Brandy is produced all over the world and the term has a very broad definition on a worldwide scale. While in the U.S. "brandy" usually implies grape spirits, the term brandy is used to classify any spirit that is distilled from fruits or fruit juice. The etymology of the term comes from the Dutch "brantjywn" and German "branntwine." Both essentially translate to "burnt wine," which is easily sensible when you consider that many brandies are simply distilled grape wines. The majority of brandy is produced in pot stills, in a two or three distillation process.
The category includes some notable names that many people do not realize are just subcategories of brandy: Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Grappa, Pisco, Eau-de_vie, and even Slivovitz.
Can vary greatly depending on the type of fruit or grape variety used. Should retain some aromatic character of the distillate. Wood aged versions can have extremely complex noses of spices, fruits, vanilla, toasty oak, smoke, etc.
Ranges from completely clear in the case of many grappas and piscos, through amber, and all the way to dark rich nutty brown colors. In many brandy producing areas the addition of caramel for coloring is permitted, so the color spectrum allowed can approach almost opaque levels.
Dependent on the fruits used as the base of the spirit, as well as the wood-aging regimen, and even some herbal infusions and flavorings are permitted in some categories. Typically a brandy will have flavor notes of the fruit being distilled. Some brandies are produced and aged in coastal climates and retain some salt or sea air influences. Many brandies are aged extensively in oak barrels and can take on toasty, smoky, vanilla, and spice characteristics from wood as well.
Brandy is often 40% alcohol by volume in the bottle, but can be found in a wide variety of strengths.