Is is possible to get a quality XO brandy for $20? If this bottle is any indication, the answer is no. (For just one comparison, Courvoisier XO costs $170. Most XOs cost at least $100, and go up from there.)
First off, this is Dunill brandy, no doubt named to confuse buyers with the Alfred Dunhill luxury goods company of London. The bottle, with its extravagant design to mimic crystal (it isn’t, of course), and its gold braid around the neck is further intended to convey quality. But, the faux “aged bronze” seal in the center of the bottle even popped off two days after I got it home.
Sadly, the quality just isn’t there. This is what the producer claims: Produced in the South of France, out of the best grapes, and handcrafted in small batches. Distilled in the pure tradition of the region. The cellar master has extracted the most subtle aromas of the brandy through a very slow distillation and aging for 10 years in French oak barrels, to give the taste of an exceptional brandy. Deep amber color.
Since this comes from the south of France, it is indeed brandy and not cognac, which can only come from the Cognac region. I can’t imagine this was 10 years in barrel. Who could do that and afford to sell the product for $20? And, it’s not deep amber color. It is quite pale, the lightest I’ve seen in any brandy, further belying the idea that it’s 10 years old, since unless caramel color is added, that brown hue comes from time in barrel.
If all of this weren’t bad enough, the nose opens with strong whiffs of acetone, a clear flaw of distillation. There is more acetone on the palate, which is also hot and one-dimensional. Dunill has no Web presence, so any further details about this product are nonexistent.
Ignore the XO designation, which like VS and VSOP, although often used for brandies, have no legal meaning when applied to products other than true cognacs. The only brandy I’ve had that is similarly disappointing is North Wisconsin.
I can only (barely) recommend this brandy for use in cocktails. If you are stuck with a bottle of this stuff, here’s a classic and simple recipe that may help you use it up:
1 oz. White Creme de Menthe
2 oz. Brandy
Shake well and strain into a martini glass
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