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Survive The Quarantine With The Best Bottles Of Brandy Under $30

A cheap bottle of brandy is always a great bottle of booze to have on hand. Especially right now. Why? Well, brandy has been used as medicine for centuries. Is it medicine? Nope. Brandy is still just alcohol. But it does do two handy things: 1) it takes the edge off and has a calming effect when taken in small doses, 2) you can make a hot toddy with brandy, and that will help clear up your chest.

Boil some water, juice a lemon, add about a tablespoon of fresh honey, and pour in about two-ounces of brandy and you have a great hot toddy. It’s nourishing, comforting, and a great way to get some good vitamins into your system. One whole lemon contains about 139 percent of your daily vitamin C needs. Honey also has proven anti-oxidant components that have been shown to suppress coughs. And the brandy, as we said, feels very necessary in these trying times. Altogether, that’s a hell of a cocktail.

The 15 bottles featured below are our expert picks for the best cheap bottles of brandy to buy right now. Especially if you’re whipping up a batch of hot toddies. A quick note on deciphering brandy labels before we begin: In general, you’ll see VS, VSOP, and XO on bottles, like “Hennessey VSOP.” “VS” means “very special” and is a blend of at least two-year-old brandies. “VSOP” means “very superior old pale” and is a blend of at least four-year-old brandies. “XO” means “extra old” and is a blend of at least six-year-old brandies (sometimes this is called “Napoléon” as well). And, lastly, there’s “Hors d’âge” which means the brandy is aged for up to ten years or longer.

Of course, there are different words for this if the brandy is from, say, Spain. Also, brandy makers in the U.S. often use the French designations with zero respect for the age regulations they’re meant for.

Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy

Style: California Brandy
Distillery: Paul Masson
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $11.99

The Brandy: This American brandy is a blend of California wine-making and Kentucky bourbon ingenuity. The grapes are grown in California and the brandy is aged and bottled in Kentucky. According to the label, this brandy spends three years aging in oak before going into the bottle.

The Taste: A distant note of grape juice underpins clear bourbon caramel and vanilla flavors. Light touches of bitterness and black pepper spice mingle with the caramel sweetness. That light spice carries on to a thin, sweet finish.

Korbel Brandy

Style: California Brandy
Distillery: Korbel Champagne Cellars
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $12.49

The Brandy: Korbel is a must-have for whipping up Wisconsin’s favorite drink, the brandy old fashioned. As with all the brandies on this list, that also makes it the perfect candidate for a hot toddy.

The Taste: This Sonoma brandy actually gains a lot of depth over its two years in the barrel. There’s a clear sense of caramel that leans towards a butterscotch sweetness. The oak comes through with a hint of spice. There’s a slight minerality with a clear note of vinous grapes on the warming finish.

E&J VSOP Premium Brandy

Style: California Brandy
Distillery: E&J
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $13.49

The Brandy: E&J VSOP hails from the iconic Ernest and Julio Gallo Winery in Modesto, California. The juice is aged for two years before bottling, making it pretty versatile at this price point. You can drink this stuff in a highball or cocktail. It also works as a great dessert brandy. Pour some of this over a sponge cake or ice cream and you’ve got a nice boozy bump in that dessert.

The Taste: Wet brown sugar mingles with baking spices and a note of sunny meadows. Cream soda dominates the palate with a wisp of bourbon vanilla, maple syrup, and plummy sherry. The end is bold and long-lasting with a return of the warming spice alongside a little bit of oak.

Paul Masson Grande Amber VSOP Brandy

Style: California Brandy
Distillery: Paul Masson
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $13.99

The Brandy: We can’t go on without hitting on Paul Masson’s VSOP. This is one of the better brandies you’ll find for under $20 in the U.S. This expression is the blend of Paul Masson’s Grand Amber (above) and imported French Cognac. That addition of the real-deal stuff from France sets this brandy above the rest of the pack.

The Taste: Notes of fatty hazelnuts and dry Champagne grapes lead the way. There’s a matrix of spices at play, with cloves out front. Cigar smoke, oily espresso beans, and freshly ground allspice round out the sip before it reaches a dry finish.

St-Rémy VSOP French Brandy

Style: French Brandy
Distillery: House of St-Rémy
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $14.99

The Brandy: St-Rémy is a classic French gateway brandy. Its price point is the biggest draw, but the booze is backed up with a decent grape-forward essence. That’s thanks to a base wine that’s a blend of — deep breath — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gamay, Ugni Blanc, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The juice is then aged for four years in small format French oak barrels before hitting the bottle.

The Taste: This is a big departure from the Californian brandies so far on this list. Fruit orchards, rays of sunshine, and wildflowers lead the way on this sip. That wide-focus narrows on the palate to present ripe apricots and peaches with an almost honeysuckle floral hint that’s cut by a lemon rind citrus on the very end with a final dry, vinous touch.

Korbel Brandy XS

Style: Blended California Brandy
Distillery: Korbel Champagne Cellars
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $14.99

The Brandy: Korbel XS is the “Extra Smooth” brandy that’s a stand out on this list. The brandy is spiked with vanilla, spices, sugars, and orange essence to really amp up the mixability of the brandy.

The Taste: There’s a clear bitterness upfront with whiffs of orange and baking spices. Later, the taste leans into cream soda vanilla that errs a little saccharine. The spices, bitter orange, and soda pop vanilla all combine on a quick end that fades with a slight burn.

E&J Brandy XO

Style: California Brandy
Distillery: E&J
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $14.99

The Brandy: E&J’s XO deserves some love. Although this is designated as an “XO,” it’s still only aged for a minimum of two years. It is, however, charcoal filtered. A lot of the harsher edges are whittled away through that process.

