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Brandy is a popular drink that has been enjoyed for centuries. But where is it from? In this article, we’ll explore where and when it was invented, as well as everything else you need to know about brandy.

Brandy is alcohol produced by distilling wine made from grapes. Brandy wasn’t produced in significant numbers until the 15th century. The French excelled at making brandy and exported it to America in the 16th Century.

The best brandy in the world is still produced in France today. So, in terms of where the type of brandy we drink today comes from, the answer is most likely France.


When was brandy invented?

The earliest evidence of distilled wine is mentioned in Arabic works in the 1st century AD.

In the 12th century, recipes for distilled wine (called “aqua arderns” meaning “burning water”) appeared in Latin. By the 13th century, it was widely known among European chemists.

What is brandy made from?

Brandy is distilled wine, specifically wine made with fermented grapes. Most brandy is either aged in oak or colored with caramel before bottling, giving it an amber or brown color.

The flavors of brandy depends on the quality of the ingredients, how it was made, whether it was aged and for how long. That said, brandy generally has fruity and floral aromas. Oak matured brandy is smooth with vanilla, toast, spices and dried fruit notes.


Brandy alcohol percentage

The alcohol content in brandy can vary; however, brandy usually contains somewhere between 35-60% alcohol by volume (abv).

What Isn’t Brandy (But Sounds Like It)

Fruit spirits made from fruit other than grapes are technically not brandy, but are often called brandy. Calvados, for example, which is made from apples is known as a “cider brandy” but technically is not brandy.

Similarly, Kirsch—a German fruit spirit made with cherries—is known as a “cherry brandy” but is also not brandy.


Best brandy

The best brandy is made in France in Cognac and Armagnac.

Cognac vs brandy

Cognac is a type of brandy that can only be made in the Cognac region in France.

To be called Cognac and qualify for the Cognac Protected Appellation of origin (PDO) it has to comply with regulated specifications, its grapes must be grown in Cognac, and the wine made from them produced there. The area of Cognac is defined by strict borders encircling the Charente River.

Cognac is made with the Ugni Blanc grape. It must be aged for at least two years in oak barrels and double distilled using a copper pot still.

There are different quality grades for Cognac that indicate how long it was aged. V.S. is brandy aged for at least two years and V.S.O.P is brandy aged for at least four years etc.

Cognac is world-renowned for a reason—it is the best of the best.

Cognac ranges in price from approximately $55 to over $3,000!

Some of the best cognac brands include:

  • Hennessy
  • Rémy Martin
  • Martell
  • Hardy

Armagnac vs brandy

Armagnac brandy can only be made in the Armagnac region in France.

Armagnac is a defined Controlled Appellation of Origin (AOC).

It is made from a mix of folle blanche, ugni-blanc, colombard, and baco 22A white grapes.

Typically Armagnac is distilled once and then aged in oak barrels. It is typically more fragrant than Cognac and made on a much smaller scale than Cognac.

Armagnac has a similar classification to Cognac. V.S. refers to Armagnac aged in oak casks for two to three years, while V.S.O.P. refers to Armagnac aged for four to five years in oak casks.

Some of the best Armagnac brands include:

  • Delord
  • Castarède
  • Laubade
  • Arton

Spanish brandy / Brandy de Jerez

Spain is the second largest brandy producer in the world after France. Brandy de Jerez is made using the solera system, a technique that blends younger and older brandy together continuously to ensure a consistent style. Brandy de Jerez is strictly controlled.

It must be produced exclusively within the municipal boundaries of Jerez de la Frontera, El Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

It must be aged in American oak casks that previously contained sherry.

The traditional solera aging system must be used.

Brandy de Jerez is classified by age:

  • Brandy de Jerez Solera has a minimum average maturation age of 6 months.
  • Brandy de Jerez Solera Reserva has a minimum average maturation period of 1 year.  
  • Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva has a minimum average maturation age of 3 years.

American Brandy

American brandy isn’t as controlled as French or EU countries. That said, there are regulations for making brandy in California. The spirit must be distilled below 85% and barrel-aged for at least 2 years. So, if you want an American brandy made to more traditional standards, California is the way to go.

Outside of California, there aren’t specific regulations. That’s not to say that there isn’t good brandy being made, it just makes it more difficult to know at a glance what you are getting.


When do you drink brandy?

Brandy is traditionally an after-dinner drink; however, nowadays Brandy is also commonly used in cocktails and is an ingredient in many recipes. See our article on best brandy for cooking and baking.

What fruit is brandy made from?

Brandy is distilled wine, specifically wine made with fermented whole, fresh grapes.

Where was brandy invented?

The earliest evidence of distilled wine is mentioned in Arabic works in the 1st century AD. The techniques for brandy were perfected by the French in the 16th Century. France still produces the best brandy in the world using traditional methods and exacting standards.

Is Calvados brandy?

Technically Calvados is a fruit spirit but it is known as “cider brandy” because it is made using apples. Calvados can only be made in Calvados in France.