The British have a long- standing history with brandy – reflected in the fact that some of the terminology for brandy is in English: VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) – but in recent years, the number of British distilleries producing brandy, and grape brandy in particular, has been few and far between.
Burnt Faith Brandy House, based in Walthamstow in North-East London, is the UK’s first and only dedicated brandy distillery. I recently purchased a bottle of their first release and whilst I’m sure many collectors will keep their bottles sealed, I for one wanted to try it! Batch 001 is distilled on a Charnetais still from a mixture of four grape varieties: Trebbiano, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Muscat Blanc.
The spirit is then matured in a variety of barrels such as ex-American Bourbon casks which had previously held Spanish brandy, as well as ex-Pineau des Charentes, ex-Cognac, and ex-Cherry Liqueur barrels.
On its own
Colour: Deep amber
Nose: Creamy vanilla notes to start, joined by oak, berry-fruit, butterscotch, and a little dark, bruleéd sugar on the finish.
Taste: Soft with slight floral, fruity notes: apricot and strawberry with a touch of plum. This moves on to brown sugar and a hint of spice before a dry finish with lingering notes of Biscoff coffee biscuits.
Brandy & Soda
This drink has a gentle sweetness to it with notes of brown sugar and light, fruity grape and apple towards the finish. It reminds me of a fruit pie: slightly buttery, but overall very refreshing.
The richness of the ginger goes notably well with the brandy, giving this serve hints of ginger syrup sponge, whilst the lemon adds a pleasant brightness. Another refreshing, but flavoursome drink.
On any given day, this is one of my favourite cocktails; it’s so accessible and delicious. Thankfully, Burnt Faith works really well in it, thus passing the real test for a brandy designed for mixed drinks. This Sidecar is rich, succulent, and inviting, as well as being elegant and sophisticated.
This cocktail brings out a lovely smokiness from the brandy, as well as some cherry notes. It’s really delightful – pulling the Sazerac into another dimension – well-balanced in terms of bitterness and sweetness, smoothness, and alcoholic bite – well worth a try.
Brandy Old Fashioned
A well-finessed Brandy Old Fashioned with the sweetness and spice of the brandy complementing the bitters. This has good flavour integration and is very sippable. With the addition of sparkling lemonade (a.k.a. a Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned), the drink does become sweeter, but nonetheless remains thirst-quenching and accessible.
Fine à l’Eau
A relatively light drink that is exceptionally drinkable in a long, light way – perfect for summer. The sugar and wood notes come to the fore and it’s pleasant to sip, but perhaps the brandy doesn’t quite have the complexity (in comparison to a Cognac) to quite pull this off, yet. Having said that, ultimately, that’s not a fair comparison and this is still a tasty drink. Colour me confused!
Rich, fruity notes of fruitcake with a touch of prune atop notes of cherry and stone fruit. There are also hints of vanilla and cinnamon that work well with the dry wine.
I was very impressed with the first release of Burnt Faith Brandy and delighted with the complexity and versatility that such a young spirit offers. The future is exceptionally promising and I, for one, am excited to see it.
Burnt Faith Brandy is available for £36 for 70cl and it is bottled at 40.0%. It s available from their website.