This section is from the book "Alcohol, Its Production, Properties, Chemistry, And Industrial Applications", by Charles Simmonds. Also available from Amazon: Alcohol: Its Production, Properties, Chemistry, And Industrial Applications.
"Brandy ' is a potable spirit distilled from fermented grape juice.
"British brandy " is a compounded spirit prepared by a rectifier or compounder by re-distilling duty-paid spirits, made from grain, with flavouring ingredients; or by adding flavouring materials to such spirits.
There is no statutory definition of either of the above terms. The word "brandy" was used in old Acts of Parliament to denote spirits obtained from cereals - " Whereas good and wholesome brandies, aqua vitŠ, and spirits may be drawn and made from malted corn," etc. (2 William and Mary, c. 9; 1690) - and a definition of " British brandy ' as a flavoured spirit was given in the Spirits Act as late as 1860; but this has since been repealed.1
The French name for what is known as brandy in this country is "eau-de-vie," but this term used alone has a somewhat wide signification in France, being legally applicable to spirit made from grape marcs, cider, perry, cherries, plums, and other fruit, as well as to that from wine. More strictly, "brandy" as understood in this country corresponds with "eau-de-vie de vin," or wine spirit proper.
The most esteemed brandies are produced in the Cognac district. "Cognac," as the description of a spirit, is not expressly defined in the French law, but the name "eau-de-vie de Cognac," or "Cognac" simply, can only be applied legally to spirits made in the Cognac region from the juice of grapes grown therein. This region comprises part of the two departments of Charente and
1 For this, and the context, see Report, Royal Commission on Whisky, p. 26.
Charente Inferieure, and is locally subdivided into the Grande or Fine Champagne, the Petite Champagne, the Borderies, and the Bois, according to the quality of the wine produced. The soil is mainly calcareous: the grape grown is small in size and white in colour; and the wine is of inferior quality for drinking purposes.
Cognac brandy is made both by the professional distiller and by the farmer who grows his own grapes. A simple pot-still is generally used, and there are two distillations, giving respectively "brouillis" corresponding with the "low wines " of the whisky distiller, and "bonne chauffe" equivalent to the "spirits." In some distilleries, however, the brandy is produced at one continuous distillation, the stills being designated "a premier jet."
The wines used for " Cognac " contain from 10 to 20 per cent. of proof spirit, and the product is run from the stills at a strength of about 25 over proof. The brandy is sweetened with cane-sugar, and slightly coloured, the object of colouring being merely to keep a given brand up to a given level of colour.
Next to "Cognac " in order of commercial merit come the brandies made in the Armagnac, including the Marmande district. A certain amount of brandy is made in the Nantes district; and large quantities in the Midi, in the Herault, Gard, Aude, and Pyrenees Orientales districts, these brandies being commonly known as the "Trois.Six de Montpellier." For distilling wines with an undesirable flavour, "continuous " stills are used, giving such higher degree of rectification as may be required to eliminate the unwanted flavour.
"Marc brandies" ("eau-de-vie de marc") are spirits derived from the distillation of the skins of fresh grapes from which the greater part of the juice has been extracted.
Brandy of good quality is also produced in Algeria and in Spain. Egyptian brandies are distilled in Alexandria from grapes grown in Roumelia, parts of Greece, Cyprus, and Asia Minor. Some so-called "Egyptian" brandies are not distilled in Egypt, but are said to be probably made from currants grown in Greece.
The quantity of brandy retained for home consumption in the United Kingdom during the year 1913.14 amounted to 1,544,153 proof gallons.
Brandy is not now included in the British Pharmacopoeia, but in the 1898 edition of that work it was defined as a spirituous liquid distilled from wine and matured by age, and containing not less than 365 per cent. of alcohol by weight, or 43.5 per cent. by volume.
As distilled, brandy is colourless; but as sold is coloured, either by direct addition of colouring matter to ensure uniformity for special brands, as already indicated, or by extraction of colouring matters from the storage casks. The total amount of solids ranges from about 02 to 08 per cent. in general, but quantities of more than 1 per cent. are often met with, and occasionally even as much as 3 per cent. The alcoholic strength of brandy when sold in this country must not be lower than 25° under proof, unless with notice to the purchaser.1
Ordonneau, and also Claudon and Morin, have investigated the higher alcohols of brandy, and give the composition as follows: -
Ordonneau. Per cent.
Claudon and Morin.
Propyl alcohol ............................
Normal butyl alcohol ...........................
Isobutyl ,, ...........................
Amyl ,, ...........................
The characteristic flavour of brandy is considered to be due to œnanthic ester, of which Ordonneau found 4 grams in 100 litres of the alcohols obtained from a Cognac brandy twenty.five years old. The other esters discovered were ethyl acetate, 35 grams, and propionic, butyric, and caproic esters, together amounting to 3 grams.
Much discussion arose some years ago upon the proportion of esters which genuine brandy should contain. A minimum ' standard " of 80 parts, calculated as ethyl acetate, per 100,000 of alcohol was advocated, and there is no doubt that most genuine brandies do contain this proportion, and more. But there is also no doubt, first, that occasional samples of genuine brandy may fall below this limit in respect of esters; and, secondly, that the adoption of such a standard based on a minimum proportion of esters alone would not afford protection against fraud, since, on the one hand, brandies of higher ester-content could be diluted down with "silent" spirit, and, on the other, esters could be added to factitious brandies to ensure the presence of the requisite quantity.