Questions about Brandy.

What is the difference between Brandy and Cognac?

What is Napoleon brandy?

What does VSOP mean?

All those questions and many others answered here

I can’t help you, my lady is the sea.

In brief,

Cognac is an AOC for brandy made around Cognac. It has to meet specific AOC standards for location, creation, etc. As for your other question, brandy is aged in wood barrels, and traditionally has designations based on how long it’s been aged. VSOP means that it’s been aged for at least four years, Napoleon, or XO, means it’s been aged at least six.

Side note: Don’t pay the freight they want for cognac these days. Drink armagnac instead. Much cheaper and just as good if not better.

But she is a fine girl! :o

Girl? She’s thirty-nine year old.

Time to once again plug the fact that the reigning best brandy in the world is South African.

All South African brandy - even the cheap brand students drink mixed with coke - is made, by law, exactly the same as the best cognac - copper still, aged in oak. But ridiculously cheap in comparison.

I meant Brandee, with two e’s. :o

I had never heard about South African brandy before, but since you say it’s good, the next bottle of liquor I buy will be exactly that (meaning, whatever reasonably priced one I can find). Thanks!

And Armagnac is? and why is it better?

It is the exact same drink, just made in a different region of France.

The wiki’s go into detail, but this web article is brief, and lays out the differences concisely.

Both are brandies and both come from specific regions: Cognac from Cognac, which is just a bit north of the mouth of the Gironde River that runs through Bordeaux. Armagnac is quite a bit south, in Gascony.

Cognac: made from Ugni Blanc and double distilled in pot stills. Armagnac: continuous distilled in a column still, made largely from Ugni Blanc, but other white grapes are used too, like Baco, Columbard and Folle Blanche. AIUI, you don’t get ‘quality’ varieties (Pinot Noir, Muscat, Riesling) for Armagnac, like you’ll sometimes see for Grappa or American Cognac/Armagnac-inspired brandies like Germain-Robin’s. You’ll often see vintage-dated Armagnac, but you won’t for Cognac.

IME, I find Armagnac to be a touch rougher, but have more character than Cognac, all else remaining equal. Smooth sipper by the fire? Cognac. Funky beverage to sniff, as opposed to the Islays you usually like? Armagnac. For beverages of the same age, Cognac, IIRC is going to be more expensive.

Try both.

Ah. I see I’ve been under a misapprehension. I thought Cognac and brandy were different drinks. It’s more like Scotch and whisky?

Yep. Brandy is what you get when you distill the fermentation product of fruit. And usually, by fruit, we mean wine grapes. Though I’m OK with the term ‘fruit brandies’ for things like various eau de vie: Calvados, slivovitz, etc… Cognac/Armagnac are just a grape brandy made from a specific location, using a specific method.

I’m looking forward to trying one of the South African brandies mentioned by MrDibble. They’ve been making wine there forever; they should have good brandy. And I see from the link in the bottom of Dibble’s cite that KWV uses Chenin Blanc in addition to Columbard. I wonder if that has anything to do with the accolades? Though many 20 year-aged brandies are going to be awesome, provided the distillation, blending, and aging are competent.

I’ve read that Armagnac is a bit drier than Cognac. Is this true?

Some of them, yes. Gray Ghost dealt with most of the differences. To me, unless you are talking $400 a bottle hooch, armagnac is much more bang/taste for the euro than cognac is.

I, too, will seek out some South African brandy. Sounds interesting.

Shush! I’ve been buying Armagnac for the last couple of years, having gotten tired of the craziness in the bourbon/rye market. I already figure the first shot was fired when Germain-Robin was sold and moved. The waiting list for the new L’Encantada releases only adds to the concern.

For another American perspective on brandy, look at Copper & Kings. Like High West on the bourbon and rye side, they’re trying to do something unique and off the beaten path in the brandy category. I’m just finishing a bottle of their Butchertown, a blend of brandies finished in bourbon barrels and sold at barrel proof. I also know they’re working with blending in South African brandies as well as selling pear brandy, but I haven’t found any yet. Good, promising stuff sold by an enthusiastic guy who participates regularly in online discussions of brandy.

Wiki sez (Spanish wiki) that Conde de Garvey is considered the oldest and most expensive brandy in the world, but if you feel like taking a side trip to Jerez, I can tell you that Lepanto isn’t anywhere near as dangerous on the wallet and it’s good enough that the French consider it good. Gran reserva PX is more aged than Gran reserva.

But Brandy is a fine girl…

Beaten to the punch. Still I loved that song.