05 Oct 10 Best American Brandies – Part 1

When you hear the words “American spirit”, you most likely find yourself thinking about your last glass of whisky. But brandy, that other American brown spirit, is often under-appreciated.

Most accounts say that brandy was the original American distilled spirit, in fact. It’s made with pears, peaches, and apples that grew in the colonies. It wasn’t until much later that we were introduced to wheat-based whiskies. Over hundreds of years, however, French brandies- Calvados, Armagnac, and Cognac- have stolen the limelight when it comes to premium brandy.

Some may argue that American brandies struggle to compete, but the best give the French premiums a run for their money. They’re also strong when it comes to innovation: One whiskey company experiments with unnamed apple brandy that’s distilled in a traditional mezcal style and Louisville’s Cooper and Kings plays David Bowie music to the barrels. Another producer, Germain-Robin from California, has made numerous high-quality brandies. A large number of the finest American brandies are actually limited editions and deserve to be in the conversation with some of the best in the world. It also serves to prove that brandies from America belong in the same conversation as their French counterparts.

If you’re never drank a glass of American brandy before, this two-part series introduces you to 10 bottles you’ll want to be familiar with, from a long-aged, luscious, Arkansas brandy to a California version of a Pisco.

Arkansas Black, $125 (Timberlane Distillery, CA)

The apple brandy, which is a limited edition, provides fresh apple and rounded, big fruit stone fruit integrated with honey, almond, and vanilla, finishing with clove, cinnamon and ginger. It’s an overall great combination of oak and fruit, perfectly apt for mixing and sipping. The producer calls this drink, which is aged in ex-Chardonnay French barrels, as the longed-aged brandy anywhere.

Millard Fillmore Brandy, $35 (Germain-Robin, CA)

A budget-friendly brandy from a producer of a number of the best American brandies. Look out for a mild vanilla and honey hue aroma. It’s a light palate with fleetingly sweet almond and vanilla winding into a nutmeg and cinnamon finish. Mix or sip this versatile Californian grape option.

Christian Brothers Sacred Bond Bottled-in-Bond Brandy, $26 (Heaven Hill Distillery, KY)

The grape brandy from California is aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being bottled. The nose and dark amber hue combines with a palate that suggests dried fig, oak, cocoa, and vanilla. The addition of water helps to calm the fire to a degree and brings extra vanilla to the fore. Great for mixing into a sidecar.

Frísco Brandy, $35 (North Channel Spirits, CA)

This immature brandy, which is inspired by pisco, is produced using California grapes. The drink has a distinct and sweet fruity scent and is clear in the glass. The palate is also sweet when it goes down and provides a tropical fruit finish. Mix this into a cocktail and you might even fool your best friend into thinking he has a bona fide pisco in his hand.