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Is there such thing as good cheap brandy?

If so is there anything you guys recommend? I usually like applejack, but I want a standard, not to pricy brandy for drinking and cooking.

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  1. Depends what you mean by cheap. Landy VS is a reasonably good cognac for $20/bottle. Then there are Spanish brandies like Fundador and Greek brandy like Metaxas - I haven't price checked those lately.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kagemusha49

      I second that. Robert Hess has used it frequently on The Cocktail Spirit, and it's my go-to brandy for cocktails. In Montgomery County, MD it's around $20 a bottle. The VSOP, which is a better sipper, is usually a touch under $25. However, I've actually done side-by-side comparisons with the VS and VSOP in sidecars, and found the difference negligible, so for cocktails, I choose to save the money and go with the VS.

      Unless you're getting the Bottled In Bond, higher-end, Laird's apple brandy, then you're really not getting anything near a brandy with that applejack. Applejack is a cheap product made mainly from grain-neutral spirits, caramel coloring, and apple brandy for a touch of flavor. It's not without its uses, but it's nothing at all like actual brandy, or even actual apple brandy. Also worth noting is that apple brandy/calvados really isn't a very good sub for regular brandy in cocktails; the flavor really is quite different.

      1. re: The Big Crunch

        For what it's worth, the Laird's 7 1/2 year old Apple Brandy is very tasty, real, and only 25 bucks a bottle. To us, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it.

    2. I've been pretty satisfied with Paul Masson VS for cooking and cocktail making, especially at around $10 a bottle. If you're looking to both cook and have something interesting to drink on its own, that may require two different bottles.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Klunco

        The Masson Grande amber VSOP is just a couple bucks more and I would rather sip it than some of the mass market Cognacs such as Hennessey and Courvoisier.

        St Remy VSOP is also quite decent for about the same money.

      2. Foret French brandy is made by a Cognac house using grapes not picked in Cognac so it cannot be called as such, but the technique is of high quality. Comes in at $20 or just below for the VSOP.


        1 Reply
        1. re: yarm

          Landy (owned by the Cognac Ferrand people) is a cognac but doesn't use grapes from Grande Champagne or Petite Champagne. Most of the grapes used by Landy come from Borderies. I'll need to check out Foret.

        2. In a similar vein as other comments, depends on what you want. If you want a nice cognac in a snifter, probably not so much. If you are mixing cocktails, though, I really likely the E&J VSOP. I like it better that either the Christian Brothers or Paul Masson (though with difference to the previous poster, this is likely a matter of personal opinion) . Wouldn't have thought I would have liked the Gallo brandy, but was happily surprised.

          1. I don't drink a lot of brandy, so I don't have a big frame of reference. I have had the 10 year old Torres brandy from Spain and like it a lot. It's just under $20 here, if I remember right.

            1. If you want to go "American", give E&J X.O. a try at $13-16, depending where you are. Works well in cocktails such as the Sidecar and a Brandy Old Fashioned. Fine neat unless your guests are Brandy snobs and want Martell or better.

              2 Replies
              1. re: DrinkinLife

                have you had the E+J XO recently? I had heard it was good at one time but they changed the bottle and the formulation drastically a couple years ago, now the label says "extra smooth". I have a bottle and it tastes like cheap rum to me.

                1. re: ncyankee101

                  The extra smooth, I think, is flavored.

              2. E & J Gallo have three tiers of domestic brandy VS,VSOP & XO..All worth considering for cooking, finishing a sauce or confectionery.
                Drink? I think the VSOP is cocktail,mixer worthy.The XO on the shelf now is shadow of the original,older version.
                Also on the shelf is an E&J ,?special,limited edition brandy,new to me.

                1. A couple of others have already suggested the direction I will point you and that is toward Spain. Inexpensive, reliable brandies are available form several makers.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    I know several people on here have recommended the Pedro Domecq Fundador, though I haven't had any luck finding it yet.

                    1. re: ncyankee101

                      Maybe I'll go ahead and bite on that one. My bottle of Landy is about a fourth full, so I'll need to replace that in the next couple of weeks. Fundador runs $15.89 a bottle up here, though Landy VS is on sale for $19.99.

                  2. I know less about brandy than just about any other base spirit. Ever since I got into cocktails I've been using Landy VS or VSOP, because both of them are cheap, taste great, and are often on sale around here bringing them down to $20 or less for a bottle. However, since it was on sale, and I just ran out of my bottle of Landy VS, and to shift things up and maybe start learning a bit more about other brandy, I picked up a bottle of St. Remy XO today for $11.99. I haven't used it in any cocktails yet, but it is a noticeable change from the Landy. There's a good bit of butterscotch on the nose as well as a lot more wood, and a taste more like blended scotch than the lush, round and fruity flavor of the Landy. I ended up saving about $4, since the Landy was on sale this month, as it usually is, and while I wouldn't say the St. Remy is bad (it's really not) I don't plan on picking up another bottle given the value of the Landy VS. Then again, who knows, maybe it will make some killer cocktails.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: The Big Crunch

                      I bought Landy VS for sidecars based on this tread, and I couldn't be happier for $18.

                    2. The talk of Landy is making me laugh. Good to know, though. I only really use cognac for cooking, and my last couple of bottles have been Landy VS, which I have to admit I initially chose because the bottle has a greyhound on it. Happy accident, and a repeat purchase because it tastes nice.

                      ...now that I have outed myself as a mindless greyhound-loving idiot...

                      1. Anyone have trouble with their brandy losing all its flavor if it gets too hot? I've tried a bunch and if I'm doing anything above a low heat the flavor is just gone or some even become kinda harsh and the aroma is unpleasant.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BusyBaker

                          Um... well, of course. Any spirit starts to lose its flavor and aroma once heated over 85-90F. Alcohol is volatile. The higher the temp., the faster and more complete the flavor loss.