GSN Review: Osocalis Brandies

It’s always a treat to discover a new artisanal brandy.  Normally, I stock my home bar with cognacs, but with American distilleries taking off, there are several names to be on the lookout for.  One of them is Osocalis, located in Santa Cruz, Ca.  Using a very un-French like blend of Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Pinot Noir and Semillon grapes in their grape brandies, as well as over a dozen varieties of Northern California apples in their apple brandy; they have set the bar even higher by distilling using two antique alembic Charentais stills, imported from Cognac.

Apple Brandy – Bright yellow gold color.  Warm, fresh and crisp apple nose with overtones of just made cider.  Light, smooth and sweet apple flavor with hints of peel, juicy flesh and nicely balanced tartness.  This is a fine sipping brandy, and one that stands on it’s own; but would tend to get lost if used in a Jack Rose Cocktail, as the flavors are more delicate and subtle than the old standby of Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond Applejack.  Bring this out on a cool Autumn evening to celebrate the changing of the seasons.  GSN Rating: B+

Rare Alembic Brandy – Fine subdued gold color.  Nose is rich and enticing with hints of pomace, spice, aged fruit and barrel wood.  The taste is an ascending staircase of flavors which reveal themselves quickly, moving from round and open grape brandy, to notes of anise, pine forest, saffron, white pepper, dried orange peel, mint and sandalwood.  Amazingly complex and as good an American brandy as I’ve had the pleasure to partake.  Quite the marvel.  GSN Rating: A

XO Alembic Brandy – Mellow, golden sunlight color.  Nose has notes of baking chocolate, currents, frozen grapeskin, and a hint of vanilla custard.  The initial taste is so cohesive as to be one intense burst of flavor, making the various elements difficult to pick out.  But, they gradually give way to a beautiful oleo-resin vanilla and pecan flavored spice mix, with a strong and supportive grape base.  Surprisingly, despite brandies up to 14 years old in the mix, there are very few woody notes, instead there is a penumbra of caramel and almost a dry sherry character.  There is almost a shy, schluechtern quality here that deserves a quiet evening one-on-one with this brandy in order to get to know it intimately.  An excellent brandy and a standout among American distillers.  GSN Rating: A-

Osocalis also produces a Heritage brandy which I did not have the good fortune to try.

Osocalis products are available in IL, MA, FL DC, MD, CA, NY, CT & NJ.

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