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Smooth, but a bit lacking in character
on 31 October 2015
I came across this brandy earlier this year whilst seeking out a proper 40% brandy that wouldn't break the bank to feed this year's Christmas cake. My Christmas cakes are legendary within our family and circle of friends (a combination of an age old handed down recipe and at least a litre of feeding spirit!). I won't cook with any alcohol that I wouldn't drink, so a tasting was obligatory. The E&J is Ernest and Julio (Gallo), probably better known as Californian vintners. It's a very smooth brandy and therefore very approachable for those who aren't hardened spirit drinkers. As a Scot I'm well acquainted with my country's fine nectar, especially those of the Islay variety, so although it's nice enough, it's not exactly characterful, maybe even bordering on insipid.... The nose is decidedly 'orangey', maybe more kumquat-like than orange, with white-raisin and a hint of oak. The entry is slightly sweet with some jammy sugariness. The midpalate has a moderate spirit heat but no nastiness at all. It's really fairly smooth. The dominant flavours are a somewhat muted but credible cognac flavor of orange citrus, grape spirit (almost grappa-like), and freshly sawn oak. The mouth feel is a bit thin, though not unpleasant. The finish is relatively short, with a touch of bitterness, but no nasty aftertaste. For its price, it's OK, but nothing to write home about. If you're a newcomer to grape spirits, I'd strongly recommend Remy Martin's VSOP Cognac as a good starting point - Nice hit of fresh red fruit on the nose, with an almost clean aroma of olive oil coming through. Surprisingly thick on the palate, but with some great mixes of vanilla and honey and a touch of smokiness before a slight kick on the throat. A long finish with a warm spice. Best served in a warm balloon glass. For Heaven's sake, whatever you do, don't put ice in it. It destroys the flavours. We still hang people in Scotland for putting ice in our whiskies......