UPDATED -- 2 DAY MICRO-DRIED FRUIT FORMULA: Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

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UPDATED -- 2 DAY MICRO-DRIED FRUIT FORMULA: Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#1 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 8th, 2019, 6:08 pm

INFUSED XO BRANDY AKA HOMEMADE "CUVEE DE CENTENAIRE" GRAND MARNIER

Boozehounds, the infusion formula below has been updated with the very happy discovery that using micro-dried fruit has resulted in an insanely fast infusion that literally took just two days to complete. You can read my updated posts below and I highly recommend using micro-dried fruit if you can find it. Be aware that it is a lot more expensive, though, than regular dried fruit which uses standard convection dehydration. If you're not sure which type of dried fruit you're using, here's a good rule of thumb. Standard dried fruit looks and feels leathery and feels soft and sticky to the touch. Micro-dried fruit looks and feels extremely dry and powdery.

MICRO-DRIED FRUIT XO INFUSION FORMULA ~2 DAY MACERATION PERIOD:

* 1 cup MICRO-DRIED unsweetened fruit
* 1/4 - 3/4 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, etc.) (TWEAKED FROM ORIGINAL RECIPE TO CUT SWEETNESS; SEE POSTS BELOW)
* 1 full bottle of XO quality brandy (Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Brandy de Jerez, brandy, grappa, etc.) PLUS 1/4- 1/2 cup brandy or neutral spirit for top up (see below)
* Clean glass jars for infusing
* Just two DAYS patience! [shock.gif]

In a clean glass jar, add one cup of micro-dried fruit, 1/4 cup of your preferred sweetener to start, and a full bottle of XO quality brandy or spirit of your choice. Add an 1/4 cup more of your choice to top up and compensate for any brandy lost to the fruit. Micro-dried fruit will absorb far less liquid than standard dried fruit and will not require as large of a top up. Seal the jar, shake to dissolve the sweetener and get the infusion going, and then let rest for just two days in a cool dark place for a full infusion. Filter and decant back into a spirit bottle and seal. Enjoy neat or on the rocks.


STANDARD DRIED FRUIT XO INFUSION FORMULA ~2 WEEK MACERATION PERIOD:
*1 cup dried unsweetened fruit (apricots, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, black currants, pineapple, mango, kiwi, pear, apple, etc.)
* 1/4 - 3/4 cup sweetener (sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, etc.) (TWEAKED FROM ORIGINAL RECIPE TO CUT SWEETNESS; SEE POSTS BELOW)
* 1 full bottle of XO quality brandy (Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, Brandy de Jerez, brandy, grappa, etc.) PLUS 1/2 - 1 cup brandy or neutral spirit for top up (see below)
* Clean glass jars for infusing
* Two weeks patience

In a clean glass jar, add one cup of dried fruit, 1/4 cup of your preferred sweetener to start, and a full bottle of XO quality brandy or spirit of your choice. Add an additional 1/2 to 1 cup more of your choice to top up and compensate for the brandy lost to the fruit (see notes below). Seal the jar, shake to dissolve the sweetener and get the infusion going, and then let rest for two weeks in a cool dark place for a full infusion. Filter and decant back into a spirit bottle and seal. Enjoy neat or on the rocks.[/b]

Boozehounds,

I just opened a brand new bottle of Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire. This higher end version of the world famous orange Cognac liqueur is composed of 82% XO Cognacs aged between 12 and 30 years and the rest of their Cordon Rouge infusion. The stuff is delicious and inspired me to revisit a project I did and posted about a few years ago, making my own versions of homemade Marnier.

When I first did that project, I was barely into my Wine Berserkerdom and knew even less about spirits though I had already acquired my love of Cognac. Back then I used brandies with an average of 10 years of age on them. I also used two bottles of Bourbon. One of the brandy bottles I knew for sure was just 7 years old. None of the bottles cost more than $50 - 60 CDN that I recall. The end results were pretty comparable to a standard bottle of classic Grand Marnier which also costs $50 CDN. No coincidence I'm sure.

