American Brandy Distilled in the Traditional Methods of Cognac Is Starting To Come of Age
Jean T. Barrett
From the Print Edition:
Linda Evangelista, Autumn 95
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This year, Germain-Robin also collaborated with Robert Levin, owner of Ashton Distributors, which imports Ashton cigars, to produce a custom cigar-blend brandy called Ashton Crown. An XO level brandy, Ashton Crown is available at select wine and spirits merchants and at some tobacconists, priced at around $100.
While American alambic bottlings have proliferated over the past few years, brandy lovers should not expect to find new, high-end domestic blends above XO in quality anytime soon. Antique brandies cannot be produced on demand; the stocks of Germain-Robin, Jepson and Carneros Alambic will have to age considerably longer before another leap in quality can be offered.
"People ask, what's next after QE?" says Bernard La Borie. "I have no idea, because it's going to be many years before we put out a product after QE. Now, our brandies are continuing to get better and better every year, but our oldest stocks are from 1982. You have to consider that products like Louis XIII Cognac have components of brandies that are over a hundred years old. We're not there yet."
Miles Karakasevic of Domaine Charbay holds another viewpoint. Karakasevic, who has been distilling since his boyhood in Yugoslavia when he worked in his family's distillery, produces a range of small-batch distillates in alambic stills in Ukiah and Napa Valley. Whereas he and his wife, Susan, market grappas, eaux-de-vie and other exotic spirits, his California alambic brandies, dating back to 1982, are still resting in barrel and won't be released anytime soon.
Karakasevic explains that while he likes the alambic brandies produced by other American distillers, he prefers a different style, one that requires prolonged aging. "Mine you have to eat with a spoon; you have to chew on it," he asserts. "It's like chewing tobacco or molasses. Dark, rich! And that's what I call brandy."
When will this nectar be available?
"Turn of the century, I guess," replies Karakasevic. He sounds reluctant.
For information on the availability of American alambic brandies, contact the distillers at: Carneros Alambic, 707/253-9055; Domaine Charbay 707/963-9327; Germain-Robin, 707/462-3221; Jepson Vineyards, 707/468-8936.
Jean T. Barrett is a Los Angeles-based writer on wine, spirits, food and travel and a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator. GLASS ACT
Those balloon brandy snifters from Tiffany's that were given to you as a wedding present? Lose 'em. If you're serious about your brandy, you should know that the classic globe-shaped snifter is not the best glass for tasting. It tends to deliver too much alcohol to the nose, which hampers appreciation of brandy's complex aroma nuances.
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