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Are there brandies/cognacs/armagnacs as good as French ones made elsewhere?

Ever since I was in my twenties, my hard liquor of choice has been French brandy. By "brandy," I mean cognac, armagnac, and any other "nacs" made in France. The good ones, like Courvoisier, Hennessy, and Martell, all seem superior to me to brandies made elsewhere. (There are many other French ones, as well, but these are the least expensive brands sold in the U.S. which seem absoutely great to me.) Whenever I try Mexican, Spanish, or American brandy, it seems too sweet, as if too much carmel "coloring/flavoring" had been added. And it is not as aromatic or smooth.

Is there anywhere outside of France where they make brandies competitive in flavor--dry, smooth, and aromatic--to the ones which I have named? I realize that if I spend a $100 or more on a bottle of brandy, I can probably find something similar somewhere, but for the price, say U.S. $40 per bottle, or less, is there anything made in (say) Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Portugal, Germany, Mexico, the United States, Brazil, Argentina which comes close to the quality of French brandy? And if not, why not?

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  1. Germain Robin out of California are the best brandies in the US. Some say as good as any from Cognac. Some say the top ones are even better.

    1 Reply
    1. re: JMF

      Germain Robin is wonderful. Their basic brandy goes for about $50 ($49.99 at BevMo), which is more than $40 but well worth it.

    2. Very high quality Brandy is not to be had for $40 a bottle.
      Both the US and Spain produce some very good Brandies but they do not cost $40
      I would also argue that French products in that price range are just not that amazing.

      1. There is a lot of shitty brandy in France too.

        7 Replies
        1. re: jpc8015

          I think Masson Grande Amber VSOP is as good if not better than the basic offerings from Hennessey and Courvoisier, at about 1/3 the price.

          1. re: ncyankee101

            There are plenty of fine brandies from America, Spain, Eastern Europe, and South America. There are also lots of shitty brandies from France.

            The idea that France has a monopoly on the production of drinkable brandy is laughable.

            1. re: jpc8015

              Supposedly there are some very fine brandies from Azerbaijan. Then you have tipples like Asbach Uralt, Metaxa, Fundador etc - maybe not to your taste but definitely potable. I'll stick to Marie Duffau and Landy with an occasional splurge on Delamain.

              1. re: kagemusha49

                Man, I love Delamain. we don't drink a ton of brandy, but we keep a bottle of that for when we want to. It's phenomenal.

                1. re: kagemusha49

                  Thanks, Kagemusha. I appreciate your taking the time to list some alternatives.

                  I've had Asbach Uralt (in fact, went on vacation last year to where it is produced--Rudesheim, Germany) and I thought it was too sweet.

                  My father swore by three star and seven star Greek Metaxa. I thought the drink was great, but it is more like an after dinner liqueur than a brandy--way too sweet.

                  I think I had Fundador when I lived in Mexico forty years ago, but maybe not. I'll try it and see how it is. Thanks for the suggestion.

                2. re: jpc8015

                  JPC,

                  I didn't say that France had a monopoly on the production of drinkable brandy. Where did you get that from my post? I said that France seemed to produce more good brandy (smoother, less sweet, more aromatic) at a lower cost than I could find elsewhere. The goal of the posting was to find other equally good brandies at a comparable or lower cost.

                  "There are plenty of fine brandies from America, Spain, Eastern Europe and South America," you wrote. I'm looking for them. What are they called?

                  1. re: gfr1111

                    From your post:

                    "The good ones, like Courvoisier, Hennessy, and Martell, all seem superior to me to brandies made elsewhere. (There are many other French ones, as well, but these are the least expensive brands sold in the U.S. which seem absoutely great to me.) Whenever I try Mexican, Spanish, or American brandy, it seems too sweet, as if too much carmel "coloring/flavoring" had been added. And it is not as aromatic or smooth."

                    I don't know what you were trying to say here if you weren't saying that French brandy is better than all other brandies just by the virtue that it is made in France; especially the first sentence.

            2. You might try Landy cognac VSOP for $30/bottle and Marie Duffau armagnac for around $33. These are both French and considerably cheaper than $100/bottle. Marie Duffau has pretty much become my go-to "nac".

