Cognac and Other Brandy


  • Calvados, from the Normandy region in northern France, dates the 16th century, if not earlier. There are four designations: the basic eau-de-vie de (Normandie/Bretagne/Maine), Calvados AC, which is column stilled, AC Calvados du Pays d'Auge, which is pot stilled, and aged for a minimum of two years, and AC Domfrontais, which is column stilled and can be up to 30% pear cider or perry.

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  • The apples used for Calvados are inedible cider apples – there are 46 different varieties with different characteristics. Some are sweet (douce coet, clos renaud), some are bittersweet (bionet rouge, bisquet cartigny, douce moen), some are bitter (fraquin rouge, bisquet, metais), and some are acid (avrolles, locart vert, petit jaune). These apples are fermented into a cider that begins at 6 – 8% ABV, which is then distilled according to the particular region.

    The spirit is aged in cask. It is common to age it first in new casks and then rack it into second fill casks for a long maturation. Branded Calvados is commonly a blend, and the age claim refers to the youngest spirit in the blend.

    There are a number of designations that are used:
    Fine/3 star/originel: 2yr (3 for Domfrontais)
    Vieux/réserve: 3yr
    Vielle réserve/VO/VSOP: 4yr
    Hors d'age/Extra/XO: 6yr

    Applejack has been distilled in the U.S. since the 17th century.

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  • Eau-de-vie is a term applied to clear fruit-based spirits. Kirsch, Calvados and applejack and most other types are made by producing a wine from the fermentation of the fruit juice and then distilling it twice in a pot still. The presence of fruit stones or pits can add an element of \bitterness. The spirit produced can be aged (and referred to as a brandy), but normally in glass, not in wood.

    Other interesting or important types include Barack Palink (a wood-aged apricot brandy from Hungary), Kirsch (cherry brandy from Germany, Alsace and Central Europe), Pear William (pear brandy from France and Central Europe), Prunelle (an eau-de-vie or aged brandy made from sloe plums produced in France or Eastern Europe), Quetsch (a plum based eau de vie or brandy from France or Eastern Europe), and Slivovitz (another type of plum based brandy produced in Southeastern and Eastern Europe).

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