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--Asbach Uralt Brandy-- Asbach has a lengthy history that goes back to the year 1892. A chap called Hugo Asbach had been living and working in France in the distilling business. He then moved to Rüdesheim on the river Rhein in Germany where he decided to open his own distillery with the aim of creating a product equal to the quality of Cognac but with subtle flavour differences that would appeal to the German palette. Ever since Asbach has been one of the top selling brands of brandy in Germany and has a product range to match. In order to achieve the quality Hugo Asbach was accustomed to he used grapes almost exclusively from the Charente region is France, which is where the town of Cognac lies. The guidelines to which he worked were almost identical to those of the Cognac distillers and so a top quality product was born. This standard of production has been carried forth to the present day thus maintaining a reputation as being an excellent brandy. Asbach Uralt is the most basic of the Asbach range. The word Uralt means 'very old' or 'ancient' though I'm not entirely sure what the average age of the spirits used really is. Distillation is carried out in copper kettles (similar to Whisky production) and is double distilled (all but 1 Scottish Malt is double distilled) to achieve the alcohol percentage and purity required for maturation. The spirit is then aged in casks made from Limousin oak where the flavour is allowed to develop as it draws its rich caramel colour and sweetness from the wood. Typically the brandy is left to mature for somewhere between two and four years before it is blended to create the final product. The Asbach blends often contain spirit from 25 different vintages in order to maintain a consistent product. Special blends are finished in oak vats for various lengths of time to add extra character to the bottling. --Brandies-- There are many different types of brandies, the most famous are probably fine cognacs (and the most expensive), but these are from a small region in France about a town called Cognac. Like Champagne, this is a restriction whereby only brandies from the Charente region can call themselves Cognacs. Brandies vary massively in price as you can pick up a bottle of nondescript alcohol with the word 'Brandy' emblazoned on it for less than a tenner, though those with a few more quid might consider the Henry IV Dudognon Heritage at $3,400,000. Admittedly, most of the cost is the diamond coated bottle, but there are several very old Cognacs that cost many thousands of pounds regardless of the bottle. Brandy is most commonly considered to be made by distilling grapes, however there are many other fruit based products such as Calvados (Apples), Slivovice (Plums), Damassine (Prunes), Schnapps (all sorts!), Pomace (Such as Grappa or Marc) and other endless brandy possibilities! Brandy is made by fermenting the fruit to create a wine (just like the wine making process), this wine is then heated in a still where the alcohol evaporates. This alcohol then passes through a condenser to cool and turn back into a liquid (of stronger alcohol percentage than the wine). This first distillation is then passed through a further still where the same process happens and a more concentrated alcohol is produced. This alcohol is then aged in Oak casks (French law dictates a minimum of 12 months) and finally blended and bottled. --Tasting notes-- The most important part! What flavours and fragrances am I likely to experience with a glass of Asbach Uralt? -Nose- Asbach has quite a delicate nose, I pick up on the classic grape and honey fragrance associated with most brandies but then get the subtleties only associated with this German delight. Hints of cocoa, chocolate, a touch of wood and some light flowery notes right at the top with a touch of dried fruits, in particular, raisins. The nosing experience is most enjoyable when the alcohol is warm. I often place my glass (a snifter, balloon or wine glass) on a cup of recently boiled water to raise the temperature a little. -Palate- Reasonably dry with fantastic, sweet dried fruits such as dates and raisins, a hint of spice and those subtle wood and very light chocolaty tones. -Finish- As with all good brandies it has a wonderful, long finish that keeps the dried fruit flavour throughout and ends with a peppery almond note with a touch of chocolate. -Overall Rating- Nose - 22/25 Palate - 21/25 Finish - 20/25 Balance - 21/25 Total - 84/100 I think that 84/100 is a fair score for Asbach Uralt to receive. It is often difficult to rate a product that has been designed to be slightly different as there is little to compare it against. Fortunately I've been lucky enough to try another bottling from Asbach which has given me a basis on which to score. --Drinking Suggestions-- Enjoy your glass of brandy in a nice balloon, warming in your hand or perhaps over ice with some ginger ale and a wedge of orange or lime. Why not even try a cocktail? All brandy cocktails will taste fantastic with Asbach Uralt, so here are a couple of suggestions to whet the appetite... -Sidecar- 2 measures Asbach Uralt. ¾ measure Cointreau (or other orange liqueur). ¾ measure fresh Lemon juice. Sugar. *The* classic brandy cocktail. An absolutely fantastic drink that each bartender will have his or her own slight variation of the recipe. I like mine a little heavy on the brandy and with a touch of sugar. Shake all the liquid ingredients and pour into a sugar rimmed cocktail glass. Alternatively add a little sugar to the drink before it is shaken (not to make it sweet - just to balance all of the flavours). -Brandy Alexander- 2 measures Asbach Uralt. ½ measure White Chocolate liqueur (such as Mozart White or Creme de Cacao). ½ measure Dark Chocolate liqueur (such as Mozart Dark or Creme de Cacao). 1 measure of Fresh Double Cream. Freshly Grated Nutmeg. This is an opulent cocktail that should be considered a treat or to replace a dessert after dinner. Shake all of the liquid ingredients, double strain into a cocktail glass and grate some fresh nutmeg over the top. --Price and Availability-- This is not an expensive bottle of brandy as it is usually just below the £20 mark. I have seen it in supermarkets over the years but you are more likely to pick up a bottle in a specialist shop - Peckhams or Oddbins for example. There are several other products from Asbach, of which I have only tried 1 - the 15yro. The 15yro bottling that I tried was absolutely fantastic, considerably better than the Uralt but costs approximately £35. Asbach Urbrand. Asbach and Auslese Riesling liqueur. Asbach Privatbrand, aged 8. Asbach Spezialbrand, aged 15. Asbach Selection, aged 21. Asbach Vintage 1972. Cellarmaster's Collection. Asbach are also quite famous for fine German chocolates. --Overall Personal Opinion-- This is an excellent brandy that is certainly worth a try. It is not as smooth as a Cognac or as fiery as an Armagnac but has its own subtleties that are distinctly Asbach, there are no other brandies that taste quite the same. It is relatively inexpensive when compared to many basic cognacs though if I had around £20 to spend on a bottle I would definitely choose a bottle of H by Hine. H by Hine is my favourite standard brandy of all time - it's fantastic. That said, my bottle of Asbach fits nicely in amongst my collection of brandies and there are occasions when only an Asbach Uralt will do! I hope this has helped in your decision to purchase a bottle of fine German brandy!
Asbach Uralt, The Great Brandy from the Rhine, is too distinctive a brandy to be enjoyed any other way than in a snifter. But when you have tried Asbach Uralt in a coctail you will agree with famous bartenders that it is a unique and versatile drink indeed.