              1 Reply
              1. re: kagemusha49

                I second the Landy, made by Ferrand.

              2. Jeff, you've opened up an incredible can of worms albeit unintentional, I'm sure. As I don't know how much you actually know about the subject, let me start at the very beginning with a few basics (regardless of what's already been written; bear with me) . . .

                You already know that brandies are made all over the world. COGNAC is merely one type of brandy, and its production zone is limited to a very small, very specific corner of France -- make it there, follow some very specific regulations, and you can call your brandy "Cognac." Make it there, but don't follow the regulations? NOT Cognac. Make it elsewhere, but following the same specific regulations? NOT Cognac.

                ARMAGNAC? Same thing, but from a different part of France.

                BRANDY DE JEREZ? Same thing, but from Jerez, in Spain.

                These are the three most famous (grape) brandies in the world, but -- again -- brandy is made the world over.

                You mentioned three specific brands of Cognac: "(t)he good ones, like Courvoisier, Hennessy, and Martell." These are three of the four largest producers -- you left out Rémy Martin -- and certainly these are the four best known brands as well. And they *are* good . . . compared to most non-Cognacs, but they aren't very good (just better known) compared to other producers/brands widely available -- even in Tampa!

                The region of Cognac makes the very BEST Cognac in the world . . . Armagnac makes the finest Armagnac on Earth . . . and no one produces Brandy de Jerez like the producers of Brandy de Jerez. They are different from one another, and from every other region on the planet!

                Now, that said, of all the brandies produced ELSEWHERE in the world, there are some California Alambic brandies that are very reminiscent stylistically to Cognac. The easiest of these to find, also the oldest of the California alambics, is Germain-Robin -- http://www.craftdistillers.com/produc... -- whereas Osocalis is very small, with a very limited production, and is thus hard to find even in California, let alone Florida!

                Nothing from California, or elsewhere really, is close stylistically to Armagnac.

                Most California and Mexican brandies are made in column stills, rather than pot stills, and will be nothing like a Cognac or Armagnac. They still can be very good, but there's nothing about these column-distilled brandies that will be reminiscent of what you're looking for . . .

                The same can be said for the grape brandies made throughout the rest of France -- they, too, often are produced using column stills, and while I might use some for cooking, I'd rather not drink them.

                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                A word about caramel coloring and boisé. Both are legal to use in Cognac and elsewhere. Since brandies are colorless when distilled, they pick up color from aging in oak. The addition of color makes the brandies *appear* older than they are. Similarly, the addition of boisé (basically pulverized wood) adds the aroma and flavor of having been in oak longer than they actually were. The "Big Four" (Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin) ALL use coloring and boisé, but many Cognac distillers do not. Léopold Gourmel -- http://www.leopold-gourmel.com/en/ -- does not, for example, and IIRC, neither does Maison Surrenne -- http://www.craftdistillers.com/produc... -- among many others.

                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                I would AVOID the "Big Four" from Cognac. Relative to other producers, they simply aren't all that great and (IMHO) overpriced for what you get.

                In addition to the two (very small) producers I mentioned above (both of which are outstanding, IMHO), I'd look for Cognacs from the following producers, presented in alphabetical order:

                Delamain -- http://www.delamain-cognac.fr
                Hine -- http://www.hinecognac.com
                Pierre Ferrand -- http://www.pierreferrandcognac.com/en/

                /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                More information and suggestions available upon request . . .

                2 Replies
                1. re: zin1953

                  Wow! Zin1953, I bow to a master on the topic. Yes, I am requesting more information and suggestions, please. Thanks for all the insight. I will certainly try your suggestions above and more would definitely be appreciated.

                  You mentioned Remy-Martin as one of the "big four" which I had left out. I knew there was one I had forgotten and spotted it at Walgreen's. (This was before your suggestion to avoid the Big Four.) As penance, I bought a bottle ($24.99 on sale, down from about $30.00 normally). But from now on, I will embark on a program of trying all those brandies which you and the other posters on this page have recommended.

                  Thanks.

