Five Great Brandies for Whiskey Lovers

It’s no secret: we love whiskey around here. But every once in a while, a change can be nice.

Like many whiskey lovers, we enjoy a range of brown spirits, like rum and añejo tequila. But there’s something special about brandy that makes it especially interesting for whiskey geeks.

While whiskey is made from grain, brandy is made from fruit. Americans are probably most familiar with brandy made from wine grapes, but any fruit can be used to make brandy, from pears and apricots in Austria, to the fruit that encases the cashew nut in Goa. Just like whiskey, brandy is made all over the world, and just like whiskey, there are a huge range of different styles, including aged and unaged variants. In short, there’s a lot to learn, and it can be hard to know where to start.

But, of course, we have some ideas. Here are five great brandies for whiskey lovers, drawing on producers from all over the world, including right here in the United States. (To learn more about American brandy, we highly recommend Clay Risen’s recent story in the New York Times about its recent boom.)

Copper & Kings brandy

Copper & Kings brandy aging in barrel (image via Copper & Kings)

Copper & Kings

One of the newest additions to the American brandy scene, Copper and Kings makes its home in the heart of whiskey country: Louisville, Kentucky. Unencumbered by tradition, they age their spirit in new charred oak casks for the dark color and woody character designed to put whiskey drinkers at ease. I just tasted their Blue Sky Mining release, an aged brandy made from muscat grapes, and it’s a delightful combination of deep spice and unexpected freshness.

Chateau de Pellehaut Armagnac

It’s hard to find a great Cognac under $100, but Armagnac still offers plenty of opportunities for the bargain hunter. Chateau de Pellehaut is a winemaker and distiller in the Tenareze region of Armagnac, known for its chalky, mineral-rich soil. Available online from K&L (and perhaps from your local liquor store?) the Chateau de Pellehaut Armagnac range offers amazing value and a mellow, rich flavor.

Germain Robin

In the world of American brandy, Germain Robin is a name to conjure with. Founded in 1982 by Hubert Germain-Robin, a distiller who grew up in the Cognac region of France, and Ansley Coale, his friend and collaborator. Its spirits are produced very much in the Cognac style, which means copper Charantais-style pot stills and long aging. But unlike Cognac, Hubert and Ansley experimented with California-grown grapes Cognac distillers would never use, like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Their products are great, and expensive; start with their Craft Method Brandy and work your way up from there.

Lustau Solera “Finest Selection” Grand Reserva

Scotch drinkers may already know Spanish producer Lustau as a source of high-quality sherry casks. But did you know this Jerez winemaker also produces its own brandy? Their “Finest Selection” Grand Reserva is aged a minimum of 15 years in a sherry cask solera system, picking up tons of that nutty, oxidized flavor so many Speyside fans know and love.

Laird’s Old Apple Brandy

There are plenty of historic whiskey distilleries in the United States, but the oldest distillery of them all? That would be Laird & Company, a New Jersey distillery founded way back in 1780. Whiskey drinkers would be well advised to start with a bottle of their delicious Old Apple Brandy, a seven-year-old straight apple brandy aged in oak casks.

About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.