20190507_213027.jpg
My inspiration: the Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire

This time, my intention was to go just as high end as the Centenaire and make something really special. So I culled my collection of spirits for some XO level brandy. Once I selected the bottles and put them aside, I bought some dried fruit from a specialty store in the famous St. Lawrence Market here in downtown Toronto and then got to work. I poured the dried fruit, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of Stevia, and a full bottle of brandy in each jar. Then I topped up the jars with a bit of leftover grappa and Metaxa 12 star, sealed them, and put them away to let them infuse. The combinations I chose were as follows:

* Mazzetti XO 20 Year Old Brandy and dried California peaches
* L'heraud L'Oublié No. 48 Cognac and dried Peruvian pineapple
* Bache-Gabrielsen XO Fine Champagne Cognac and dried tart cherries
* Christian Drouin Le Venerable Calvados and dried wild Canadian blueberries
* Torres 20 Brandy and dried California apricots
* Torres 20 Brandy and dried black currants

20190507_205422.jpg
My infused brandies and a couple of the base spirit decanters ready to be filled back in two weeks

I'll check in with everyone and let you know how the end results turn out in two weeks. For anyone interested in their own infusions, I've got some notes below to keep in mind:

* Feel free to infuse grape based spirits, rum, Bourbon, eau de vie or even vodka but I would probably stay away from Scotch and Irish whisky as I can't see the barley flavor mixing well with fruit flavor but feel free to prove me wrong. I would also avoid Brandy de Jerez that has been aged in PX sherry casks as PX tends to overpower other flavors. Just try some next to some regular brandy and you'll see. I use the Torres brandies as they are one of the few Brandy de Jerez brands that do not use PX sherry casks for aging.

* I'd advise starting the infusion with just 1/4 cup sweetener. Remember, the dried fruit also adds sweetness even if you used unsweetened dried fruit as I did. You can always add more sweetness later to the finished infused brandy. You can only take it away, however, by diluting it further which also dilutes the fruit flavor. Better to start with less and then add more later.

* Other sweeteners add their own distinct flavors as well so keep that in mind when using honey, maple syrup, agave syrup or Stevia as I did. You might want to cut back a little when using them.

* Just how sweet is the final product supposed to be? That depends entirely on your taste. You might not want to add any sweetener at all or even more than I recommend in my recipe. Entirely up to you. The Centenaire itself has a whopping 237 g/L of residual sugar. To place that in perspective, that's twice the sweetness of a standard icewine or Sauternes but only half of a Pedro Ximenez based Sherry.

* The infusion giveth... in the form of the added bonus of brandied fruit when the infusion is done. The leftover fruit is perfect for baking and dessert making. Feel free to store the leftovers in the fridge or even the freezer.

* ... and the infusion taketh away. Remember that the dried fruit is not just infusing the spirit but also rehydrating itself in it. That's why you need the top up spirit. You're going to lose some spirit to the fruit and if like myself you'd like a full 700 - 750 ml bottle of finished homemade Marnier, you're going to need that top up. Note that the top up doesn't even have to be the same type of spirit as the base spirit as long as it doesn't clash with it. As noted above, I used leftover grappa and Metaxa 12 star brandy.

* Did your spirit come in a nice decanter style bottle? Yes? Good. Keep it. After all, you'll want something nice to store your high end XO infused brandies in. Afraid those labels might confuse your guests? Here's a trick to removing them easily. Boil a large pot of water. As the boil rolls, stick the label side of the bottle in for a few minutes. It will heat up the glue and allow you to peel off the labels. Depending on what kind of glue was used, this will then be quite easy as the label peels off or you may still have to use a scraper or a knife to help out. But rest assured, one way or another they will come off.
Last edited by Tran Bronstein on June 22nd, 2019, 4:38 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#2 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 14th, 2019, 5:31 pm

Okay, time to check in after a week's infusing. The brandies and dried fruit went to infusion on Tues 5/7/19 and require two week's time to properly macerate, but let's check in at the halfway point, shall we?

20190514_192434.jpg
Apricot XO Brandy

The Apricot XO Brandy has darkened a bit but is still translucent. The fruit has absorbed quite a bit of liquid, more than doubling in size and starting to float up. High heat and apricot skin tannin on the nose which is slightly irritant. Quick taste shows plenty of apricot flavor has already permeated the brandy but there's still plenty more to get out of there.

20190514_192419.jpg
Black Currant XO Brandy

The Black Currant XO Brandy has darkened much more with a bit of a bluish tinge but surprisingly is not as dark as the Blueberry Calvados. It's still translucent at the bottom and you can see the currants have swelled up but they remain at the bottom. The nose is entirely brandy heat with nary a Cassis note. A quick taste shows a subtle black currant flavor permeating the brandy. Not as fruity sweet as Creme de Cassis but also much more mellow and complex.

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Tart Cherry XO Cognac

The Tart Cherry XO Cognac has darkened with a reddish hue to it but is also translucent at the bottom. The cherries have swelled but you can see that they have also lost virtually all of their color and given it all to the Cognac. Given this, I was expecting a lot more tart cherry flavor in the brandy but it's actually quite pleasantly subtle.