                  1. re: gfr1111

                    Hardly a master, though I hope I've learned a few things during my career in the wine trade . . . ;^)

                    Cognac first:

                    It's not a great analogy by any means, but think of the "Big Four" as McDonald's, Jack-in-the-Box, Burger King, and Taco Bell . . . sometimes (for some people) these will just "hit the spot," but they know there's better stuff out there -- some will care and seek out the better stuff; others are simply content where they are.

                    Told you it wasn't all that great . . . the "Big Four" are better than that, but somehow comparing, say, Outback or Sizzler with Peter Lugar's or even Morton's made even less sense to me.

                    Each "house" (producer) has its own style -- consistent throughout all its various bottlings of Cognac. Courvoisier, for instance, is rougher, more coarse; Rémy is the lightest (of the four); Martell the fullest; and so on. Smaller houses/producers like Hine, Delamain, Ferrand, Camus, Kelt, etc. each have their own styles . . . as do the "Big Four."

                    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                    Armagnac is the "country cousin" of Cognac -- generally speaking, it's fuller, rounder, more robust . . . similar yet completely different. Here, too, there are large houses (Sempé, Janneau, Larressingle, de Montal, and others) as well as a myriad of small ones, including (but in no way limited to) Château de Tarriquet, Francis Darroze, Laberdolive.

                    Brandy de Jerez runs the gamut from light, dry, and elegant to heavy, rich, and rough.

                    California alambics emulate (generally) Cognac.

                    The brandies of Mexico (again, generally) emulate the brandies of Spain, for obvious reasons.

                    The key is to go forth and enjoy!

                2. The reason why Landy (made by the Ferrand people) is relatively cheap is that they do not use grapes from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. They use grapes from less prestigious Cognac regions like Borderies. Still pretty good stuff.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: kagemusha49

                    I use Landy in he bars I work with as our house "cocktail"" brandy.

                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      Neither does Léopold Gourmel, but it's pretty damned good $#|+! ;^)

                    2. If you can find it, Torres 20 year old brandy and Jaime 1 brandy (even older) are superb. They are not like brandies from Jerez (which I enjoy.)

                      1. Good post, gfr.

                        Cognac IS the marque, or the benchmark for others to follow.

                        Notice the characteristic of other manufacturers to imitate, or replicate the bottle label colour, font size and style, and the actual bottle colour shape / colour, with slight wording alterations to suggest you are buying the original product at a marked reduction in price.

                        And it works, doesn't it.

                        I've mentioned here that there very few experts, some here on CH, are actually blessed with a palate fine enough to distinguish good Cognac, or good brandies. But back to your question, as that is the fun of the exercise. Travel and taste, or try out someone's suggestion on a different brandy, and see if you enjoy it.

                        French-style brandies in South America ? By my experience, no. At risk of being declared persona non grata, and denied re-entry to Peru or Brasil, Pisco and oak-aged Cachaça sit in my hutch as a popular spirit for guests, but don't measure up to the French category.

                        Japan ? Suntory VSOP or XO might favourably tempt your nose or palette.

                        One country not mentioned is the excellent Emperador produced by Mr. Andrew Tan of the Philippines. In the World Top 10 brandies, too.

                        I'll allow others to add to the global brandy treasures list.

                        One final caveat:
                        Never be tempted to believe that brandy served in a Courvoisier VSOP crystal decanter is actually that, and not El Presidente or another inexpensive substitute. I've done that to guests who generously and gratefully emptied my entire decanter in one evening.

                        Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea culpa. After a good meal, by our fire, none could tell.

                         
                        40 Replies
                        1. re: SWISSAIRE

                          I don't think that the folks in Armagnac follow the folks in Cognac (or should I say Jarnac). Armagnac has been around longer than Cognac

                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                            Slightly off topic, but would El Presidente serve as a substitute for cognac in making a fruit brandy? I need something decent tasting but preferably a whole lot cheaper than good French Cognac. I'd prefer a smooth finish and fairly light taste.

                            1. re: susanl143

                              Sure it will.

                              You will be tasting the fruit first, and then the brandy.

                              Again let it age, and keep it well sealed. But let people know what it actually is, and not a French Cognac.

