Across the globe, there are many different variations of alcohols, liquors, and alcoholic beverages. As time progresses, consumers from across the globe lost or never really learned the differences between some of these products. We can’t really even identify what makes them similar or vastly different. We will venture across the globe to set a base understanding of brandy and the offshoot spirits coming from nearby regions or variations that have become popular.
If you are unfamiliar with brandy, it is a spirit that’s typically produced by distilling wine. This is usually served as an after-meal digestif but can be consumed as any other form of alcohol would be consumed. In the case of apple brandy, brands like Lairds have been making this alcohol beverage in the US for centuries. Calvados is the same as apple brandy but is can only be named this if it comes from the Normandy region of France. The history of this beverage goes as far back as the 8th century. Lambig is essentially the same thing only produced in the Bretagne area and aged for a minimum of four years on oak. If you have been to Germany, you likely have also had Schnapps which, unlike the sticky and sweet American version, is a light fruit brandy. However, these are typically stronger and read more like a lightly-flavored vodka.
Similar to brandy is applejack which is very much along the lines of brandy. In the old days, cider was set out to freeze. The ice was picked off and the remaining liquid was saved. This would increase the alcohol by freeze-distillation, or fractional freezing, as it is called. In today’s mass-production era, applejack is made by blending apple brandy and neutral spirits. This is what producers, like Lairds, are doing currently.
Pommeau is an alcoholic drink made by mixing apple juice with apple brandy or calvados. Typically this would be two-thirds unfermented apple juice to one-third-year-old brandy or calvados. This liquid would be put into a vat and stirred and aged for around 30 months. Cideries in the US have even taken it upon themselves to bring this drink to the American table. 2 Towns Ciderhouse has a pommeau which is made from locally-grown bittersweet cider apples. After some sweetening, the juice is fermented and aged with apple eau de vie, also know as clear apple brandy. This mixture is matured in French oak barrels for one years’ time. This brings the pommeau to around 19% abv.
For a simple recap see the below:
Brandy is simply distilled wine.
Calvados is apple brandy made in the Normady region of France.
Pommeau is apple brandy or Calvados mixed with apple juice.
Lambig is apple brandy made in the Bretagne region of France.
Schnapps is traditionally a light fruit brandy.
Applejack is freeze distilled cider or in modern times blended apple brandy with neutral spirits.
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