The biddies turn to the liquor made from wine (some of the time): brandy. Tune in to learn about the difference between a cognac and an armagnac and some other liquors you may not have even known fall into the brandy category.

In this episode:

  • Types of brandy
  • History of brandy
  • How brandy is made
  • Cognac and Armagnac, the two big French brandy styles
  • Calvados
  • Grappa
  • Pisco


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Please note some of these notes may be directly copied and pasted from above sources.

Study notes for Brandy:


  • Alcoholic beverage distilled from wine or fruit
  • The name brandy is shortened form of brandywine, which comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, “brandewijn” (“burnt wine“)
  • Brandy generally contains 35-60% alcohol by volume (70-120 US proof) and is typically taken as an after dinner drink.
  • Can be made from grapes, apples, cherries, plums, apricots, berries, etc


  • Brandy is made from so-called base wine, which significantly differs from regular table wines. 
  • It is made from early grapes in order to achieve higher acid concentration and lower sugar levels. 
  • It generally contains smaller amount (up to 20 mg/l) of sulfur than regular wines, as it creates undesired copper (II) sulfate> in reaction with copper in the pot stills. 
  • The yeast sediment produced during the fermentation may or may not be kept in the wine, depending on the brandy style
  • Distilled in 2 phases
  • Heads, heart and tails
  • Usually done in pot stills, some use column still
  • Aged in wood, Spanish brandies tend to use Solera system where brandy changes the barrel each year
    • Pomace and fruit brandies are generally unaged and remain clear


  • Brandy has been distilled in France since 1313 – originally only as medicine
  • Originally termed “l’eau de vie” – water of life
  • The origins of Brandy can be traced back to the expanding Moslem Mediterranean states in the 7th and 8th centuries. Arab alchemists experimented with distilling grapes and other fruits in order to make medicinal spirits.
  • Brandy distilled for a commercial sense happened in the 16th century based upon the trade in wine between France and Holland
    • Casks of wine take up a lot of space on the boat so it was eventually discovered the wine would be concentrated by eliminating the water content and transporting the “spirit” or the “soul” of the wine to Holland
    • Upon arrival, water would be added thereby reconstituting the wine
    • Concentrating the wine also reduced the tax burden on shipments since it was based on volume.


  • Grape Brandy
    • Cognac
      • Cognac region of France and is double distilled using pot stills. 
      • Popular brands include Hine, Martell, Camus, Otard, Rémy Martin, Hennessy, Frapin Delamain and Courvoisier. 
      • Cognac can only be distilled from white wine: Ugni Blanc grape only
      • There are 6 Cognac AOCs from most prestigious to least renowned: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fin Bois, Bon Bois, Bois Ordinaires
      • Grande Champagne: make tay 20-30 year sto mature
    • Armagnac
      • made from grapes of the Armagnac region in the southwest of France, Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. 
      • It is single-continuous distilled in a copper still and aged in oak casks from Gascony or Limousin. 
      • Armagnac was the first distilled spirit in France
      • Can be made with 10 different grapes but the four most important are Ugni Blanc, Baco Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard
      • Considered more rustic than Cognac
      • 3 AOCs – Bas Armagnac, Tenareze, Haut Armagnac
  • Pomace Brandy
    • Brandy made from the pressed grape pulp, skins, and stems that remain after the grapes are crushed and pressed to extract most of the juice for wine. 
    • Pomace Brandies, which are usually minimally aged and seldom see wood, are an “acquired taste”
    • Grappa is an example 
  • Fruit Brandy
    • Calvados, the Apple Brandy from the Normandy region of Northwestern France, is one of the best known type of Fruit Brandy
      • Calvados is distilled from cider or Perry
      • Producers use more than 200 apple varieties
      • 3 Calvados producing regions in France
    • Applejack – American apple brandy
      • Historically made by a traditional method called freeze distillation (congelation) which involved leaving apple cider outside to freeze and chipping off chunks of ice in order to concentrate the alcohol content aka “jacking”
      • Laird’s, still in production, was the first distillery permit in the US 
  • Other specific types based on location:
    • Brandy de Jerez
      • originates from vineyards around Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. 
      • It is used in some sherries and is also available as a separate product 
      • It has a protected designation of origin (PDO). 
      • 95% Airen, 5% Palomino
    • Kanyak
      • is a variety from Turkey whose name is a variation of “cognac” and also means “burn blood” in Turkish
      • a reference to its use in cold weather
    • Pisco
      • Produced in South America since at least as early as the 1700s
      • Thought to have originated with Spanish settlers who brought technology and wine traditions to the New World
      • Only Chile & Peru are permitted to use the term pisco
      • Chilean pisco and Peruvian piscos are made using different grapes 
    • Grappa
      • Name could originate from town of Bassano del Grappa or that grappa translates to grape stalk 
      • By product of Italian winemaking since the Middle Ages 
      • Italian distillers used to travel from vineyard to vineyard distilling the fresh pomade or vinaccia on the spot and providing the vineyard workers with a raw, potent spirit to ward off the cold
      • That tradition is no longer allowed because the stems often produce a small amount of toxic methanol
    • Marc: another French Brandy
    • Orujo: pomace brandy made throughout Spain
    • Kirshwasser – german for “cherry water”