In Europe, distilled alcoholic beverages made from wine derived from the fermentation of grapes are designated as brandies. Brandy is aged in casks of Limousin oak and has a characteristic golden/brown color. The most famous brandy is Cognac, which is produced according to strict rules. Fruit brandies and spirits are produced in Europe from fermented fruit mash or fruit wine.
According to the REGULATION (EC) No 110/20081, fruit spirit is produced exclusively by alcoholic fermentation and distillation. The alcohol has to be derived from the sugar of the respective fruit. The fermented mash has to be distilled at less than 86%vol (172 proof, US). The delicate aroma and taste has to be characteristic of the distilled raw material. Volatile substances have to be equal or exceed 200g per hectoliter of pure 100 percent alcohol. Additional limits for certain components exist for different fruit material.
Fruit brandies are especially produced in regions where the respective fruits are grown/cultivated. Often the availability of a special exceptional quality is limited and varies from year to year, based on crop. Typical fruits used for fruit spirits are pome and stone fruits such as apple, pear, plum, cherry and apricot. The most famous products are Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser (a protected geographical indication) and Williams pear spirit (derived exclusively from the Williams pear variety). Single variety apple products are offered to provide additional taste directions.
Apart from the mainstream products, fruit spirits from rare fruit varieties like quince, sloe, Mirabelle plum and rowan are available on the regional markets. Bottled products have only a very simple label and point out the link to a traditional origin.
The minimum alcohol content of the ready-to-drink fruit spirit shall be 37, 5%vol (75 proof, US) but is often higher up to 42%vol (84 proof, US). The product can be aged in wood but the classical fruit spirit presents as a water clear product. Amounts of 10g sugar per liter can be added to the ready-to-drink product to make products more smooth and gentle. Fruit spirits shall not be flavored and no foreign alcohol addition is allowed.
Whereas nowadays a lot of spirits are produced in large scale, a lot of fruit brandies are still obtained in small-sized stills of 150 to 350 L Volume. The still material is usually copper or at least partial copper.
A lot of producers market and offer their products directly themselves on their farm or distillery, offering tasting opportunities on site. Another route is to market fruit spirits via restaurants, and supermarkets based on the fruit’s regional roots.
The typical occasion for enjoying fruit spirits is as a digestive after the meal.
Fruit spirits represent a niche market but as premium products, they can maintain and defend their market share. In order to attract additional customers, the young generation of distillers add products like premium gin and whisky to their fruit spirit portfolio2.
- REGULATION (EC) No 110/2008 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1576/89 [PDF]
- “Craft spirits now account for one in seven spirit launches”, Beveragedaily.com June 2016
The views, opinions and technical analyses presented here are those of the author, and are not necessarily those of UL, ULProspector.com or Knowledge.ULProspector.com. While the editors of this site make every effort to verify the accuracy of its content, we assume no responsibility for errors made by the author, editorial staff or any other contributor. All content is subject to copyright and may not be reproduced without prior authorization from Prospector.