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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 429 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BRANDY, an alcoholic, potable spirit, obtained by the distillation of grape wine. The frequently occurring statement that the word " brandy " is derived from the High German Branntwein is incorrect, inasmuch as the English word (as Fairley has pointed out) is quite as old as any of its continental equivalents. It is simply an abbreviation of the Old English brandewine, brand-wine or brandy wine, the word " brand " being common to all the Teutonic languages of northern Europe, meaning a thing burning or that has been burnt. John Fletcher's Beggar's Bush (1622) contains the passage, " Buy brand wine "; and from the Roxburgh Ballads (1650) we have " It is more fine than brandewine." The word " brandy " came into familiar use about the middle of the 17th century, but the expression " brandywine " was retained in legal documents until 1702 (Fairley). Thus in 1697 (View Penal Laws, 173) there occurs the sentence, " No aqua vitae or brandywine shall be imported into England." The British Pharmacopoeia formerly defined French brandy, which was the only variety mentioned (officially spiritus vini gallici), as " Spirit distilled from French wine; it has a characteristic flavour, and a light sherry colour derived from the cask in which it has been kept." In the latest edition the Latin title spiritus vini gallici is retained, but the word French is dropped from the text, which now reads as follows: " A spirituous liquid distilled from wine and matured by age, and containing not less than 361% by weight or 431% by volume - of ethyl hydroxide." The United States Pharmacopoeia (1905), retains the Latin expression spiritus vini gallici (English title Brandy), defined as " an alcoholic liquid obtained by the distillation of the fermented, unmodified juice of fresh grapes." Very little of the brandy of commerce corresponds exactly to the former definition of the British Pharmacopoeia as regards colouring matter, inasmuch as trade requirements necessitate the addition of a small quantity of caramel (burnt sugar) colouring to the spirit in the majority of cases. The object of this is, as a rule, not that of deceiving the consumer as to the apparent age of the brandy, but that of keeping a standard article of commerce at a standard level of colour. It is practically impossible to do this without having recourse to caramel colouring, as, practically speaking, the contents of any cask will always differ slightly, and often very appreciably, in colour intensity from the contents of another cask, even though the age and quality of the spirits are identical. The finest brandies are produced in a district covering an area of rather less than three million acres, situated in the departments of Charente and Charente Inferieure, of which the centre is the town of Cognac. It is generally held that only brandies produced within this district have a right to the name " cognac." The Cognac district is separated into district zones of production, according to the quality of the spirit which each yields. In the centre of the district, on the left bank of the Charente, is the Grande Champagne, and radiating beyond it are (in order of merit of the spirit produced) the Petite Champagne, the Borderies (or Premiers Bois), the Fins Bois, the Bons Bois, the Bois Ordinaires, and finally the Bois commons dits d terroir. Many hold that the brandy produced in the two latter districts is not entitled to the name of " cognac, " but this is a matter of controversy, as is also the question as to whether another district called the Grande Fine Champagne, namely, that in the immediate neighbourhood of the little village of Juillac-le-Coq, should be added to the list. The pre-eminent quality of the Cognac brandies is largely due to the character of the soil, the climate, and the scientific and systematic cultivation of the vines. For a period—from the which increases with age, furfural, which decreases, and small quantities of other matters of which we have as yet little knowledge. The table gives analyses, by the present author (excepting No . 3, which is by F. Lusson), of undoubtedly genuine commercial cognac brandies of various ages.
End of Article: BRANDY

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