Spoiler alert: the winner is…cheap brandy!
In the past, brandy has been something I’ve kept on hand for cooking purposes. Then, for the Flash of Lightning, I pulled my bottle of Christian Brother’s Brandy VS off the top of my pantry shelf hoping that my budget liquor wouldn’t impart a budget taste. I am happy to report that the Flash of Lightning had none of the taste sensations that I associate with bottom shelf liquor and sticky dorm room counter tops. It tasted classy and smooth.
Last week I went to my State Store (what dwellers in the City Of Brotherly Love call our State owned and operated liquor stores) to purchase brandy to make Apple Brandy (stay tuned to see how this turns out). My State Store is not known for variety, and pickings are slim when it comes to fancy options. My choices were to either stick with the Christian Brother’s or diversify my experience with some E&J Brandy. Both were about $10 for a 750 ml bottle, so I decided to go with the E&J, roll up my shirt sleeves and do an old fashioned taste test when I got home.
At first they seemed to taste pretty similar and they were pretty enjoyable. As I revisited each, I started to notice subtle differences. Christian Brother’s Brandy VS’s flavor is rounder and richer and I decided that I like it better than the E&J. However, at the end of the day, when it comes to using brandy in a cocktail, or when making something like Apple Brandy, the flavors you are mixing or infusing with brandy seem to overpower that subtle difference anyway. I’ll probably reach for the Christian Brothers in the future, but in my opinion, cheap brandy is cheap brandy is cheap brandy and it will do just fine.