The Taste: That classic creamy vanilla of U.S. produced brandy is front-and-center. There’s a good sense of rich toffee and very dark brown sugar on those vanilla coattails. The finish is velvety, creamy, sweet, and full of that continued presence of vanilla.

Presidente Brandy

Style: Mexican Brandy
Distillery: Pedro Domecq
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $15.99

The Brandy: Mexico’s Presidente Brandy is making big waves in the U.S. and with good reason. This is a solid brandy at an accessible price. While you can drink this one neat or on the rocks, it really shines as a base spirit for a great cocktail. This was also one of the most popular drinks in Mexico for a very long time — so much so that it was the “National Drink of Mexico” at one point.

The Taste: There are American brandy notes of vanilla that are tempered by rich marzipan. The vanilla dries out and has more of a saltwater taffy essence as oak, spice, and a hint of florals linger in the background. The finish holds onto the dryness and ends strong.

Raynal VSOP Brandy

Style: French Brandy
Distillery: Raynal & Co.
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $16.99

The Brandy: Raynal is one of the biggest French brandies in the United States. It’s the perfect balance between affordability and quality. The brandy is a blend of white grapes from Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Champagne that are then aged in French oak for the requisite four years.

The Taste: This brandy smells like velvet and nuts (walnuts and almonds dominate). Hints of freshly grated ginger spice things up with a nice underbelly of candied dried fruits next to a wisp of fresh flowers. The finish is vinous and dry with a lingering moment of ginger and nuttiness.

St-Rémy XO

Style: French Brandy
Distillery: St-Rémy
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $19.99

The Brandy: St-Rémy XO is a mellowed and very tasty brandy that’s always around $20 a bottle. This brandy is a masterclass in French grapes. It blends distilled wines from Burgundy, Champagne, Rhône Valley, Languedoc Roussillon, Loire Valley, Bordeaux, and Beaujolais into each bottle.

The Taste: Figs, gingerbread, sun-dried grapes, and butterscotch are present up top. The sweetness of figs peak as a clear espresso bean bitterness counterpoints that fruity sweet edge. There’s an echo of wildflowers in the background as the bitterness and sweetness fades with a nice velvet texture at the end.

Metaxa 5 Stars

Style: Greek Brandy
Distillery: Metaxa
ABV: 38%
Average Price: $27.49

The Brandy: This Greek spirit is a blend of brandy, Muscat wine, and botanicals (not unlike gin). It’s then aged for five years — hence the “Five Star” designation. This process makes for a wholly unique experience with botanicals like anise and rose shining through the distilled grape base.

The Taste: Bold stone fruit, fresh honeycomb, and field of wildflowers lead the way. Then the spices hit with a big dose of Christmas spices leading into a bowl of dried roses. The fruit comes back with a note of oak on the finish.

Laird’s Straight Applejack 86

Style: American Fruit Brandy
Distillery: Laird’s
ABV: 43%
Average Price: $25.25

The Brandy: This apple brandy, or applejack if you will, is 100 percent apple brandy made from 17 pounds of apples per bottle of brandy. This is a very German-American spirit with clear heritage derived from Germanic fruit brandies married to U.S. aging processes like bourbon and Tennessee whiskey.

The Taste: Granny Smith apples baked in butter, cinnamon, bourbon vanilla and caramel, and brandy lead the way here. Then a billow of smoke arrives with a clear sense of the charred oak barrel. The vanilla, spice, and tart apple carry through to a bold and warm finish that feels like the ghosts of a fallow apple orchard.

Lustau Brandy Solera Gran Reserve

Style: Spanish Brandy
Distillery: Lustau
Age: 40%
Average Price: $25.99

The Brandy: This is a shockingly decent brandy at this price point. Lustau is so revered in distilling circles that Ireland’s iconic Redbreast uses their used barrels to age one of their best high-end expressions. The Gran Reserva expression is aged in used Amontillado sherry casks for around three years under the Spanish sun in Jerez, Spain.

The Taste: Orange, coconut oil, oak, vanilla, toasted almonds, and baking spices lead the way. There’s a real sense of freshly ground nutmeg and allspice that leads to a rich and buttery fruit cake full of sun-dried fruits. Espresso and dark chocolate bitterness cut in and highjack the spices, sending them to a warm and sunny end with a hint of dry Spanish grass.

De Luze VS Cognac

Style: French Cognac
Distillery: Maison Boinaud
Age: 40%
Average Price: $27.99

The Brandy: This a real-deal brandy from Cognac. The heritage of this Cognac house goes back 24 generations to the 1600s. The juice is a blend of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne grapes from some of the best vineyards in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac. The expression is then aged for two years in French oak before direct bottling without any meddling.

The Taste: This is a dialed-in sip. Equally sweet and earthy prunes and dates lead towards a rush of wildflowers in full bloom. Soft notes of orange zest and lemon citrus dance with wisps of oaky smoke, Christmas spices, and deep green grape leaves. A note of lavender mingles with roasted nuts as the velvet finish hits flowers, fruit, and oak notes. This is pure sunshine.

Courvoisier VS Cognac

Style: French Cognac
Distillery: Courvoisier
ABV: 40%
Average Price: $29.99

The Brandy: This Cognac just squeaks by at $29.99 per bottle. This is a good entry-level brandy that has pretty solid name recognition. The juice is a blend of four to seven-year-old brandies made primarily from grapes grown in the Fins Bois region with a solid percentage of Petite Champagne grapes thrown in to balance things out.

The Taste: Dried grapes, ripe apples and pears, and creamy chocolate mingle on the nose. The florals feel more like a fruit orchard in full bloom on a spring day. Coffee bitterness arrives next to barrel spiciness with a wisp of smoke lurking far in the background. The fruit and florals bring about a quiet-yet-warming final note.

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