                              I actually miss that brandy: Hard to find and expensive here, as it is considered an American ( as in from the Americas ) import.

                              1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                Let it age? In the bottle? Really? How?

                                1. re: JMF

                                  Have you not ever made Kirschwater ?

                                  Has a bottle been mentioned at all ?

                                  1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                    Kirsch (aka Kirschwasser, if made in Germany; I've never seen it labeled "Kirchwater") is not fruit-flavored brandy, which is what susanl143 was talking about making when she wrote, "would El Presidente serve as a substitute for cognac in making a fruit brandy" -- Kirsch is an eau-de-vie, a brandy distilled FROM cherries¹, not flavored by them.

                                    Most eaux-de-vie are bottled soon after distillation and are unaged, though (e.g.) Schladerer (from Germany) does produce one that receives some aging in oak in addition to their "regular" one, as do a handful of other distillers.

                                    But no distillate ages in the bottle.

                                    _______________
                                    ¹ Just as Framboise is distilled from raspberries, Mirabelle, from plums, Poire from pears, etc., etc.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      Just as an aside these Fruit Brandies/Eau-de-Vie in German speaking Countries are know as Schnaps.

                                      1. re: chefj

                                        But so are several other distillates . . . and let's not even bring up what Americans call "schnapps."

                                        See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schnapps and http://cocktails.about.com/od/cocktai...

                                        . . . not to mention my grandfather, when he came to this country, continued his daily ritual of taking a "shot of schnapps" every day at noon . . . and he used Old Weller Antique 7 year old 107° Bourbon Whiskey (though technically incorrect, as his last name was "Weller," and as he lived to be 97, who was I to argue?

                                        )

                                        ;^)

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          Yes please do not bring up American "Schnapps"
                                          True that Schnaps refers to many strong spirits.
                                          To be more narrow I suppose Obstschnaps would refer to ones made only from Fruit and Geist for redistilled infusions.

                              2. re: susanl143

                                I don't understand the question. "would El Presidente serve as a substitute for cognac in making a fruit brandy?" Making a fruit brandy? El Presidente is a brandy. Do you mean for infusing fruit into a brandy?

                                1. re: JMF

                                  Indeed I meant infusing a fruit into a brandy. In this case, wild blackberries. If El Presidente is both hard to find and expensive, I need another suitable brand, please.

                                  My sipping Cognac these days is Kelt. Using it as a base for fruit flavors would offend me, not to mention destroy my budget.

                                  1. re: susanl143

                                    Hi Susan-

                                    El Pressidente, a brandy from Mexico is inexpensive and available in North America.

                                    You shouldn't have any problem finding it, or infusing it with anything of your choice.

                                    Cheers,
                                    -R

                                2. re: susanl143

                                  Susan,

                                  ANY grape brandy in which you have macerated fruit will become a fruit-flavored brandy, but it is *still* a grape brandy, not a fruit brandy. Fruit brandies by definition are distilled from the actual fruit itself -- other than grapes which, yes, are indeed a fruit, but not in this particular context. That is, the world over, "brandy" (by itself) is distilled from grapes. "Fruit brandy" is distilled from fruit ***other than*** grapes.

                                  Fruit brandy, often called eau-de-vie, are typically colorless and can (and are) produced from a wide variety of fruits all over the world, though the ares which are best known for these fruit brandies are Alsace, France, Germany (especially in and around the Black Forest), Switzerland, and in Eastern Europe (Hungary and the former Yugoslavia, in particular). A tiny number of American craft distillers, including St. George (California) and Clear Creek (Oregon), produce outstanding faux-de-vie as well.

                                  Fruit *flavored* brandy has long been made by major US brands of liquor and liqueur, including (but not limited to) DeKuyper, Hiram Walker, and Leroux. But this -- like you were describing above using Presidente Brandy, which it can be quite tasty, tastes nothing like the true eau-de-vie.

                                  /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

                                  Personally I think using Cognac to make fruit-flavored brandy is not only expensive, but it's a waste of good Cognac. Presidente (it's not "El Presidente," by the way) would be fine, as would Korbel from California -- which is smoother and richer than Gallo, Paul Masson, or Christian Bros.

