The domestic brandy market is in decline. Five years ago, it made up 40.6% of the spirits market by volume but this has now decreased to only 33% (for the year ending December 2012). It’s vodka and whisky that are winning over consumers but a recent look at some 30 of the top-end brandies demonstrated that there’s still excellence to be had.
KWV, Oude Meester and Oude Molen are making really smart stuff across their respective ranges. Though Van Ryn’s is much touted, I didn’t care as much for these which typically seemed too heavily oaked and a touch sweet. Among the independents, Boplaas’s Carel Nel leads the way.
That Flight of the Fish Eagle and Klipdrift Gold could both win double gold at Veritas last year is somewhat surprising. These are sound but uninspiring.
My top brandies:
KWV 5 Year Old
Some floral perfume, hint of caramel and spice on the nose. Subtle and complex with good freshness and a long, dry finish.
Oude Meester Souverein 18 Year Old
Apricot, caramel, spice and a hint of nuttiness. Very refined with layers of flavour and a long, savoury finish.
Oude Molen René Single Cask Limited Release
Pear, white flowers, hint of caramel, spice, milk chocolate – wonderfully complex nose and palate. Rich and full but balanced. Delicious!
Boplaas Carel Nel 15 Year Old Reserve
White fruit, some floral perfume and spice on the nose. Some pleasing heft on the palate and good complexity.
Backsberg Sydney Back 10 Years Old
White fruit, spice and a hint of caramel on the nose. A subtle, well balanced palate – appears carefully made.
Laborie Alambic Brandy
Apricot, caramel and spice on the nose and palate. Overall impression is savoury rather than sweet and hence quite Cognac like.
Oude Meester Reserve 12 Years Old
Caramel and spice. Rich and full with good complexity although appears a touch sweet.