Brandy (Ger. Branntwein, burnt wine), a spirit distilled from wine, the fermented juice of the grape, and in the United States from the fermented juice of other fruits, as the cherry, apple, pear, and peach. In the north of Europe the name is also applied to a spirit distilled from grain. The peculiar taste and aroma of wine brandy are due to a volatile oil derived from the husk of the grape. Rectification by repeated distillation clears the liquor of this fragrant substance, as also of its water, and converts it into alcohol. The average proportion of the latter in brandy varies from 48 to 54 per cent. The essential oil, when distilled from the husk alone, is so powerful that a few drops of it are sufficient to taint a large cask of spirit. Besides these ingredients, brandy contains coloring matter, tannin, cenanthic ether, and a little acetic ether. Cider, peach, perry, cherry, and other brandies, only differ from each other and from wine brandy by their peculiar volatile oils, which they contain in very small quantity. Brandies are commonly known as pale or dark. When first distilled, the liquor is without color, and the pale amber tint it acquires is derived from the wood of the cask in which it is kept.
This becomes deeper by age, and to imitate it burnt sugar is added to the newly distilled brandy. The best brandies come from France, the most esteemed being those of Cognac and Arma-gnac. They are usually rectified by the manufacturers to a specific gravity of only 0'935 to 0.922, and therefore contain more than half their weight of water, and are highly charged with the fragrant essential oil of the grape skin. Sometimes, to save expense of carriage, the liquor is more highly distilled; but this deteriorates it by causing a loss of much of the volatile fragrant oil. As the value of these brandies is greatly increased in consequence of partial failures of the vintage, and the largely increased demand, it has become an object to adulterate them, so that pure French brandy is now hardly to be obtained. Common whiskey is exported from the United States to France in large quantities, and is brought back converted into a factitious brandy. Brandy is also produced from a variety of other ardent spirits. Rum, beet-root spirit, and that of potatoes, are largely used in France for its manufacture, and similar processes are also carried on in this country.
From the immense quantities of pure spirits imported into France, and the small quantity exported, except in the shape of brandy and wine, it follows that a great proportion of these are nothing more than grain or beet-distilled liquor, colored, flavored, and named to suit the market to which it is sent. The inferior spirits are carefully rectified by repeated distillations over freshly burnt charcoal and quicklime, to deprive them of their peculiar flavors, which would if left behind betray the imposition; and the essential oils are then added, which have the odor of the ether it is desired to imitate. Dr. Ure gives a recipe for manufacturing factitious brandy, which he says is free from the deleterious drugs too often used to disguise and increase the intoxicating power of British brandies, and which may be reckoned as wholesome as alcohol in any shape can ever be. To pure alcohol diluted to the proof pitch, from half a pound to a pound of argol dissolved in water is added, and with this a little acetic ether, also some French wine vinegar, bruised French plums, and flavor stuff from Cognac, which is the murk or refuse skins and pips of the grape left after the fermentation of the wine.
It contains the less volatile ingredients of the grape, as the salts and most of the water - the alcohol having distilled over. It is largely imported into England to redistil with molasses for manufacturing the article known as "British brandy." The mixture is then distilled over a gentle fire in an alembic furnished with an agitator. Nicely burnt sugar (caramel) is added to the spirit which comes over, to give the dark red tint of age, and a few drops of tincture of catechu or oak bark give the astringent taste and property of the tannin contained in the real brandy. The imitations of brandy so far produced are not so perfect but that they may be easily detected. - The brandy sold in France is generally of two strengths, designated as a preuve de Hollande and d preuve d'huile, the former varying from 18° to 20° Baume. The value of the stronger liquors depends upon the quantity of water that may be added to them to give them the strength of eau de vie d preuve de Hollande. There are usually twelve grades, designated as five-six, four-five, three-four, two-three, three-five, four-seven, five-nine, six-eleven, three-six, three-seven, three-eight, and three-nine. These terms indicate the relative proportions of spirit and' water required to produce the Holland proof.
The spirit five-six has a specific gravity of 0-9237 or 22° Baume. On an average, 1,000 gallons of wine yield on distillation from 100 to 150 gallons of brandy.