The word “brandy” comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn”, meaning “burnt wine”, and encompasses any spirit distilled from fermented fruit, though most brandies are made from grapes. Some spend decades in oak, layering on rich, earthy tannins.
The most famous brandies come from the Cognac region of France and have long been associated with opulence and wealth. But high-quality brandy is often very reasonably priced and is common in wine- and fruit-producing regions the world over, from Peru’s ubiquitous pisco to America’s applejack and the grappas of Italy. And now Australia.
Bass & Flinders Distillery Ochre Fine Aged Brandy
This distillery takes a handcrafted, small-scale approach to its brandy. Ochre is distilled from single- vineyard Mornington Peninsula chardonnay grapes using traditional methods and matured in oak barrels previously used to age Cognac. The result is a connoisseurs’ spirit that reflects the terroir of Victoria. $230, 700ml, 41% alc/vol bassandflindersdistillery.com
Charles Oates Apple Brandy
This uniquely Tasmanian brandy is made from apples that are grown, harvested, pressed and fermented at Willie Smith’s orchard in the Huon Valley. Matured in fortified wine barrels for more than four years, this sweet, delicate spirit is perfect paired with an after-dinner cheese plate. $90, 700ml, 40% alc/vol williesmiths.com.au
St Agnes XO 15 Year Old
Despite the gaudy bottle, this is arguably the best value spirit being produced in Australia. It’s a favourite among experts and was named Champion Brandy at the Australian Distilled Spirits Awards in 2016, 2017 and 2020. Soft, silky and complex, if this doesn’t convert you to brandy, nothing will. $114, 700ml , 40% alc/vol stagnesdistillery.com.au
Sullivans Cove Double Cask Brandy
Much like its whiskies, Sullivans Cove brandies are high-quality and boast serious accolades. The Double Cask Brandy is made from a range of Tasmanian wines distilled and aged for a minimum of eight years. Despite its advanced age, this spirit is lively with fruit and floral notes, and has a strong backbone of oak and Christmas spices. A brandy for whisky drinkers. $190, 700ml, 48% alc/vol sullivanscove.com
36 Short Gold Rakia
Rakia is the traditional brandy of the Balkan region, made from fruits including plums and apricots, as well as grapes. Most are unaged and many are infused with herbs and other flavours. 36 Short distillery crafts its Gold Rakia from South Australian shiraz and matures it on oak for a smooth tipple with warm spices and hints of aniseed. $54.95, 500ml, 45% alc/vol 36short.com.au