So, last week we were invited to a Fine Brandy Tasting at Trumps Grillhouse and Butchery. And it turned out to be a very educational evening!
Distell brandy ambassador, Nick Holdcroft, guided us through some of Van Ryn’s Distillery’s award-winning brandies. His passion and enthusiasm for the brand was almost contagious!
We had the opportunity to taste the Van Ryn’s Collection Reserve Brandies, namely:
- 10 Year Old Vintage
- 12 Year Old Distillers Reserve
- 15 Year Old Fine Cask Reserve
- 20 Year Old Collectors
Sipping these beauties makes it easy to see why South Africa’s brandies are rated some of the best in the world.
I was seriously impressed! It was really difficult to choose a favourite, but I must admit, I am leaning a bit more towards the 12-year old. One of the most awarded local brandies, it is beautifully smooth and elegant with a soft velvety palate of dried fruit and coffee. Perfect to enjoy neat or with a dash of water and/or ice.
Followed by a delicious meal (it was our first visit to Trumps as well), it made for a pretty awesome night! Thanks for having us! x
Interested to learn more about brandy?
Read more here!
What is brandy?
South African brandy is among the world’s finest, made in a similar manner as French cognac. Our country’s has laws around brandy making to ensure our produce is of the highest quality. This is shown by brandies such as the Van Ryn’s range of potstills being awarded the title of Worldwide Best Brandy at the International Wine & Spirits competition multiple times in the past 15 years.
Brandy production is a delicate and complicated process. The first step is to grow quality grapes, which are used to make the wine that is distilled for brandy. This is called base wine.
In South Africa, grapes from warmer wine regions are used for brandy, and are mainly Chenin Blanc and Colombar varieties.
The next step is distillation. Base wine is distilled in copper potstills, and is transformed into what is called low wine. Low wine has an alcohol content of about 30% v/v.
The low wine is then distilled a second time, concentrating it even further. In the second distillation, the first vapours that emerge from the potstill are known as the heads. This portion is discarded because it contains highly volatile compounds that impart undesirable aromas.
The second portion is called the heart. This is the soul of brandy and is what will eventually be bottled and enjoyed. The alcohol content of the heart is up to 70% v/v which will be reduced to bottle strength before bottling.
The final vapours from the still are the tails – once again this portion is discarded.
Once the heart has been extracted, it will be aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years – a process called maturation. Many brandies are aged for longer periods – up to 30 years. It is during maturation that the heart, a clear liquid, obtains its distinctive amber colour from the wooden casks.
During the maturation process there is a complex interaction between the heart and the wood. What emerges after this magical process is known as potstill brandy.
The master distiller will now combine talent, experience and years of practise to blend the potstill brandies from various casks into the master blend. This may be bottled as is and sold as potstill brandy, or be used as a component in blended and vintage brandies.
Types of brandy
South African legislation allows for three types of brandy.
- A potstill brandy contains only potstill brandy, aged for a minimum of three years.
- A blended brandy contains potstill brandy, blended with unmatured wine spirit. The potstill component is aged for at least three years.
- A vintage brandy contains potstill brandy, blended with matured wine spirit. Both components must be aged for at least eight years.
· Always taste brandy from a clean brandy snifter
· It is perfectly acceptable to add a dash of still water when tasting brandy. Be sure to use pure, unchlorinated water.
· Don’t swirl your glass, like you would when tasting wine.
· Don’t warm the brandy – it should be tasted at room temperature.
· Start nosing from about 5cm from the top of your glass. Now move slowly down.
· Take a small sip and swirl around your mouth. The intensity of the alcohol will diminish after a few seconds and the rich, complex flavours will come to the fore.
· Always taste and enjoy responsibly.
“What is Brandy” info supplied via PR