About Eau de Vie & Fruit Brandies

Eau-de-vie ("water of life") is the default term in French for spirits in general, and specifically for colorless fruit brandy, particularly from regions of France, Germany and the US.

Normandy is one of the few regions in France that does not have a substantial grape wine industry. Instead it is apple country, with a long tradition of producing hard and sweet cider that in turn can be distilled into an Apple Brandy known as Calvados. The local cider apples, which tend to be small and tart, are closer in type to crab apples than to modern table apples. This spirit has its own appellations, with the best brands coming from Appellation Controlee Pays dAuge near the Atlantic seaport of Deauville, and the rest in 10 adjacent regions that are designated Appellation Reglementee. Most Pays dAuge and some of the better Appellation Reglementee are produced in pot stills. All varieties of Calvados are aged in oak casks for a minimum of two years. Cognac-style quality and age terms such as V.S.O.P. and Hors dAge are frequently used on labels, but have no legal meaning. In the United States, Applejack, as Apple Brandy is called locally, is thought by many to be the first spirit produced in the British colonies. This colonial tradition has continued on the East Coast with the Lairds Distillery in New Jersey (established in 1780 and the oldest distillery in America). Apple Brandies that are more like eau-de-vie are produced in California and Oregon.

The fruit-growing regions of the upper Rhine River are the prime eau-de-vie production areas of Europe. The Black Forest region of Baden in Germany, and Alsace in France, are known for their Cherry Brandies (Kirsch in France, Kirschwasser in Germany), Raspberry Brandies (Framboise and Himbeergeist), and Pear Brandies (Poire). Similar eaux-de-vies are now being produced in the United States in California and Oregon. Some Plum Brandy is also made in these regions (Mirabelle from France is an example), but the best known type of Plum Brandy is Slivovitz, which is made from the small blue Sljiva plum throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans.
Top Picks for Eau de Vie & Fruit Brandies
208617
Schladerer
Obstwasser
Clear color. Delicate, attractive aromas and flavors of spiced pears and baked apple with a silky, vibrant, fruity medium body and a warming, intricate, medium-long finish with accents of minerals and lemon pepper. A delicious and pure fruit eau-de-vie.
94 points $39.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202005
Schladerer
Kirschwasser
Clear. Bright dried cherry, spicy cherry custard and blossoms aromas with a silky, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a white pepper, mineral oil, coconut water, and citrus zest accented finish. Excellent complexity and style for sipping and cocktail.
94 points $41.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217718
Long Road Distillers
Cherry Brandy
Clear color. Fruity aromas and flavors of bright spiced dried cherries, fruit gum, and cherry blossoms with a satiny, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a tingling, interesting, medium-long sweet cream, powdered sugar, cherry pits, and straw finish. A very pure cherry brandy with a solid core of fruit and pleasing warmth.
93 points $34.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
207157
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Eaux-de-Vie Apricot
Clear color. Lively aromas of apricot gelato and peach blossoms with a supple, soft, fruity light-to-medium body and a smooth, delightful, breezy violet gum, minerals, delicate pepper, and peach salt water taffy finish. A solid peach liqueur with a pretty floral character.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
206283
Schladerer
Williams Birne
Clear. Bright aromas and flavors of ripe Bartlett pear and cream with a silky, fruity-yet-dry medium body and a long, pure pear skin, nut oil, pepper and mineral nuanced finish. A very good example of a pear brandy.
92 points $45.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
202004
Kammer-Kirsch
Black Forest Williams Birne
Clear. Vibrant Bartlett pear and sweet cream aromas are very attractive with a soft, slightly tannic fruity medium-to-full body with a long, drying, and warming pear skin and cider, mineral, grassy earth and pepper finish. A delicious and pure pear eau-de-vie.
92 points $40.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
206215
Magnotta Distillery
Grape Barrel Aged Eau de Vie
Golden color. Aromas of coconut macaroon, caramelized nuts, and banana cream pie with a silky, fruity-yet-dry medium body and a warming, nut, mineral, fig, peach, and pepper finish. Very nicely balanced and rather high-rye bourbon-like from the barrel aging, mix accordingly.
91 points $29.95
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
213288
Solbeso
"No. 1" Fresh Distilled Cacao
Clear color. Delicate, interesting, attractive aromas of sesame nougat, cashew butter, and white chocolate raisins with a silky, vibrant, dryish light body and a tingling, long warm milk and honey, toasted exotic nuts, crispy chicken skin, and barnyard hay finish. A delightful creamy eau-de-vie with lots of tropical cocktail affinity.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
207156
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Eaux-de-Vie Fraise
Clear color. Interesting aromas of strawberry yogurt and strawberry meringue pie with a silky, bright, fruity light-to-medium body and a tingling, subtle, breezy fruit stripe gum, pepper, dried flowers, and earth finish. A nicely layered berry liqueur with interesting twists and turns.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
217816
Calvados Coquerel
Calvados VSOP
Light amber color. Aromas of roasted and dried apples, fig paste, delicate spiced nuts, and cedar pencil with a supple, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a warming, amusing, medium-long spiced apples and pear in creme Anglaise, mocha, and minerals finish. A rock solid Calvados for sipping or mixing.
89 points $39.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab