Tasting three European brandies: Hennessy VSOP, Vecchia Romagna and Asbach Urbrand

Brandy, the quintessential staple for booze loving grandmas the world over, is pretty cool in my book.

Growing up, brandy was used to disinfect my wounds and it was sprinkled on my socks to ward off the flu. It added kick to home-made tiramisu and flavoured my grandpa’s espresso. Continue reading “Tasting three European brandies: Hennessy VSOP, Vecchia Romagna and Asbach Urbrand”

Kellybrook Apple Brandy

Type: Apple brandy

Origin: Victoria, Australia   

ABV: 37.5% 

Malt Mileage rating: Stars 3.5

Reaction: 😊

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Maxime Trijol VS Cognac

Type: Brandy 

Origin: Cognac, France  

ABV: 40% 

Malt Mileage rating: Stars 3.5

Reaction: 😊 Continue reading “Maxime Trijol VS Cognac”

Maxime Trijol VSOP Cognac

Type: Brandy 

Origin: Cognac, France  

ABV: 40%  Continue reading “Maxime Trijol VSOP Cognac”

The St Agnes XO brandy trio – 15, 20 and 40 year olds

St Agnes brandy.jpg

Since a single cask expression of Sullivan’s Cove French Oak won the world’s best single malt in the 2014 World Whiskies Awards, Australian whisky has taken the world by storm and demand for many Australian malts now outstrips supply. This success has largely been buoyed by heightened global interest in whisky which is nothing short of a renaissance. Another spirit, which is viewed by many as a “malternative” to whisky but has not yet had a renaissance of its own, is brandy.

Continue reading “The St Agnes XO brandy trio – 15, 20 and 40 year olds”

La Paglierina grappa

La Paglierina

Rating: ★★★★

Recommendation: Buy it! 

Type: Grappa

Origin: Italy

ABV: 45%

Reaction: 😀

La Paglierina is grappa from Italy. In my opinion there is good grappa and there is bad grappa. Bad grappa, at least in my opinion, has a character that resembles distilled store bought wine. Many moonshiners and distillers are known to buy chardonnay, distill it to extract the alcohol from the wine, and then they call the product of the distillation “grappa”. This is not grappa. This is wine brandy. Grappa is made from distilling the leftovers of the wine making process, not the wine itself. That is, when making grappa, a distiller should distill fermented grape skins, pulp, seeds and stems (called “pomace”) rather than wine. Grappa is now a protected name in the European Union, and it must be: (1) produced in Italy; (2) made of pomace; and (3) water must not be added to the pomace. 

Below are my tasting notes of La Paglierina grappa. 


The colour is a pale chardonnay. The grappa clings to the sides of the glass when swirled, and forms thin legs that are unevenly dispersed – looking pretty good. Bravo.


Grape bunchstems and seeds, being the aroma of the “pomace”, dominates the bouquet. This is accompanied by the smell of grapes, dried dates, sultana and crystalline sugars.   


Bellissimo! The flavor of grape seeds and grape bunchstems immediately hits the palate, with drying woody undertones and some astringency. The palate dries and then sweetens. The taste of whole dried figs then develops and lingers into a long finish.

Bottom Line:

La Paglierina is a simple and elegant grappa that offers a series of cascading flavours – from woody grape seeds and bunchtems, to a dryness, and then to a delicious dried fig. This is a lovely grappa. It is perfect as a digestive after a big heavy carb rich Italian meal.

Try it with it a platter of softer cheeses, such as brie, buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini, quince paste, dehydrated grapes, dried figs and dates. Be sure to talk unnecessarily loudly and with your hands, to enrich the Italian experience. 


DEAU Black

deau cognac

Rating: stars 4.5

Origin: Cognac, France

Type: Brandy

ABV: 40%

Price: $US150-$200 (USA)

DEAU Black is comprised of eaux-de-vie made from grapes that have grown in the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions of Cognac. DEAU mature this eaux-de-vie in new oak casks, which, being untouched virgin wood, would likely infuse the Cognac with heavy wood flavours. DEAU then move the brandy to older casks, which impart less tannins into the Cognac but still serve to mature the spirit.  DEAU Black takes its name from the colour of the tasting glasses that were used during blind tastings of the Cognac, a practice which I can only imagine is used to ensure the tasters are not prejudiced by the colour of the Cognac and instead only rely on aroma and taste. 


The aroma of tropical fruits is first noticeable, with lychee, pineapple and other tropical fruit in syrup being most prominent. The layers of tropical fruit are accompanied by creamy chocolate, spice, bay-leaf, eucalyptus, honey, soy, BBQ Chinese pork, sizzling sweet and sour with pineapple, pine nuts, pistachio baklava, hazelnut gelato, lemon curd, menthol Turkish delight, truffle oil, walnuts, old leather and Christmas cake with icing.   


The tropical fruit notes move seamlessly from the nose, but the lychee is fresh and the pineapple syrupy and tinned. Refreshing menthol then emerges with orange peel, citrus oils, sweet infused tea, fresh flowers, cocoa and curry powder. Mild wood notes and rigid spice, similar to cracked pepper, develop at mid-palate when the Cognac is aerated and slurped. 


On the finish the palate is prickled by mild spices which are softened by sugars, glazed cherries, mild nutmeg, the taste of a freshly opened cigar box and teas galore – watery rose gray tea develops into a raw sugar sweetened milky earl grey tea, and then mildly nutty Russian Caravan tea with milk.  The taste of milk chocolate, nuts and red gum honey lingers as the tea notes fade. 

Bottom line:

Buy it, if you can find it and it is within your budget. This is a Cognac that glows with delicious flavours often associated with very old Cognac – find lychee and tropical fruit, eucalyptus and other notes. This is a serious Cognac, for the serious Cognac aficionado.