                                  _____________

                                  Edit: I didn't see your post above re: infusing when I wrote this; sorry to be redundant.

                                  1. re: zin1953

                                    I think the blackberry brandies made by the three companies you list above are awful. I love the idea of blackberry flavored brandy but hate the taste of those I can buy. They are too sweet and too rough and the berry flavor tastes artificial. Little wonder as they all list artificial flavor as one of their ingredients. I want decent brandy as the base and wonderful berries as the flavoring and sweetened to my own taste which may or may not include much sugar at all.

                                    My tenant, who is Polish in background, likes the commercial blackberry brandies which is why I've tasted them all. I kept hoping one of them would be good. I have something different in mind. Maybe what I make will end up like those but I am hoping not. I also saw a recipe for wild blackberry brandy that included spices and ginger. I'll also try that -- thinking that come winter and come colds, that would be a very satisfying pick me up with a cup of hot tea.

                                    I th9ought the infusions with vodka or grain alcohol counted as eau d' vie mostly due to a friend who told me that was how she made such. I now know better and won't call my fruit infusions that. I certainly drank some wonderful eau d' vies when last in France. I'll try the California ones. Setting up my own distillery is beyond my present ambitions.

                                    1. re: susanl143

                                      You can find some very nice brandy to use for infusion. What price range?

                                      You may want to do a search on this board because over the years we have had some very in-depth discussions about infusions.

                                      1. re: susanl143

                                        >>> I think the blackberry brandies made by the three companies you list above are awful. <<<

                                        Susan, you are a woman of exquisite taste. They ARE awful!

                                        I, too, would suggest searching this site for discussions on infusions. Obviously, infusing vodka with fruit tastes of fruit, whereas infusing brandy with fruit gives you the taste of both. This is (obviously) why you want to start with a good brandy, but -- as I said above -- I'd never use Cognac . . . or, for that matter, any expensive brandy.

                                        The difference between brandies will certainly affect the flavor of the infused spirit, so I'd start with a brandy you like. If you've never had Presidente (or Korbel or Paul Masson or . . . or . . . ), you have a couple of options. One, of course, is to go out and buy them all -- either all at once or one at a time -- infuse them, and taste the results. That can get rather pricey, not to mention wasteful. Another way to go would be to go to a bar and order a snifter of one or more of them and taste them "straight" to see which you enjoy most, then use that one as your base. You should enjoy the results, but if not, you can always try a different brandy the next time.

                                        Just random thoughts on a Sunday afternoon . . .

                                        1. re: zin1953

                                          I went to the NH liquor store yesterday only to discover that virtually all the brands listed as good while not cognac weren't carried there. I bought a large bottle of Band J XO because the description on the bottle said ultra smooth. The clerk said I could bring it back if I didn't like it. Well, it was disgusting. The main aroma was ammonia and it was rough indeed. I think I spotted Paul Masson. I'll try that next. No Korbel, no Presidente. I swore off Vodka decades ago when it bit me from behind and kept me ill for most of the next day. I'm pretty sure I had an allergic response to the filtration stuff as I was far to ill for simply a hangover. I haven't touched the stuff since. Cognac is my go to drink when I am feeling ill so I figured combining brandy with healthful blackberries would be the get through the winter sniffles drink. I'll use rum if brandy doesn't work.

                                          1. re: susanl143

                                            I exchanged the brandy I had bought. The manager wasn't going to take it back since it had been opened but I said, "it smells like ammonia. That isn't the way brandy should smell." He opened the bottle, took a whiff, and promptly offered to refund my money. I took Paul Masson instead and when I got home, opened and tasted it. This was a whole different type of brandy and actually not too far off some of the big three cognacs. Certainly as good as their VS versions and a lot less expensive -- on sale for $7.99 for the 750 size.As the brandy had a pleasant taste and aroma, I simply added it to the blackberries without anything else. I think it is going to be really good.

                                            Oh, can't edit the post above. The awful brandy was B & G.

                                            1. re: susanl143

                                              The Paul Masson is fine for making your Blackberry infusion. Also fine for Fruit Cakes and their Ilk.

                                              1. re: chefj

                                                Agreed.

