£17.00 - 1L
£12.50 - 70cl
£7.75 - 35cl
With Christmas round the corner, supermarkets are starting to stock up on brandy, both own brands and household names. Personally, I'm very partial to a glass of cognac in the evening, and previous to buying this, a high end VSOP cognac is the only brandy I have in stock. This product is clearly not a substitute for such a spirit but is most likely taking aim at branded brandies such as Three Barrels.
The packaging however does give off the air of quality and does seem to be more in the style of some cognacs. The VSOP age designation is clear and visible twice on the front of the bottle. This and the wine style bottle make it stand out from other brandies on the shelf.
Opening the bottle, a distinct smell of brandy comes out. Drunk neat, this spirit is surprisingly good. Whilst not comparable to the cognac I have, it's a perfectly acceptable sipper and excellent value when you consider that it's around half the price of even a low end cognac.
Where this spirit really excels though is in brandy based cocktails. Two of my favourites, the Alexander and the Champagne cocktail both call for cognac and using this as a substitute, I am unable to spot the difference between the Sainsbury's brandy and the much more expensive cognac. The presence of all the other strong ingredients in these cocktails serves to suppress the elements of the cognac that really make it excel on its own making this substitute a far better choice. There's no point wasting your good expensive cognac in these cocktails when a product that is half the price is indistinguishable.
Comparing the Sainsbury's brandy to the low end market leader, Three Barrels, I think the Sainsbury's bottle holds up very well and may even be slightly better. The taste on its own does seem slightly more refined and high quality with a slightly smoother aftertaste than the branded rival. With only a couple of pounds difference between them, the Sainsbury's brandy is a better choice in my opinion as it's at least as good, if not slightly better than Three Barrels.
The percentage of 36% is lower than other brandies, the majority being 40% and Three Barrels being 38%. This doesn't seem to noticeably affect the flavour though and should be just considered as a minor drawback.
Overall, an excellent brandy that would please most people if it is served on its own as a cognac substitute but really comes into its own when used in brandy based cocktails. I was so impressed with this bottle that it's now a permanent fixture in my drinks cabinet. I imagine lots of people will buy this to use in festive recipes such as Christmas pudding, but in my opinion, it's far too good for that.