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Australian Brandy - The Next Big Craft Spirit

Golden, rich, sweet and powerful, brandy is a sublime spirit that has flown under the radar and been under appreciated for far too long. Here’s the lowdown on why you should be drinking more Aussie craft brandy.

For a long time, brandy has had a bit of a stuffy image. Codgers sipping it in dark, wing-backed sitting rooms amid clouds of cigar smoke and jowly mutterings about the state of things.

But before the fuddy-duddies got hold of it, brandy was a magical medicine, a favourite among farmers and the most popular spirit throughout Europe for hundreds of years.

And these days, the smoking jacket and slippers have come off again and Aussie craft brandy is seeing the resurgence it deserves.

Where Did Brandy Start Out?

One of—if not the oldest spirit, brandy goes back to the 14th Century France. Wine was distilled and prescribed as medicine for all kinds of ailments, so physicians of the day called it ‘eau de vie’—water of life.

That name is still used for brandy in its unaged form—you can even buy Aussie craft Eau de Vie here.

The word brandy though comes from Dutch ‘brandewijn’ meaning ‘burnt wine’. Dutch sailors in the 1500s would boil down and distil the wine they were carrying to save cargo space, hence ‘burnt wine’.

Over the centuries, nations and cultures have put their twist on the classic grape-based spirit by fermenting different fruit like apples, pears, apricots, cherries and plums.

In Australia, we only use grape-based spirit and to be legally called brandy (as opposed to eau de vie) it must stay in barrels for at least two years. And it’s this interaction with the wood that gives brandy many of its delicious flavours and all of its colour.

Why Is Brandy So Good?

Because it comes from a fruit ‘beer’, brandy is usually softer, sweeter and more approachable than things like whisky.

In fact, for people who don’t like whisky but still want to try brown spirits, brandy is the perfect option.

You’ll often find oaky flavours—caramel, butter and spice—in brandy, as well as the fruit notes from its base spirit. There’s usually a bit of an alcohol punch too, especially as distillers and connoisseurs like to warm their brandy a little with their hand.

This brings out more flavours but also allows more alcohol vapour to escape, which can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers to the spirit.

Brandy is also incredibly versatile. You might not have noticed, but now you’re looking for it, you’ll see brandy in so many cocktails. It adds depth, power and sweetness without getting in the way of citrus or herbal notes.

You should check out our classic Brandy Alexander recipe here, which is obviously brandy-forward, or our Charlie Chaplin recipe, which is a gin cocktail fortified with Aussie craft brandy.

3 Aussie Brandies You Have To Try

Lots of Aussie craft distilleries—especially ones in wine regions—are making brandy now, but here are three particularly good ones.

Coming from South Australia, this brandy is unbelievably smooth and rich thanks to it being aged an average of five years in oak. Those extra three years show in the spirit’s beautiful dark bronze colour.

We used this brandy in our classic Brandy Alexander recipe, which you can read here. This also makes a stunning Sidecar cocktail—1 part lemon juice, 1 part triple sec, 2 parts brandy.

Hailing from Tasmania, Ironhouse Distillery is also home to a brewery and vineyard, so they can grow the grapes, ferment them using classic brewing techniques and distil the spirit all in the same space.

This trifecta means the brandy coming from Ironhouse is second to none. Using American oak, Strange Omen displays fine vanilla and buttery sweetness with a hint of ginger, spice, nuts and raisins.

A beautiful distillery on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Bass and Flinders have been making their own grape-based spirits from the beginning.

Ochre Fine Aged Brandy is about as good as it gets. Skill and experience shine through from the years that Bass and Flinders’ have been crafting their base spirits.

Incredibly smooth, floral and ripe apple aromas, creamy vanilla and exciting spice on the palate followed by almond, apple and a satisfyingly long finish.

This is a real special-occasion sip, best served neat, warmed slightly with the palm of your hand and savoured for as long as you can!


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