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E & J XO Brandy - Gross and undrinkable

rworange Feb 2, 2012 06:55 PM

I'm not a brandy drinker. I often use the regular E & J to brandy cherries or ... as in the past month to lace coffee or tea when I have a cold.

When I saw the bottle of XO on sale for $11.99 I thought I'd give it a try.

it is like drinking brandy laced with a bottle of imitation vanilla and the dregs of a molasses jar. I did a quick search to see if anyone else on the web disliked this brandy. This guy says it well

"After a first inviting bloom of aroma, you quickly notice something odd: the scents and tastes are off. What is that?... it took a while, vanilla? No...Maple syrup! An odd taste of maple syrup, with unexpected aftertaste of bitter bite, and lacking in low- and midrange roundness.
Curious, I let a tablespoon dry out in the glass overnight. You get a dark, syrupy, sweet, burned, unpleasant smelling residue, like cheap fake maple syrup, with undertow of off burned taste.'

IMO, avoid.

i bought a bottle of the VSOP today since I haven't tried that one either. It is a little smoother than the VS but not that much different.

  1. n
    ncyankee101 Feb 4, 2012 08:57 AM

    From what I have heard the E+J XO used to be excellent but changed a couple years ago, and is now a shadow of its former self. I have had it and think it tastes like a cheap rum.

    A couple inexpensive brandies I have had recently that I thought were quite good for the price were St Remy VSOP and Paul Masson Grande Amber VSOP. I tried them after seeing them rated quite highly in F Paul Pacult's spirits competition, and I like them better than many lower end VSOP Cognacs I have had costing 2-3 times as much.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ncyankee101
      rworange Feb 4, 2012 09:12 AM

      Thanks for the reccomendations.

      My understanding is the old E&J XO had a gold label. This new swill as a black label.

    2. t
      tinnywatty Feb 13, 2012 10:21 AM

      I bought the XO also, on sale for about $8, because it was recommended on the Kindred Cocktails website. It was the first time I'd ever tried brandy so I didn't know how it was supposed to taste, but I noticed that it was unexpectedly and surprisingly sweet. I went ahead and looked it up after trying it and was disappointed to find that it's not well regarded at all...

      21 Replies
      1. re: tinnywatty
        kagemusha49 Feb 13, 2012 03:01 PM

        The simple fact is that a true XO quality cognac or brandy is going to cost considerably more than $8. You may be able to get Germain-Robyn (a US brand) for worund $50 - but I'm not enamored of it. The best value I've seen is Delamain ( a French brand that only does XO quality or better) and I can buy it locally for around $68.

        1. re: kagemusha49
          rworange Feb 13, 2012 03:12 PM

          Yeah, at that price point and the company involved, I wasn't expecting quality. I just expected it might be better than the other brandy they sell. It SO wasn't. Save money and just go with the cheapest. Again, I use it mainly for brandied cherries.

        2. re: tinnywatty
          EvergreenDan Feb 13, 2012 06:56 PM

          I'm sorry to have lead you astray. The recommended brands are collected from a variety of sources -- some first hand -- some from trusted posters here, at eGullet, and elsewhere. Since I haven't tried it myself, in response to these comments, I've dropped the recommendation, even as an economy brand.

          I have tried Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva and I find it acceptable for mixing. It is a bit sweet, but that is easily adjusted for in cocktails.

          Germain-Robin makes a wide variety of expressions. I have liked some, although the strike me as a bit young tasting. It very difficult to find a good brandy at an "everyday" price -- harder than scotch, for example.

          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

          1. re: EvergreenDan
            tinnywatty Feb 14, 2012 11:41 AM

            I've had good luck with all of the other brands I found on your chart, both in the economy and everyday groupings. I happened to grab the E&J since it was one of the last few brandies available at my grocery store's big sale and I didn't have time to look it up before buying. I sort of figured that for the $8 I paid, I wasn't going to be getting a well-regarded product.
            I can't find a local source (Los Angeles) for Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva- I'll have to keep an eye out for it. Fortunately my guests enjoyed the sidecars I made although I thought they were surprisingly sweet.

