Close Menu

The Brandy Masters 2024 results

Away from the Cognac heartlands, producers around the globe are creating exciting brandies.

Brandies, aside from Cognac, were put to the taste test

Outside of the regulated Cognac category there is a truly international brandy scene – and the start of 2024 has seen no shortage of new product developments. In April, La Martiniquaise-Bardinet unveiled a canned ready-to-drink Bardinet Brandy and Ginger Ale in time for summer. This followed a packaging revamp for stablemate Beehive Brandy in March, designed to match the brand’s ongoing premiumisation. Meanwhile, last month, in the UK, English distillery Burnt Faith brought out a Bourbon-finished brandy.

That’s just a snippet of the newness we’ve seen come from brandy producers. Expansion is happening – but is the quality good enough? To answer this question, two panels of judges were assembled at Fazenda Bishopsgate in London.

The first panel included: Ruchira Neotia, founder of Neo Margarita; Matt Chambers, spirits writer and co-founder of the Whisky For Everyone blog; and Luke Williams, assistant buyer at Harrods. Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and chair of The Global Spirits Masters Competitions, chaired the group.

Panel two included: Evan Prousaefs, bar manager at Sexy Fish in London; Dr Winnie Bowman, Cape wine master, wine and spirits judge and writer; Antony Moss, spirits judge and consultant; and David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co-founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, who chaired the team.

The blind-tasting competition opened with a flight of Other French Brandies – any brandy style made in France, apart from Cognac. A trio of Gold awards got the tasting off to a strong start. They were awarded to: Lucien Bernard XO Cuvée N°1; Beehive XO; and Seven Tails XO Cask Collection Madeira. Lucien Bernard XO Cuvée N°1 delivered flavours of “milk chocolate and fruit, sweet toffee apple and baking spice”. Beehive XO offered “lots of brown sugar, damsons and black grapes”. Seven Tails XO Cask Collection Madeira had “orange peel, dried fruits and ginger cake” on the nose, with flavours of “stewed apples, brioche and warming spice”.

Five Silver medals completed the first flight, with award-winners including Bardinet VSOP and Martell Blue Swift. “This was such a diverse category,” said Williams.

The flight impressed Neotia, who said: “I genuinely feel there is a place for brandies beyond Cognac, and they need to take a leaf out the book of eaux-de-vie and create genuine personalities and characters for themselves. The high medal winners were able to do that.”

Light bitterness

In the Other Region – UK heat, Burnt Faith Batch One added to the Gold medal number. The judges liked the spirit’s “soft caramel and orchard fruit” flavours, with a “light bitterness and spiced toffee” on the finish.

Four brandies from Australia were sampled next, delivering two Gold medals and two Silvers. Bickford’s Australia collected both Gold awards, the first for Black Bottle Very Special Australian Brandy, and the second for Black Bottle XO Brandy.

Black Bottle Very Special Australian Brandy was found to be “almost Bourbon-like”, and had flavours of “toffee and banana”. Black Bottle XO Brandy, however, was packed with “fruitcake, rum raisin, vanilla and icing sugar”.

Prousaefs noted: “Clearly the industry has taken leaps, and it’s trying to recreate itself and establish itself as a good brandy producer. There’s still a way to go, but brilliant progress.”

The brandy category ahs seen a flurry of new products launch so far this year

Private Reserve Metaxa Orama collected a Silver medal in the Other Region – Greece flight. The Greek brandy was described as having a “fruity” aroma, with “some Parma Violet flavours – well-crafted”.

As the tasting moved to brandy from Slovenia, another Silver medal was awarded, this time to Broken Bones & Jakoncic Brandy. “Clean and elegant,” noted one judge, with “honeyed fruit and touch dry on the finish”.

The Silver medals kept coming as the tasting progressed to Other Region – Ukraine. Both medals were collected by Global Beverage Trade, with one Silver awarded to Aznauri Black Barrel with “good texture, Sherry hints and gentle spice”. “This would be good for mixing,” noted Kiely. “It had quite a well-rounded flavour profile.” Silver-winning Aznauri Gold Reserve had notes of “spun sugar and treacle, with caramelised peach”.

