By definition, eau de vie means clear brandy which is distilled from the stirred up juice of a fruit. The word comes from French, tracing roots as far as Medieval Latin, and it means “water of life” (Latin: “aqua vitae”). The name makes reference to various colorless spirits distilled from herbs and fruits (like “grappa” in Italy), in different countries around the world. However, the most popular reference is to brandy, and then to distilled drinks made from other fruits than grapes.
Eau De Vie Typology
1) Brandy is the most common eau de vie; its name derives from the Dutch word “brandewijn”, which means burnt wine. Brandy is made from wine or various fermented fruit juices and contains 40% alcohol/volume. It is generally used in cocktails, but also as a cooking ingredient (similar to rum).
Making brandy requires 4 important steps: fermenting the fruit into wine, distilling it in alcohol, aging in oak casks and blending it to taste. The aging process is where the difference between each type of brandy appears, as the casks used determine the quality and variety of each brand.
2) Cognac is commonly considered to be a type of brandy. This is the most famous brandy, actually, and it gets its name from the region where it is produced, meaning Cognac, in France; no other type of brandy can be called cognac. The grapes used in its production are attentively selected and can come only from this region. This is a drink widely appreciated and used in cocktails.
3) Armagnac is another special form of brandy, from the region Gascony, France, which is aged in Troncais or Limousin oak casks. This gives it a very strong flavor that renders this type of brandy null for most cocktails (with the exception of very few, of course). Just like with cognac, only brandies from this French region can bear the name Armagnac.
4) The best Spanish brandy is made in Andalusia and initially appeared as a medicine. Today, there are several brands which are well known and appreciated (such as Brandy de Jerez).
5) South American (more precisely Chile and Peru) make a type of brandy called pisco, which can be found in four varieties.
6) Brandy is made even in the US, especially on the West Coast, offering many types of brandies, from less expensive (and overly sweet) to quality and more expensive ones. American brandy is very good for a variety of cocktails.
Eau De Vie – Labelling And Serving
This drink is generally viewed as a digestive and can be served in either a tulip-shaped glass or a snifter, without mixing it with water or other beverages.
You can make it in the comfort of your own home, if you have a whiskey still; and, if you wonder what the label on each brandy means – in order to figure out how to age your own brandy – then here is your answer (mentioning the minimum time of aging):
· A.C. : aged 2 years
· V.S. (Very Special): aged 3 years
· V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) : aged 5 years
· X.O. (Extra Old): aged 4-6 years
Under various conditions, you can also find vintage brandy (which means it was stored in the barrels until bottling and the label show the vintage time) or hors d’age (which is brandy so old, that its age cannot be determined by the official, known, form of labeling).