Brandy (from brandywine, derived from Dutch brandewijn, "gebrande wijn" "burned wine") is a spirit produced by distilling wine. Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (70–120 US proof) and is typically taken as an after-dinner drink. Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, some are coloured with caramel colouring to imitate the effect of aging, and some brandies are produced using a combination of both aging and colouring.
In broader sense, the term "brandy" also denotes liquors obtained from distillation of pomace (pomace brandy) or mash or wine of any other fruit (fruit brandy). These products are also named Eaux-de-vie.
Varieties of wine brandy can be found across the winemaking world. Among the most renowned are Cognac and Armagnac from Southwestern France.
Brandy has a traditional age grading system, although its use is unregulated outside of Cognac and Armagnac:
V.S. ("very special") or ✯✯✯ (three stars) designates a blend in which the youngest brandy has been stored for at least two years in a cask.
V.S.O.P. ("very superior old pale"), Reserve or ✯✯✯✯✯ (five stars) designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask.
XO ("extra old") or Napoléon designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least six years.
Hors d'âge ("beyond age") is a designation which is formally equal to XO for Cognac, but for Armagnac designated brandy that is at least ten years old. In practice the term is used by producers to market a high-quality product beyond the official age scale.