Another Gold medallist was enjoyed in the Other Region – Romania heat, along with two Silver awards.

All three medals were given to Alexandrion Saber Distilleries 1789 products. But it was the company’s Brancoveanu Vinars VSOP that secured the Gold seal of approval. This brandy had “some richness” on the palate, with “some peppery notes”.

From Romania, the tasting travelled to South Africa. In the Pot Still Aged 10-12 Years category, Van Ryn’s 12 Years Single Potstill Brandy was bestowed with a Gold medal. “Crisp grape notes, balanced wood with some floral and honey aspects,” noted Smith.

Van Ryn’s collected two more medals in the Pot Still Aged Over 13 Years round. The brand secured Gold for both its 15-year-old and 20-year-old expressions. The older bottling was enjoyed for its “dry start and good complexity”. Moss found “distinct rancio, sultanas and apple” flavours, with “a touch of floral”.

“This was a steady flight with a good average score overall,” said Prousaefs. “It’s good to see producers doing a decent job and taking their time to craft their spirits.”

From there, two Brandy de Jerez entries were put to the taste test and collected double Gold for Grupo Osborne.

Carlos I Imperial impressed with “rich cherry notes and lots of fruit, dark chocolate and liquorice”. Stablemate Carlos I 1520 was found to have hints of “burnt caramel, toasted nuts and a big aftertaste”.

The Brandy Masters 2024 judges

The final flight assessed Asian brandies, and completed the tasting with a Gold medal for Paul John XO 100% Indian Grape Brandy. The judges noted the freshness of the aroma with “minty, eucalyptus” notes. The palate was described as “piney and oaky, with cocoa, syrup-like sweetness and light coffee notes”.

While brandy remains a smaller-scale category in the grand scheme of things, the judges concurred that there are pockets of creativity that are paying off throughout the sector.

If producers can continue elevating their offerings, it is surely only a matter of time until brandy becomes a more serious contender on the global spirits stage.

Other French Brandies
Company Product Medal
Lucien Bernard Lucien Bernard XO, Cuvée N°1 Gold
Seven Tails Distillers Seven Tails XO Cask Collection Madeira Gold
Bardinet Beehive XO Gold
Bardinet Bardinet Inspirations Silver
Bardinet Bardinet XO Silver
Bardinet Bardinet VSOP Silver
Seven Tails Distillers Seven Tails Brandy XO Silver
Martell & Co Martell Blue Swift Silver


Other Region – UK
Company Product Medal
Burnt Faith Spirits Burnt Faith Batch One Gold


Other Region – Australia
Company Product Medal
Bickford’s Australia Black Bottle Very Special Australian Brandy Gold
Bickford’s Australia Black Bottle XO Brandy Gold
Bickford’s Australia Black Bottle Classic Brandy Silver
Aldi Stores Australia Baroque Brandy Silver


Other Region – Greece
Company Product Medal
Metaxa Private Reserve Metaxa Orama Silver


Other Region – Slovenia
Company Product Medal
Broken Bones Broken Bones & Jakoncic Brandy Silver


Other Region – Ukraine
Company Product Medal
Global Beverage Trade Aznauri Black Barrel Silver
Global Beverage Trade Aznauri Gold Reserve Silver


Other Region – Romania
Company Product Medal
Alexandrion Saber Distilleries 1789 Brancoveanu Vinars VSOP Gold
Alexandrion Saber Distilleries 1789 Brancoveanu Vinars XO Silver
Alexandrion Saber Distilleries 1789 Brancoveanu Vinars VS Silver


South Africa – Pot Still Aged 10-12 Years
Company Product Medal
Heineken Beverages Van Ryn’s 12 Years Single Potstill Brandy Gold


South Africa – Pot Still Aged Over 13 Years
Company Product Medal
Heineken Beverages Van Ryn’s 15 Years Single Potstill Brandy Gold
Heineken Beverages Van Ryn’s 20 Years Single Potstill Brandy Gold


Brandy de Jerez
Company Product Medal
Grupo Osborne Carlos I Imperial Gold
Grupo Osborne Carlos I 1520 Gold


Brandy Made in Asia
Company Product Medal
John Distilleries Paul John XO 100% Indian Grape Brandy Gold

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No