            1. re: tinnywatty
              EvergreenDan Feb 14, 2012 05:36 PM

              It's prudent to taste new cocktails or old cocktails made with new ingredients. Some bar straws are very useful for sampling a cocktail out of the shaker without dirtying a spoon or glass. (Dip, hold finger over end, release into mouth.) In a drink like a sidecar, it's easy to compensate for unexpected sugar by adding more acid. Off flavors are much harder to deal with. ;) Dry vermouth can lean-out an overly sweet cocktail that's based on an aromatized wine, although it is not as powerfully acidic as lemon or lime.

              www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

              1. re: EvergreenDan
                tinnywatty Feb 15, 2012 11:54 AM

                Good to know. I'm brand new to all this and trying to quickly push my palate past the college drinks/ teenage girl drinks to the more mature flavors, but getting a drink properly balanced is still a bit of a challenge for me- especially since I'm starting to realize that the flavor profile changes a lot depending on the brand of spirit used.

                1. re: tinnywatty
                  kagemusha49 Feb 15, 2012 03:09 PM

                  Tinny - good luck with your experimentation. I agree with EvergreenDan that it is harder to pick good bargains in Cognac/Brandy than it is in Scotch. (I know I'm paraphrasing). One rule with almost all spirits is you can get away with cheaper if you are mixing it in a cocktail. Beyond that I think I accurately described the price/quality tradeoffs in cognac in this thread and the thread on cheap brandy. The link that Dan posted seems reasonably accurate to me. Just a couple of comments - if you want to get a cheap but tasty scotch the blended Black Bottle is very cheap and has a hefty does of Islay malts in it. If you venture into vodka (and are not looking for strong taste or herb blends) go for the cheapest vodka that tastes like water to you - absolutely no point in paying over the odds for a "premium" vodka that tastes like water. One final point - as you get experence with a particular spirit, your knowledge base widens and you then may start to notice and appreciate more subtle differences

                  1. re: kagemusha49
                    tinnywatty Feb 18, 2012 11:29 PM

                    All of your points are good ones, thanks for the tips. I've been wondering about this- at what price point is a particular spirit too "good" to mix? Currently I have mostly inexpensive but not "cheap" brands and I'm not sure how high I should expect to go for mixing. I suppose this is a little off topic.

                    1. re: tinnywatty
                      EvergreenDan Feb 19, 2012 04:08 AM

                      Everyone's circumstances are different. Someone with lots of disposable income might mix with high-end spirits, whereas the budget-conscious might sip modestly-priced spirits neat. There can be no universal answer.

                      That said, as a general rule, as you approach about $50 a bottle, the nuances of the spirit tend to get lost in a cocktail. But like all rules of thumb, this one is rife with exceptions. For example, an Old Fashioned has such simple ingredients that the flavor of the spirit will dominate the drink, so one might splurge and make an expensive Old Fashioned. By contrast, a cocktail with large amounts of strongly flavored liqueurs or mixers will obscure the quality of the high-priced spirit.

                      Also, some spirits tend to be more expensive. Gin is made quickly, so $50 would be a lot to spend on a bottle of gin. Scotch is aged, often for a decade or more, so many of the bottles in a good liquor store will be over $50.

                      Unless you're flush with cash, this isn't an issue, but I've found that some high-priced spirits don't mix well. Sometimes a cocktail needs the rougher edge of less a expensive spirit to shine through. For example, Lairds Bottled in Bond 100 proof Apple Brandy is chock full of apple flavor. Their 7.5 year old Apple Brandy, which is more expensive, has much less apple flavor, and much more "brown wood flavor," like what you get from cognac. I'd rather sip the later, but mix with the former. This is, in part, why I categorize recommend spirits in economy, everyday, and premium categories

                      www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                      1. re: EvergreenDan
                        tinnywatty Feb 19, 2012 11:04 AM

                        Thanks for the info.. I was specifically wondering if the higher end spirits would have nuances that would be lost in a mixed drink and what you said makes a lot of sense. For right now without a lot of disposable income I focused on getting something fairly inexpensive that was still worth drinking (for example, inexpensive tequila but nothing that isn't 100% agave). Do you think people typically use your everyday category as well as economy for mixing? There are one or two threads on this board that mention Makers Mark as being too good for mixing but it doesn't seem too high priced in the range of bourbons to me.

