For our ninth Brandy Friday, we will do a bit of a wrap up. I've had great fun reading up on brandy and tasting seven Cognacs, an Armagnac and a California brandy. Here are a few conclusions I've drawn in this little flight of ours.
Brandy is Behind the Curve
We acknowledged when we started that brandy had some catching up to do compared to other premium spirits, and the stranglehold of the big four Cognac houses has yet to be undone by the little guys. Even for the small houses making excellent product, though, there are some innovations coming from the whiskey world that they might want to consider.
Nix the Caramel
Caramel coloring is used in nearly all fine brandy. I understand the desire to use it. One producer told me that consumers who see two bottles of the same brandy that are not the same color will be turned off. That may be true, but whiskey consumers have become educated on this point and while most Scotch is still colored, there has been an increase in naturally colored Scotch over the past five years, particularly from some of the smaller and more innovative distilleries. Straight bourbons and ryes, of course, are never colored.
Journey North of 40%
Nearly all fine brandy is bottled at 40% alcohol or just above. I've heard tell of cask strength brandies, but they are few and far between. It would be interesting to see some of the Cognac houses give us a bit higher abv to sharpen and intensify the taste.
I focused this series on Cognac, but I was intrigued by the one Armagnac I sampled, so I'm making a note to add some more Armagnacs to my list. Then, there are Spanish, Armenian and more California brandies to explore...so many brandies, so little time.
Brandy Friday has been a real kick, and it will continue as an occasional series on Fridays, though unlike our Whiskey Wednesdays, we won't do it every week. And as always, I'm open to tips, samples and any other brandy advice, so let me know if you know of an excellent brandy.