                                                /\/\/\/\/\

                                                Susan, the difference between the Paul Masson and the Korbel brandies from California is principally one of weight. The Paul Masson is lighter in body than the Korbel -- in a similar way to a Cognac being lighter than an Armagnac, say -- and less "forceful" in flavor. Thus, as (my neighbor and fellow East Bay resident) chefj said, it's perfect for your infusion and for cooking . . .

                                                1. re: zin1953

                                                  I'd probably have bought the Korbel if the store had it. I was put off by the inexpensiveness of the Paul Masson but fortunately that did not indicate relative quality. The lightness of the PM was exactly what I was seeking plus a decent base flavor. I am sure this will be a huge improvement over those awful and sickening sweet commercial blackberry brandies. I couldn't believe the horror of my other purchase, the E & J ammonia flavored brandy (finally have those initials right -- my brain wants to forget all about that stuff.)

                                                  I've often found the recommended Cognacs on this list unavailable in NH. For now, I'm pretty happy with the Kelt for the money but would gladly seek another good value Cognac for variety -- although its purchase might require an out of state trip. I love good wine but I don't drink enough alone at home to avoid wasting half the bottle or more so a less perishable drink like Cognac is my home tipple. I have followed the Cognac threads in the past but new offerings often come along and I like to keep up.

                                                  1. re: susanl143

                                                    Kelt Tour du Monde is pretty good - we get it here for $40. But for some of the other ones we've mentioned here, you need to hit a more cosmopolitan liquor store - in or out of NH

                                                    1. re: susanl143

                                                      I had heard that E+J XO was a decent bargain brandy several years ago, but has gone downhill more recently. I bought a bottle a couple years ago and it was pretty bad - I wouldn't say it was reminiscent of ammonia, but it tasted like a really cheap rum.

                                                      1. re: susanl143

                                                        In all honesty, the more I think about it, you ended up with the PERFECT choice . . . no thanks to me. I prefer drinking Korbel to Paul Masson, on those rare occasions I drink one or the other. (Generally, I don't; I only taste them as a judge at the California State Fair; phased more correctly, Korbel would be my choice if I had to drink one or the other.) But that said, Paul Masson is the better choice for infusions *precisely* because of its lightness.

                                                        I'm glad it worked out well, and I'm thankful the Korbel wasn't available! ;^)

                                                        /\/\/\/\/\

                                                        I would repeat the previous recommendation of trying Germain-Robin if you ever get the chance . . . NOT for infusing, but as a very fine California alambic brandy (in the style of a Cognac), but sadly it's not carried in NH.

                                                        Aside from the Kelt, you might want to try this one offered by the NH system: http://www.liquorandwineoutlets.com/p...

                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                          My Kelt bottle is low. The fact that the Brandy in your link is on closeout makes me think that if I want any, I'd best buy some soon. I certainly don't remember seeing it in my supermarket sized local store when I pondered at length the offerings of the Brandy section. I'll try a few other stores in the area. I'm probably heading to NY next week so I might also look for the Germain-Robin.

                                                          During the long NH winters, with the thermostat kept low, sometimes nothing but a bit of a good cognac can make the cold bearable.

                                        2. re: SWISSAIRE

                                          You really can't compare different styles of brandy such as Cognac to Armagnac to Pisco to Marc to Grappa to Eau de vie to Palinka, aged, non-aged, etc. They are differing styles of brandy, made with different grapes and /or fruit, fermented in differing ways, in differing regions and continents, with different types of stills, and differing distillation methods, and differing aging. So Cognac is NOT the benchmark or marque. It's just a type of brandy, from a delineated region.

                                          That's like comparing American whiskey to Scotch whisky to Irish whisky to Japanese whisky to Canadian whiskey to Indian whiskey. All are whiskey, but they taste and are made in very different ways.

                                          Cachaca isn't brandy. It's a cane spirit, in the rum'esque category.

                                          1. re: JMF

                                            DEFINITION OF BRANDY
                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandy

                                            COGNAC: (from the above Wiki link
                                            )" Varieties of wine brandy can be found across the wine making world.

