Posted in Kafevend Blog
After delving around in the history of rum last week, today we are going to examine brandy, and look at some of the processes that go into making these potent spirits. Brandy is a distilled beverage. For some, distillation might sound like magic, but it's really quite simple. Cast your mind back to school- you may well have at some point performed a typically dull science experiment where you heated a small amount of salt water. The water evaporates leaving the unwanted salt behind in the container, and you catch the now clean, drinkable water on a glass screen to recondense it. This is basically what distillation is, except there's more money to be made doing it with fermented fruits and grains.
The name brandy comes from the Dutch brandewijn, meaning "burned wine", in reference to the process of distillation. Whoever first came up with the idea of burning wine isn't known, but one explanation is that a merchant used it as a method for avoiding taxes. Before sale, they would simply add water back in- of course, this newfangled distilled wine tasted rather different to the usual stuff and garnered a following of its own.
Brandy can be made from a variety of fruits alongside the more traditional grapes. Some also differ in whether they use the juice or the left over mushy bits, more technically known as pomace. In the case of using the juice, it is left to ferment in order to create wine. These days the wine produced is known as base wine and is a much less palatable version than the sorts you might buy at a restaurant, but it works well for making brandy. This wine is distilled, and the resulting liquid is distilled again in order to produce brandy that can reach around 90% alcohol content! Most brandies then follow another step, where they are placed into oak barrels in order to mature- particularly fine brandies can age for over twenty years. After this, they are mixed with distilled water, so we don't keel over, and are finally bottled.
A particularly fine brandy that you've probably heard of but might not have realised was brandy is cognac. Like champagne, cognac comes from the region in France surrounding the town of the same name. Its creation is tightly regulated by the prestigious Appellation d'origine contrôlée ( or AOC) certification it bears, which ensures that only the brandy made following rigorous production methods from that region have the right to bear the name. In this way, the AOC protects a variety of famous brands from imitation and covers a wide range of agricultural produce- such as cacao beans from the Venezualan village of Chuao, for example.
If you happen to enjoy a tipple of brandy when Christmas comes around, we hope this look at what goes into making your spirit of choice has been interesting!