Cognac is produced in the Cognac region, just North of Bordeaux. The soil here is chalky, where the Saint-Emilion, Folle Blanche, and Colombard varietals are used in the production. Copper pot stills are used to have the product come off at 140 proof and ready to be aged in the Limousin or Troncais oak barrels.
V.S. (Very Superior): Minimum of 2 ½ years of aging in wood barrels. In general these are under 5 years of aging.
V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale): Aged in wood for at least 4 ½ years. In general the average age of V.S.O.P. is 5 to 10 years.
Napoleon: A cognac that has been aged greater than that of a V.S.O.P. In general these have been aged from 7 to 15 years.
X.O. (Extra Old): A minimum of 6 ½ years of aging. Generally the aging is over 20 years.
Armagnac is made from the Folle Blanche and Saint-Emilion varietals in the Gascony region of France, South of Bordeaux. The three regions and styles here are the Bas Armagnac region which has sandy soil and a fruitier flavor profile, the Tenaraze region with its chalky clay soil and a more floral flavor, and the Haut Armagnac region with its chalky soil and mostly white table wine production. Armagnac is made in a continuos still and comes off the still at 106 proof, leaving plenty of flavor for the Monlezun Oak barrels.
3 Star: A minimum of 2 years of aging in wood
V.O./V.S.O.P./Reserve: A minimum of 4 years of aging in wood.
Extra/Napoleon/Vielle Reserve: A minimum of 5 years of aging in wood.
Vintage Dated: Limited production from a certain vineyard.
Calvados is a brandy distilled from Apple Cider in the Normandy region of France, which is located in the North on the English Channel. Of the 11 districts in Normandy where Calvados is produced, 10 of them use a continuous still for distilling, and the other region, Pays d’Auge, uses a pot still.
3 Star: 2 years in wood
Reserve/Vieux: 3 years of aging in wood required
V.O./Vielle Reserve: A minimum of 4 years is required for again in wood.
V.S.O.P.: 5 years of aging in wood.
Hor’s d’age/Napoleon: 6 years required of wood aging.
Brandy de Jerez:
Brandy de Jerez is a brandy distilled from Airen grapes in the city of Jerez in the Southwest corner of Spain., as grapes for sherry are too expensive. The wine is distilled in a continuous still and then aged in sherry casks using the Solera system.
All Brandy de Jerez: A minimum of six months of aging is required.
Reserva: 1 year of aging required. Most are aged for up to 12 years.
Gran Reserva: 3 years of wood aging required. Most are aged up to 15 years.
Penedès Brandy comes from the Penedès region of Catalonia in the northeast corner of Spain near Barcelona. Modeled after the Cognacs of France and made from a mix of regional grapes and locally-grown Ugni Blanc of Cognac, it is distilled in pot stills. One of the two local producers (Torres) ages in soleras consisting of butts made from French Limousin oak, whereas the other (Mascaro) ages in the standard non-solera manner, but also in Limousin oak. The resulting Brandy is heartier than Cognac, but leaner and drier than Brandy de Jerez.
Italy has a long history of Brandy production dating back to at least the 16th century, but unlike Spain or France there are no specific Brandy-producing regions. Italian Brandies are made from regional wine grapes, and most are produced in column stills, although there are now a number of small artisanal producers using pot stills. They are aged in oak for a minimum of one to two years, with six to eight years being the industry average. Italian Brandies tend to be on the light and delicate side with a touch of residual sweetness.
There are several styles of grappa: unfermented (white), partially fermented (rose) or fermented (red pomace). It can be produced with pot stills, hybrids or continuous stills. The minimum aging period is six months. The best grappa is made when the pomace is put into the still no later than four hours after being pressed.
The pomace is placed in the still or in baskets inside the still, and the still is heated or steam is pumped through the baskets. This application of heat releases ethanol vapors from the pomace, which is then collected and condensed.
Distillation in South America dates to the 16th century. Originally produced in the Ica Valley Tribe, port in Peru, this spirit is now produced in Peru and in the Elqui Valley of Chile. It is a trendy spirit now, having enjoyed its first wave of popularity during the 19th century California gold rush.
Seleccion: 30% ABV, unaged
Reserva: 35% ABV, lightly aged in native wood casks
Especial: 40%, ABV aged more
43%, ABV, aged the longest time