                                            " Among the most renowned are Cognac and Armagnac from Southern France. "

                                            Most would agree with that quote, and usually that is the definition of a marque or bench mark in any product, but apparently you do not. That is your opinion, of course.

                                            Moving on:

                                            PISCO A BRANDY:

                                            " Pisco is a strong, colourless to amber-coloured brandy produced in specific regions of Chile and Peru."

                                            " By volume Pisco is the largest selling brandy worldwide. "

                                            Your comment:
                                            " Cachaca isn't brandy. It's a cane spirit, in the rum'esque categor. "

                                            Actually, I never stated it was a brandy. If you care to, please read my comments again for accuracy.

                                            By the way, Cachaça is not vaguely " rhum-esque" as you describe. Factually, and specifically Cachaça IS defined and classified as rum that is a distinctive product of Brazil, manufactured in Brazil in compliance with the laws of Brazil regulating the manufacture of Cachaça for consumption in that country.

                                            Perhaps you are not familiar with EU regulations on the definition of fruit brandy, and rum, which is different from US classifications. I can send you the link in the available languages, if you like.

                                            For better accuracy in the US, you might care to peruse:
                                            US Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms
                                            PART 5—LABELING AND ADVERTISING OF DISTILLED SPIRITS

                                            http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?...

                                            Accurate US legal definitions and classifications are all there.

                                            1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                              Actually I am quite aware of all the regulations regarding spirits, US, EU, worldwide, etc. I may get a minor detail wrong off the top of my head, but I would, and have done so many times, state I wasn't sure. If you really want to get into a know-it-all argument about spirits, I am more than willing. But really, why waste our time? I do this for a living. Do you?

                                              Wikipedia isn't the best source to quote since it is a user based site. I can go into wiki and make any changes I want, factual, or not so.

                                              Above you quote:
                                              COGNAC: (from the above Wiki link)" Varieties of wine brandy can be found across the wine making world. " Among the most renowned are Cognac and Armagnac from Southern France. "

                                              You state, "Most would agree with that quote, and usually that is the definition of a marque or bench mark in any product, but apparently you do not. That is your opinion, of course."

                                              Actually I strongly disagree. I use the actual definition, when I refer to something, not an assumed one.

                                              Renowned doesn't mean or equate to benchmark. From Merriam-Webster: Renowned means, "widely acclaimed and highly honored." Benchmark means a standard of measurement. As in "something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged." Marque means, "a brand or make of a product." It doesn't mean a style, such as Cognac or Armagnac.

                                              A specific brand of Cognac can be a benchmark for Cognac. A specific brand of Armagnac can be a benchmark for Armagnac. A French brandy cannot be a benchmark for Spanish brandies. A French brandy cannot be a benchmark for Pisco. They are different types and styles of brandy. It's like saying Valencia oranges are the benchmark for citrus.

                                              Here is your direct quote from above, "French-style brandies in South America? By my experience, no. At risk of being declared persona non grata, and denied re-entry to Peru or Brasil, Pisco and oak-aged Cachaça sit in my hutch as a popular spirit for guests, but don't measure up to the French category." (ie, brandy.)
                                              You are talking about brandy in that quote. You include cachaca in the same sentence as pisco. You do not in any way refer to cachaca as anything other than brandy. You do not refer to cane based spirits of any kind.

                                              Brazil has set up legislation that cachaca is not, in fact, rum, but a separate, distinctive, product. "In the United States cachaça is recognized as a distinctive Brazilian product by signing an agreement with Brazil" [Not the best quote, since it is from wiki... ;-)> ] and so I use the term rum-esque, which is more appropriate. Just like how Rhum agricole from Martinique has its own "Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée" to separate it from molasses based rums. Merriam-Webster changed their definition and it now reads, "a Brazilian liquor distilled from sugarcane " But, i'll even quote wiki, " a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice." and "Cachaça, like rum, has two varieties: unaged (white) and aged (gold)." You see, wiki evens says, "like rum", it does not say rum. Referencing cachaca as a rum is out of date.

                                              1. re: JMF

                                                Not according to the US definition and standard.

                                                Both the United States, and the EU do not as yet subscribe or accept the Brasilian definition and classification of Cachaça. I quite frankly wish both did.