                        1. re: tinnywatty
                          EvergreenDan Feb 19, 2012 07:54 PM

                          I think lots of people mix with the economy brands and lots mix with everyday brands. If I had the disposable income, I personally might prefer the everyday brands a bit more, but you can make excellent cocktails with a lot of economy brands. Careful attention to ratio and the craft of cocktail making makes a huge difference in the outcome. I'd probably rather a really well made cocktail with economy brands that a sloppily make cocktail with premium brands.

                          Maker's Mark is fine bourbon. I would certainly mix with it and sip it. It's a fairly easy-drinking choice -- good for someone getting into spirits and getting used to the (frankly acquired) taste of whiskey.

                          www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                        2. re: EvergreenDan
                          StriperGuy Apr 3, 2012 09:21 AM

                          I would say Rum's over $30 are in that category...

              2. re: EvergreenDan
                tinnywatty Mar 31, 2012 10:28 PM

                Dan- I finally picked up a bottle of the Pedro Domecq Fundador Solera Reserva and it smells distractingly of butter- almost a movie theater buttered-popcorn smell. Totally different than the caramel sort of smell I would expect. The taste is similar but more complex. Is it possible I got a bad bottle?

                1. re: tinnywatty
                  EvergreenDan Apr 1, 2012 01:49 PM

                  I don't get anything like theater buttered popcorn (a flavor/scent I do not care for), but more caramel and vanilla. I don't like it well enough to drink it neat (mostly because there are so many other things I'd prefer if I were having a neat drink), but it is affordable for mixing.

                  www.kindredcocktails.com | Craft + Collect + Concoct + Categorize + Community

                  1. re: EvergreenDan
                    tinnywatty Apr 1, 2012 02:16 PM

                    I can smell the butter even when it's mixed (although less so depending what it's mixed with). Three other people agreed on the smell- I wonder if the bottle is off. I get no caramel or vanilla, just strong, fake butter.

                    1. re: tinnywatty
                      ZacharyK Apr 1, 2012 03:36 PM

                      Butter = diacetyl = American Oak. Caramel has a strong buttery component.



                      1. re: ZacharyK
                        tinnywatty Apr 2, 2012 02:01 PM

                        I suppose it's possible that I'm smelling oak, but I wouldn't expect that it should be so strong as to exclude all other aromas. I don't smell any sweet caramel scent, which the E&J did have, though it had a chemical burn smell as well. There's a definite difference between a real butter/ buttery caramel scent and this movie theater smell. It literally just smells like fake butter, which is very off-putting.

                    2. re: EvergreenDan
                      scubadoo97 Apr 3, 2012 05:08 PM

                      For an inexpensive brandy I would lean toward a Spanish brandy. Best bang for the buck IMO.

                      1. re: scubadoo97
                        StriperGuy Apr 4, 2012 07:14 AM

                        Totally agree on any of the Spanish Brandies. Part of it is the tradition. Brandy is just not considered real fancy pants stuff in Spain, thus you have decent products at reasonable prices. Folks expecting Cognac be forward. Spanish brandies tend to be MUCH more assertive at all price levels. Some of the real pricey stuff (Cardenal Mendoza, Gran Duque D'Alba, etc.) is superb, but NOTHING like cognac.

                      2. re: EvergreenDan
                        honeybea Apr 3, 2012 05:56 PM

                        Butter? Carmel? Vanilla and maple syrup? No wonder this stuff tastes so good in my sweet potato mash. Also good in pumpkin pie. Not for drinking.

                        1. re: honeybea
                          tinnywatty Apr 3, 2012 10:03 PM

                          This is a Spanish brandy that we're talking about- and my bottle is kind of disgusting. Not sure if it's possible that something is actually wrong with it.

                2. CCSPRINGS Apr 3, 2012 05:02 PM

                  E+J - yuck. I know people that call it 'Easy Jesus.' What does that mean? I'm not sure but drink enough and maybe you will talk to him.

                  There is not a lot of value in the brandy section. Beware or the cheap stuff!

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