Brandies are traditionally
enjoyed neat in a snifter or
tulip glass. However, brandies
are mixed with cola or used
in classic cocktails like the
Brandy Alexander, Stinger or
old-fashioned egg nog and
other Punches.
The word “brandy” is Dutch
for “burnt wine,” and
eau de vie
is French for “water of life,”
a term used to describe
unaged brandies made from
fermented fruits like peaches
and berries.
E&J, Paul Masson, Christian
Brothers and Korbel are the
leading domestic brandies, all
produced in California.
Domestic brandies are giants
of the entire category at
6.2 million cases, growing
just slightly (0.2%) in 2012.
Imported brandies are just
470,000 cases and declining,
the wide range of brands all
too small to impact overall
growth. As in whiskies,
flavors are starting to appear,
e.g. Christian Brothers Honey.
Cognac has long been seen
as an after-dinner drink, but
mixologists have refreshed
the category by way of
cocktails. Now a favorite craft
bar staple, Cognac is often
seen in a
Vieux Carré,
French 75 or
wiped out
by 1880,
and Cognac production and
consumption drastically
declined as a result, allowing
whiskey and gin to rise in
Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell
and Rémy Martin are known as
the “big four,” however brands like
Pierre Ferrand, Hine Louis Royer
and Camus are gaining traction, as
is Bacardi’s new D’ussé. NYC-based
PM Spirits, with distribution now
in 14 states, specializes in limited
editions from artisan distillers.
Cognac has enjoyed
a resurgence both
internationally and in the
U.S., which imports 49% of
the world’s supply. In 2012
Cognac grew 5.2% to just
over 3.8 million cases. This
is a year-after-year trend that
shows no signs of slowing
down. The other trend to
watch: flavored Cognac-
based products, such as
Courvoisier Rosé and C by
Selling Brandy & Cognac
Brandy’s simplicity—it’s the distillate of
fermented fruit juice—also holds the seeds
of its complexity: Many fruits can be used
as base material, and diverse geographical
standards and names have developed. For
comparison’s sake, Cognac vs. other bran-
dies makes sense because Cognac is the
best-known type.
One critical distinction to determine
when helping people find a brandy prod-
uct for their tastes is to gauge their sty-
listic preference. Fans of true fruit flavors
are best steered toward brandies made
from tree fruits (e.g., pear, plum, cherry,
apple). Fans of whiskies are more apt to
enjoy wood-aged grape-based brandies,
notably Cognac, with higher-priced ex-
pressions marked by smoother texture
and layers of complexity, but not neces-
sarily more intensity.
Sales of domestic brandy are nearly
double that of Cognac, but Cognac still
retains recognition as the most presti-
gious form. On the other hand, height-
ened attention to craft spirits is casting
locally made brandies in a more positive
light than ever.
As expected, brandy depletions
spike as the weather becomes colder
and during the holiday season. Upscale
packaging and assorted sizes make Co-
gnac an excellent gift; vintage-dated
examples from Camus, or from varied
Armagnac producers can add appeal as
a birth-year gift
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