in native wood casks (especially from rauli)
    Especial - 40%, ABV aged more
    Gran Pisco - 43%, ABV, aged the longest time


    Peruvian and Bolivian Pisco
    In Peru, pisco acholedo (half breed) is a pisco made from a blend of grapes. "Pure" pisco is produced from (single) non-aromatic grape varieties. Pisco fur is from the fur grape and pisco ciuvre is from Quebranta, Mollar, or Negra Corriente. Pisco aromatico is produced from (single) grape varieties which include Alejandro, Bianca Italia, Torrentel, Albilla. The aromatic varieties are clones of Muscat. Finally, pisco verde is from partially fermented grapes. In southern Bolivia, a relative of pisco called Singani is produced using the Moscatel grape.

    There is a large dispute between Peru and Chile as to where the "original" pisco was produced. The spirits are also distilled differently in each country. In Peru, pisco is distilled from the grapes and wine, while in Chile it is distilled only from wine. Peru distills to proof while in Chile the pisco is rectified to a higher proof and then cut with water to selling strength. In Peru, the spirit is aged in ceramic jars, while in Chile it is aged in oak.

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  • Grappa is distilled at no higher than 172?, with pomace only and no added water. It takes 15 kg to produce a bottle of grappa, and to produce those 15 kg of pomace, 100 kg of grapes are necessary. Stems are rarely included in quality grappa.

    In Italy, There are several styles of grappa: unfermented (white), partially fermented (rose) or fermented (red pomace). It can be produced with pot stills, hybrids or continuous stills. The minimum aging period is six months. The best grappa is made when the pomace is put into the still no later than four hours after being pressed.

    The pomace is placed in the still or in baskets inside the still, and the still is heated or steam is pumped through the baskets. This application of heat releases ethanol vapors from the pomace, which is then collected and condensed.

    Invecchiata, riserva, stravecchio require six months further aging in bottle or steel. Aquavite d'uva, Ue' Uve, Grappino, or Chiara is the product made with juice or wine along with pomace, and marc is the French version of grappa, while bagaceira is made in Portugal and orujo in Spain.

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  • Spanish brandy is perhaps the oldest distilled spirit in Europe, dating to approximately 900 AD in Andalucia. By the late 16th century, it was being produced in the Jerez region. It is produced largely from Airen (90%) along with Palomino. A lot of the Brady de Jerez is distilled in Tomollosa in both alquitara (pot stills) and continuous stills.

    Holandas are pot-stilled eaux-de-vie that are distilled to between 120 - 140?, allowing more congeners and character. Every Spanish brandy must at least half holandas, and may be entirely composed of this type of spirit. There are also maximum levels of congeners defined by law. Aguardientes are eaux de vie distilled out to 140? - 170?, and Destillados de vinos are distilled to 170? - 190?.


    Maturation
    Solera brandies must receive 6 months aging, and be composed of at least 50% Holandas, Solera Reserva brandies must receive 2 years minimum aging and be at least 75% Holandas, and Solera Gran Reserva must receive 3 years minimum aging, and be all Holandas.

    The solera (with a lower case "s") is a system of fractional blending composed of a number of casks of maturing eaux-de-vie. The law states that no more than one third of the volume of any cask may be removed at one time. One third of the spirit is removed from the oldest barrels (also called the Solera, with a capital "S"). This is replaced with spirit from the next-oldest barrels, which are called the first Criadera (or "nursery" in Spanish). The first Criadera is topped up with spirit from the second Criadera, which are filled from the third Criadera, which are filled with "new make". The casks in the solera are ex-Sherry casks, either those of European oak that have been used for Oloroso or PX, or those of American oak that have been used for Fino.

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  • Portugal
    Lourinhã, located in western Portugal's Estremadura region, is one of the few brandy-making areas to receive appellation status along with Cognac and Armagnac.


    Australia
    Sultana is the most common grape used for brandy production in Australia, although Ugni Blanc, Pedro Ximénez, Palomino, Trebbiano, Sultana and Doradillo are also used. Australian brandy is never less than 2 yrs old (which is referred to as "matured brandy"). "Old brandy" is 5 years old, and "Very Old" brandy is 10 years old.


    South Africa
    South Africa has long been known for its brandy, distilled from a diverse number of grapes, including Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Sultana, and others. There are two classifications - "vintage brandy", which is a blend of pot stilled and aged three years and column stilled brandy aged eight years. "Pot still brandy" is actually 90% pot stilled, with some water and flavoring added.


    United States
    The United States produce a lot of high volume brandy brands of fairly limited interest in this country, along with a small number of high quality, craft-distilled products from producers such as Germain-Robin, Clear Creek and St. George Spirits. These craft distillers have elevated the level of brandy production here, even among the largest producers.

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