Brandy is one of the most popular liquors in the world. Its unique flavor and aromas have won the hearts of many, making it a staple for different types of menus. There are even many brandy cocktails that bars and restaurants serve!
What’s even better about brandy and the many fruit brandy kinds you can serve is the delicious food and brandy pairings you can create. In addition, there are health benefits of brandy that people need to know about.
Serving brandy at your bar, restaurant, hotel, or country club, makes good business sense. There’s just one question that we have not answered yet in an article regarding this type of alcohol and that is “How is brandy made?”
If you are interested in learning facts about the production of brandy, the following paragraphs will give you all the useful information you need. Let’s jump right into it!
How Is Brandy Made? The Classic Method
Brandy is a distilled spirit. It’s most commonly consumed after a meal, as a digestif. The classic version of brandy is made from grapes, but it can be made from other fruits, too. Almost every region in the world has its own version of brandy that’s made from the fruits they grow the most in the area.
The term brandy comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn” which means “burned wine.” This refers to the heat that’s being used to create the brandy.
How is brandy made then, you may ask. It’s produced in three steps, which include fermentation, distillation, and then aging. The fermentation process creates the base wine, which is distilled to create alcohol with a higher alcohol by volume (see also: ABV and ABV calculator). Once the distillation process is completed, the brandy is transferred to wooden casks for several years so it can age before being bottled.
Key Takeaway: Brandy can be made with different fruits but the main steps of the production process remain the same. It goes through fermentation, distillation, and a long aging process in oak barrels before it reaches the tables at bars and restaurants, or people’s homes.
Details About Brandy Production
Although the answer to the question "How is brandy made?" may vary depending on the region where the brandy has been made, there are three main steps that are similar. They are:
To begin the production process, the fruit, which is most often grapes, is mashed and combined with yeast. The yeast is used to create a chemical reaction, which is converting the sugar from the fruit into ethanol. At the end of the fermentation, the producer gets a base wine that has a lower ABV than the brandy to come.
This fruit juice that is created at this step contains water, ethanol, and congeners. These are chemicals created during the fermentation process. Congeners add flavor to alcohol but the majority of them can be harmful, therefore, they are filtered out during the next step.
During distillation, the alcohol content increases in the liquid. This happens through the application of heat. The process is completed in a copper pot still or a column still. All done in a distillery, of course.
When the alcohol is heated, it creates a vapor that contains a high level of ethanol, less water, and some impurities. Then the vapor is cooled and it’s converted back into liquid. The alcohol volume at this point is about 35% to 60%.
The product that was created in the first two steps is now transferred into barrels. They are typically made of oak. In them, the liquor is left to age for several years, which is what helps get the mellow flavor. The oak barrels also give the brandy its distinct darker color.
How Is Brandy Made Using Different Fruits
The question “How is brandy made?” has a slightly different answer when we are talking about fruit brandies. There are various kinds like Applejack, Calvados, Cognac, Armagnac, and more.
All brandy varieties we mentioned go through the process of fermentation and distillation, as well as aging. Because of the different types of fruit used to create them, the flavor profiles and aromas end up being unique. Aging can take different times, too. The brandy from some fruits is clear and colorless, even after the aging process is completed.
The fruits that are most commonly used to produce brandy include:
The fruits are always crushed to make juice, which is then fermented. Once the fermentation process is completed, it’s followed by distillation and aging. The same way it’s done with grapes.
The different brandies that are made from these fruits have their own flavor profiles that complement well different dishes. They can also be used in a range of unique cocktails.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Production of Brandy
If the whole topic of “How is brandy made” is interesting to you, you may have some more questions. That’s why we decided to gather some of the most frequently asked ones and answer them for you.
These short bits of information will be helpful to you. What’s even better is that you can use some of the information provided here when talking to customers. People would love to learn something new while enjoying a high-quality brandy!
What Is the Significance of Oak Aging in Brandy Production?
Oak aging is crucial in brandy production because it adds complexity, flavors, and aromas to the spirit. The wood interacts with the brandy, allowing it to mellow and develop characteristics like vanilla, spice, and caramel notes.
The color of the brandy is also affected by the aging process. It becomes darker because of the oak used to create the aging barrels.
How Long Is Brandy Typically Aged?
The aging period for brandy can vary significantly depending on the type and style of brandy. Some brandies are aged for a few years, while others may be aged for several decades to achieve specific flavor profiles.
Typically the brandies that are aged for longer have a higher price tag and are the ones true brandy lovers look for.
Can Brandy Be Enjoyed Straight or Only in Cocktails?
Brandy can be enjoyed both straight, at room temperature or slightly warmed, as well as in a wide range of cocktails. It's a versatile spirit that can be sipped neat or used in classic cocktails like the Brandy Alexander or Sidecar.
The great thing about brandy is that there are different kinds. They all have unique flavor profiles and aromas that appeal to different people. That’s why it’s possible for many people to enjoy brandy, both plain and in a cocktail form.
Is Brandy Production Regulated?
Brandy production is often subject to regulations and appellations of origin in specific regions. For example, Cognac and Armagnac must adhere to strict production standards in their respective regions in France.
There are regions where producers may not adhere to regulations. However, they usually are not able to ship their products. If you get a bottle of brandy in a bar or restaurant, the liquor will surely be compliant with all regulations. Otherwise, it can’t be sold to customers.