                                                Under the government of Lula, the previous President of Brasil, there were repeated attempts beginning with former US President George Bush, to have the US agree to it's definition, and reduce the taxation on US imports to Zero. As yet that has not happened, and the effort continues under the current government in Brasil of Dilma Rousseff.

                                                Cachaça, is not a brandy. Pisco clearly is. Both are popular drinks, native to Latin America, specifically Brasil, Peru, and Chile. Neither, in context to the question of " are there French style " brandy, is a French style brandy, or measures up to the question posted by the OP.

                                                Again, "rhum-esque" is not accurate under US Title 27. There is no such classification, other than " Cachaça is a rum... " Would Cognac-esque, or Armagnac-esque be accurate and acceptable definitions ? Hardly.

                                                It is rum by classification.

                                                It may be out of date in your opinion, but currently that is the US law and the correct US definition.

                                                1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                  The TTB BAM / US Title 27 hasn't been edited and changed since 2006, released 5/2007, with no major changes since several releases before that. From discussions with several TTB agents, there will be a breakdown by type in several spirits that haven't before over the coming years. One is cane spirits being further categorized as Agricultural and Industrial, ie. cane juice and molasses. And for "appellation control" such as those rhum agricole from Martinique or national distinction such as Cachaca from Brazil, and others. It was back in, I think, 1968, where rum was all lumped into one category by the US in the BAM. that's when categories like"New England Rum" disappeared.

                                                  Cachaca isn't presently even referred to in the TTB BAM.

                                                  But to go back... you never addressed your using cachaca in the same sentence as brandy. Did you just make a mistake? Otherwise I don't understand.

                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                    " Cachaca isn't presently even referred to in the TTB BAM." ?

                                                    Once again:

                                                    US Title 27: Alcohol, Tobacco Products and Firearms
                                                    PART 5—LABELING AND ADVERTISING OF DISTILLED SPIRITS

                                                    http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?...

                                                    " (f) Class 6; rum. “Rum” is an alcoholic distillate from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses, or other sugar cane by-products, produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to rum, and bottled at not less than 80° proof; and also includes mixtures solely of such distillates.

                                                    (1) “Cachaça” is rum that is a distinctive product of Brazil, manufactured in Brazil in compliance with the laws of Brazil regulating the manufacture of Cachaça for consumption in that country. The word “Cachaça” may be spelled with or without the diacritic mark (i.e., “Cachaça” or “Cachaca”).

                                                    Seems to be pretty clear reading.

                                                    Monday here and the start of a new work week.

                                                    1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                      Sorry, I just wanted to see how much research you were going to do in your arguments.

                                                      You still have completely avoided why you included cachaca when you were talking about brandy...

                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                        Sure.

                                                        Susan's original question " is there anything made in (say) Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Portugal, Germany, Mexico, the United States, Brazil, Argentina which comes close to the quality of French brandy? "

                                                        My answer is that there are popular spirit drinks made in Latin America ( which I described ), but none qualifies as A French style Brandy.

                                                        If you like to dissect these into three posts as a rebuttal, that is your choice.

                                                        Next ?

                                                        1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                          Umm - a nice pork pie could come close to the quality of French brandy, but I'd hardly suggest that citing it would be responsive to Susan's question. Now, you two need to quit squabbling over semantics.

                                                          1. re: kagemusha49

                                                            Kagemusha, I agree.

                                                            This unfortunately is not the first time.

                                                            Someone here is being more Pedantic than Semantic.

                                                            And taking away from Susan's original post.

                                                            1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                              Someone is caught in a tight, narrow, mind frame, and unaccepting of the wide styles of the subject of brandy. As well as the ability to address their mistakes.

                                                  2. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                    This is a rum turn of events and why don't you two take a deep breath an put this spat down to a rum figure of speech. You're starting to scare the visitors. BTW the last time I was in France I picked up a bottle of Calvados - I forget which brand - and I swear it tasted rather like cognac - not a hint of apple.

                                                    1. re: kagemusha49

                                                      And I recently had a pear "calvados" that tasted more like apple than their regular calvados....