Its time again for another Mixology Monday, this month hosted by Marleigh over at Sloshed! and the topic is brandy. Brandy is one of those spirits I've been researching over the past few months, and have started to taste and experiment with them more. However, since I'm currently suffering a terrible cold and haven't been able to partake of cocktails, I thought I would write about a few of the brandy distilleries I have visited and throw in one favorite recipe for good measure.
California Brandy Distilleries
A couple of years ago, we attended a distilling conference, and part of the festivities included a distillery tour. I had the privilege of touring the Jepson, Germain-Robin and Solomon Tournour distilleries. Here are some fun photos and stories from the trip.
First Stop: Jepson
In addition to a variety of wines, the folks at Jepson are using a cognac still to produce fine brandies from Colombard grapes (rather than the ugni blanc favored in Cognac). They walked us through their process in depth and let us try their products. Just like us, they do everything in true small batches, by hand (see hand labeling in photo to right).
Jepson brandies are virtually impossible to find in Chicago, so I was glad that I brought some home with me. My favorite is the Old Stock brandy, which I typically enjoy neat in a nosing glass (and I agree with Dominik about using a tulip glass rather than a snifter if possible!). It has rich spice tones, along with rich vanilla and caramel flavors.
Next Stop: Germain-Robin
This was the distillery I was most excited to see, given their reputation and products. We were greeted by the master distiller, Hubert Germain-Robin (pictured at far left), who was a gracious and delightful host. He walked us through his entire operation and process, and let us taste some of their creations. Germain-Robin makes their brandies from pinot noir and other richer varietals not used in the Cognac region.
Germain-Robin products are a bit easier to find in Chicago, especially their very nice Alambic Brandy, which is a bit fruitier and lighter, but with spice overtones. I really loved the Select Barrel XO, and wished I could have tasted the Anno Domini. Guess I'll have to save that one for a special occasion, since its $350 or so.
Third Stop: Solomon Tournour
Our last stop on this day of tours was at Solomon Tournour, a distillery so small you probably haven't heard of it. It appears they don't even have a website, or at least I cannot find it. They make really interesting products though, all done by hand from local fruits, including a lovely pear eau de vie and several fruit brandies. In the photos you'll see the still at Solomon Tournour, as well as Chris Solomon. The distillery is located in a rural area, on Chris's property. This was the smallest scale distillery I've seen, but run by one of the most passionate people I've met.
Of course I cannot find his products here in Chicago, but I'd recommend seeking them out if you are in Northern California!
The Brandy Crusta
Just for fun (and because this post is for mixology Monday), I wanted to throw in my favorite recipe for the brandy crusta.
This was reportedly the first cocktail served with a sugared rim, and it was invented in the mid-1800's in New Orleans.
Can't go wrong with this one, especially for someone who has never seen one before (the big lemon spiral is always a fun surprise). There are lots of variations on the ingredients and ratios, but here is my favorite version:
2 oz Brandy
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
½ oz Maraschino Liqueur
1 dash Peychaud's Bitters
Shake and strain into a cocktail glass (or other fun glass) that has been lightly rimmed with sugar. Garnish with a large lemon spiral around the inside rim of the glass.
In Chicago, you can get your very own version of this (which will look very similar to the photo) at the Drawing Room at Le Passage.