People can get a little snobby about their liquor of choice. We get it, we love nerding out about spirits. But we also recognize that sometimes perceptions about price or a name hold people back from discovering some delicious drinks. For instance, the best bottle of brandy is just as good as the best bottle of cognac. The two styles of booze are born from the same foundation. Cognac just has to be from a specific region of France with specific requirements, brandy is a little looser and comes from every corner of the world. Both can be pretty spectacular when handled well.
The balance of fruit-forward (grape) distillate with long aging processes equates to booze that’s easy-to-drink while still complex enough to talk about. The barrel-aged, white wine elixir is worth taking a deep dive into. There’s a lot of nuance in the differences between cognacs from France and other brandies from France, but really, less when looking at brandies from Germany, Spain, America, Russia, and beyond.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of five great brandies to have on hand at your next party. This is a journey through the world of brandy, cognac, and Armagnac where the regionals styles are paramount. Let’s start that journey!
Hennessy Cognac VS — The Welcome Drink
What to talk about: Old Henny had a long history of being the go-to cognac at the liquor store long before Kanye took a bottle to the 2009 MTV Movie Awards. For one, this bottle won’t break the bank. Moreover, it’s a delight to drink. Maison Hennessy has been making this stuff for over 200 years in Cognac, France. This is an old school expression that works perfectly as a gateway to brandy and your party.
Tasting Notes: Fruit is the main presence here. There’s a clear sweet, white wine grape rush up front that has a very slight sour note. There are hints of the barrel left on the backend with a very mild dry spiciness. This is the bottle of cognac you drink when you’re not sure if you’re going to like brandies. Make sure to have some Yeezus playing in the background when pouring.