Making a chocolate dessert thing that calls for brandy tonight but I don't actually have a bottle of brandy. I don't think I've ever actually tasted brandy. Can I sub in any other kinds of liquor for it (bourbon, maybe?) or is it unique enough a taste that I should just grab a bottle at the store?
If the recipe just calls for generic "brandy" I wouldn't hesitate to substitute just about any kind of whiskey, or another spirit such as dark rum. The best brandy, cognac (lovers of argmanac and similar brandies may disagree, I suppose), has a unique taste, so I wouldn't substitute in that case, but I wouldn't be bringing out the top-shelf cognac either.
I'd go with a dark rum first, light rum second. I don't know how much of an affect the brandy is supposed to have, but something from the whiskey group could be substituted in desperation.
I say go with the bourbon if that's what you have around the house. The caramel and mild sour/sweet tastes should go well with chocolate. Otherwise use any hard liquor instead of the brandy.
I'd say bourbon is a great substitute--it won't be the same taste, sure, but it chocolate and bourbon is a classic combination. I wouldn't personally substitute whisky for it, because whisky, especially Scottish stuff, has a very distinctive smoky/peat-y flavor that is well, very unique. Rum is also a great substitution, since rum and chocolate are very tasty, as would, if you're in the mood for orange flavor, Grand Marnier or Contreau. (I love chocolate and orange.) Hope that helps.