A Good Cheap Brandy

For best results, blend your own.

Obviously, I enjoy wine, but I’m a fan of liquor too, especially brandy.  Brandy is distilled from wine and aged in wood to give it its characteristic flavor and color.  The word brandy comes from the Dutch brandewijin, meaning  “burned (distilled) wine.”  It is usually made from grape wine, but can be distilled from other fruit wines, most often apple, in which case it is called apple brandy or applejack generically and Calvados in France.  Cognac is brandy that specifically comes from the town of Cognac and the delimited surrounding areas in western France.  So, all cognacs are brandy, but not all brandies are cognac.  For more detail on cognac, click here.

My favorite brandy of all time is Kelt Tour du Monde.   Just a few years ago, it was selling for $40 a bottle; now it’s $60.   Brands like Martell, Hennessy, Courvoisier, and Hardy have suffered similar inflation.  Capitalism at its finest.  Regardless, all of them are too expensive for me to drink on a regular basis.  For that, I turn to bottles under $20.  American producers include Paul Masson, Christian Brothers, Korbel, and E&J Gallo.  And there are readily-available European offerings such as St. Remy from France, Hartley from Italy, Pedro Domecq from Mexico, and Veterano from Spain.

I gravitated to the St. Remy, which is made by the powerhouse French operation Remy Martin, whose other offerings start at $50 and go up to $4000 per bottle.  The St. Remy VSOP is just $12, however.  (There is a St. Remy XO, but at $24 it is a poor value compared to the basic bottle.)  Although quite drinkable, the St. Remy is a bit hot and not as smooth as what I prefer.  The Americans mentioned above offer some of that smoothness, but too much sweetness.

So it occurred to me: why not blend for the best of both?  After mixing a bottle of the St. Remy with each of the Americans, I settled on Christian Brothers, at $14 a bottle.  Does this make for a remarkable brandy like Tour du Monde?  Of course not.  But, for just $13 I have a custom blend that I can enjoy whenever I feel like it.

Listen to my podcast about brandy, Cognac, and Armagnac here.

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