BRANDY: a liquor obtained by the distillation of the fermented juice of fruits. When the word is employed without any qualifying prefix, it is nearly always understood as the liquor distilled from wine, i. e., the fermented juice of grapes. Other brandies generally carry the explanations of their source—as "Cherry Brandy," "Peach Bran dy," etc. After grapes, the most important commercial type of European brandy is that made from dried figs.
Red wines yield the largest amount of brandy, but the product of white wines is considered the finer and more delicate.
When first distilled, the liquor, known then as "white brandy," is entirely colorless and will so remain if stored in glass or earthenware. Custom first stored it in new oak casks and these gradually gave it the yellowish color which it had when first marketed. The public obtained the impression that the darker the brandy the greater its strength, and as a consequence a little caramel (burnt sugar) is nearly always added to obtain the now characteristic "brandy color." The finest brandy in the world is that known as Cognac, distilled from fine white wines grown in the vicinity of the City of Cognac, in the department of Charente, in the west of France. The word "Cognac" was for many years, until checked by legis lation, so freely used on imported brandies that it is generally taken to be the French word for brandy. The proper equivalent is though Eau de Vie, "Cognac" only applying correctly to brandy from the Cognac district.
The genuine Cognac is divided into four principal grades—"Grande Champagne" or "Fine Champagne" ( the very finest), "Petite Champagne," "Borderies" and "Bois." The name "Champagne" was given in Old France to a plain or upland, the subsoil of which is chalk with a thin layer of mould. It is only suitable for vine cultivation.
. There are many such "Champagnes" in France, but the two most famous are those around Reims (the source of Champagne wine) and around Cognac. Their soil and subsoil are similar.
The third grade, "Borderies," is so named because it is from the district "bordering on" the "Champagne." The fourth is styled "Bois," because formerly the country immediately beyond was a woodland (bois). It is divided into : Fins (fine) bois; Bons (good) bois; Bois ordinaires (ordinary) ; Bois eloignes (distant).
Cognac as marketed is generally a blending of Grande Champagne or Petite Cham pagne with Borderies or Bois, the first for flavor and aroma and the second for strength. It is interesting to note that though Cognac is so distinctively a French product, com paratively little of it is consumed in France, the bulk being exported to English speak ing countries. In the offices of the largest Cognac firms, nearly 95% of the correspon dence is conducted in the English language.
The use of the word "champagne" in connection with brandy is also sometimes attributed to the custom of adding a small quantity of the finest brandy in the last stages of champagne making—the choicest brandy being used, the entire grade attained commercial significance as "Champagne brandy." "Cognac Vierge" is distilled from wine made from the first pressing of the grapes. The term Fine Champagne is also applied to a blend produced in Languedoc and Roussillon.
Armagnac is another high class French brandy, produced in a district in South west France, formerly known as Armagnac—now chiefly within the department of Geis.
Eau de vie de Marc, or "lees brandy," is a distinct grade distilled from the fer mented liquor obtained by steeping in water the skins, etc., left over from the pressing of the grapes for wine. It is generally of minor quality, but some varieties, as the best grades from the Burgundy district, are very highly rated.
Care should be taken to avoid adulterated and imitation brandies. Their use is unnecessary as there is a plentiful supply of the genuine, both domestic and imported.
Of the domestic product, that from California is generally rated as the best. The average annual output is in the neighborhood of five million gallons. Of this, about one-third, principally of that made from Muscat grapes, is placed on the market as Brandy, the remainder being used to fortify sweet wines, such as Port and Madeira.
Genuine new brandy is frequently given the appearance and flavor of "age" by the addition of a little old rum, old kirsch, etc.
Brandy is used medicinally as a stimulant and for various other purposes. It is distinguished from the majority of other ardent spirits by its light stomachic properties.