Featured Best Buy Booze — Korbel Brandy

September 19, 2011 — Korbel Brandy

Korbel. For those of my readers in the states, Korbel is most often associated with a sparkling wine from the Sonoma region of California.

They also make commercials that make those of us with a filthy mind giggle like school girls.

However, the California wine brand also makes their own brandy expression.

According to the Korbel website:

Since 1889, our Sonoma County winery has been producing award-winning California brandy.  Handcrafted in small batches at our artisan distillery using only the finest California grapes, Korbel Brandy is masterfully aged to perfection in premium oak barrels – fire charred and mellowed to achieve a golden amber color, rich butterscotch aroma, and extra smooth taste.

Truthfully, we first heard about Korbel Brandy late last year. So we’re a bit late to the 120-year-old party.

Now, by our own admission, brandy isn’t a libation that we’ve enjoyed extensively in the past. It’s only been within the past year or two that we’ve started to appreciated “burnt wine” for all that’s worth. Much like scotch, it’s an acquired taste.

For a brief history on why brandy is called brandy check out this previous post that touches on the history of the spirit.


The first thing we notice is a very, very strong wine scent. Some brandies can have a pronounced alcohol scent that then fades in to the wine roots. However, right up front you can tell that the Korbel Brandy is using grapes as it’s base. This is promising to already be unique from other brandies we’ve sampled.


Strong notes of wood right up front, going to a softer red wine flavor. There’s just a little bit of smoke. A very pleasant bit of burn and even a little bit of sweet. Very, very good neat.

On the Rocks:

When cooled down, you lose some of the smokiness present when the drink is neat. There is still the strong woody flavor, which works in the brandy’s favor. Coats the tongue with a very nice, heavy flavor.

Now, we always give a warning with cocktails based on spirits like brandy or scotch — they are very strong, very distinctive spirits. Unlike say, vodka, their flavor will dominate the cocktails they are featured in. This means you face an extra hurdle while ensuring that the cocktails are well balanced and flavored properly.

However, by that same token, you need to understand that this is what makes spirits like these create amazing cocktails — that sense of purpose and distinctive flavor. So, if you notice that you’re struggling with some cocktails, don’t get dissapointed!


— Mark


  1. Ed hansen says:

    During WWII, the Crawford House in Scollay Square Boston served a drink called “Tassel Tosser” It was a mixture of brandy,triple sec & anisette.The proportions in the drink were a secret. I assume that the ingredients were all made in the US since France was occupied at that time. Does any one know the brands that were used in this drink and the proportions in which they were mixed. ..
    At that time, Sally Keiths performed there and the drink was named after her famous dance in which she twirled tassels attached to her buttocks and breasts
    I am hosting a WWII reunion for the USS Weeden and would like to serve the Tassel Tosser at this event. Boston was our home port in 1944 and we returned there after each convoy run

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