Booze

The World’s Best Brandy is Made in Calgary?

Brandy has historically been marketed based on region (for example, Cognac and Armagnac) and age (for example, VS, VSOP and XO). Through clever marketing, Cognac and Armagnac have set the standard for brandy, but in truth, they are made from grapes not appropriate for winemaking. Bridgeland Distillery (77 Edmonton Trail N.E.; bridgelanddistillery.com) is changing that.

“Most of the brandy in the world is made from varieties of grapes nobody wants to make into wine,” explains Daniel Plenzik, co-founder and distiller at Bridgeland Distillery. “So we asked ourselves, ‘If we make a really good wine, will it make a really good brandy?’ The answer was yes!”

Indeed.

Bridgeland Moscato Brandy received a gold medal and was crowned the best product in the Brandy Aged 2-3 Years category of the World Brandy Awards. Bridgeland Distillery also makes Gewurztraminer Brandy. As their names imply, the two brandies are made from single grape varieties, a highly unusual practice since the vast majority of brandy is made with a mix of grape varieties.

“Traditional brandy needs longer aging because it is so acidic,” says Plenzik. But by using the highly aromatic Moscato and Gewurztraminer grape varieties, Bridgeland Distillery’s brandy tastes amazing after only a relatively short time of maturation.

While Cognac and Armagnac drinkers might be used to their signature flavours, which are sweet and fruity from the grapes, but also spicy, bitter and earthy, Moscato Brandy and Gewurztraminer Brandy are intensified representations of those wine styles. Moscato Brandy is bright and citrus-like — reminiscent of candied orange peels — while Gewurztraminer Brandy shows tropical fruit and figs. Where Cognac or Armagnac are thought of as fire-side sippers appropriate to accompany a book, Bridgeland brandies are appropriate for sunny days and social gatherings.

Not only are these world-class brandies delicious in their own right, they present a unique learning opportunity for Calgary wine lovers. 

Visitors to the Bridgeland Distillery tasting room can sample the Moscato wine, unaged spirit from the wine (dubbed “BadaBing”), the Moscato Brandy and a special “Artisan Collection” version of the Moscato Brandy which enjoyed extra aging in a port cask. Fans of Gewurztraminer can try the wine, the brandy made from the wine and Eau de Vigne, Grappolo made from the Gewurztraminer pomace (labelling restrictions prevent Bridgeland Distillery from calling the spirit “grappa,” but that’s what it is).

“I don’t know anywhere else in the world where you can have the wine, the brandy and the grappa from the same vineyard,” says Jacques Tremblay, the other co-founder and distiller at Bridgeland Distillery.

These products are very much in the spirit of experimentation that has catapulted Bridgeland Distillery onto the world stage. In addition to the grape-based spirits, the distillery makes single malt whisky from barley sourced from a single field in Alberta, a bourbon-like spirit made from Taber corn, limoncello, amaro, baijiu and other spirits bridging tradition and innovation.

Don Tse has sampled almost 27,000 different beers. He is the Official Beer Taster for Craft Beer Importers Canada Inc. and Far Out Exporters Inc. which work with many of Alberta’s breweries. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.