20190514_192343.jpg
Blueberry XO Calvados

The Blueberry XO Calvados is easily the darkest infusion with pretty much no translucency to speak of. You can't tell from the picture but half of the blueberries have actually floated to the top of the liquid. This infusion has the clearest separation of flavors as it's all Calvados up front and the blueberry finally comes through on the finish.

20190514_192325.jpg
Pineapple XO Cognac

The pineapple XO Cognac has seen by far the greatest absorption by the fruit. As you can see in the pic, the fruit has swelled to completely fill the jar and it looks more like I was making a jar of brandied pineapple than a pineapple infused brandy. This will require major extraction upon completion. The color hasn't really changed from that of the original Cognac. High heat and major pineapple aromas on the nose. Unlike the other infusions, the pineapple flavor hits the palate first followed by the Cognac flavor.

20190514_192308.jpg
California Peach XO Brandy

The California peach XO Brandy also has retained the Cognac's natural brown color and translucency. High heat and peach fuzz on the nose. You can clearly hsee half the peach slices floating on top of the brandy. Really nice peach flavor up front followed by mellow Cognac. Probably the best integrated of all the infusions thus far.

Awright, one more week to go for these babies to be finished. Next week I'll be decanting the brandies back into their original decanters for storage, mashing and straining the fruit to get more infused fruit brandy goodness out of them, and then combining that with the brandy. I'll check back in with everyone then.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#3 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 15th, 2019, 5:34 pm

Quick check-in: Today's daily tasting shows a drastic improvement in all the infusions. Heat has mellowed down drastically and fruit flavor is much more intense now. A mere week to go for these lovelies to be done! Until then, I topped them each off with another 1/2 cup of leftover grappa. I will not be adding any more spirit so as to not dilute the base spirit too much.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#4 Post by Chris Blum » May 16th, 2019, 6:45 am

Fun read! Thanks for sharing this.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#5 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » May 16th, 2019, 9:08 am

I have been making my own Grand Marnier/Cointreau for years now. Nothing as complex as what you are doing, Tran.

I get a 1.75 Liter jug of Courvoisier and remove about 1 cup of booze. To the bottle, I add as much peel (all pith removed) from Mineola Tangelos and Blood Oranges as will fit and let it go in a dark cupboard for a couple of months. No sweetener, spices, etc. added as I like to control the sweetness of the end cocktail with simple syrup.

I also do the same with a handle of Tito's for basic triple sec.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#6 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 20th, 2019, 2:40 pm

I've returned from a long holiday weekend in Montreal for my nephew's bar mitzvah during which the infusions were left undisturbed for four straight days. Time to check in and see how my babies are incubating:

20190520_144714.jpg
The finished infusions

The bouyancy of the fruit has increased dramatically which you notice particularly in the peach, apricot, pineapple, blueberry and apricot infusions. No change at all in the black currants which are very dense little berries:

20190514_192308.jpg
Peach XO Brandy finished jar
20190514_192325.jpg
Pineapple XO Cognac finished jar
20190514_192434.jpg
Apricot XO Brandy finished jar
20190514_192403.jpg
Tart Cherry Cognac finished jar
20190514_192343.jpg
Blueberry XO Calvados finished jar
20190514_192419.jpg
Black Currant XO Brandy finished jar

A closer look at the fruit in the individual jars shows that they have given up a fair amount of color as well as being tinted themselves by the brandies with a brownish hue. The tart cherries in particular have virtually no red color left to them. More importantly, the cell walls of the fruit have now burst and the fruit is losing structure indicating that we're pretty much done ahead of schedule.

20190520_140155.jpg
Cognac rehydrated pineapple
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Brandy rehydated peach
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Brandy rehydrated apricots
20190520_140330.jpg
Cognac rehydrated tart cherries
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Calvados rehydrated blueberries
20190520_140434.jpg
Brandy rehydrated black currants

The most important test, of course, is taste. A quick taste of each infusion reveals that they have acquired the one final needed ingredient from the fruit I was looking for -- acidity. That's it. Everything's done. Time to start bottling. I started by steaming away the labels of all the decanters I was using:

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Steaming off the decanter labels

Next I strained the brandy away through a large sieve into a 1 quart Pyrex measuring cup:

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Straining the infusions

An important step came next -- mashing the fruit for even more brandy extraction and that extra hit of fruit flavor:

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Mashing the brandied fruit for more extraction

Finally, the finished infusion is poured into its final resting place, a nice clean label-free decanter:

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Filtering into the decanters
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A filled decanter
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#7 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 20th, 2019, 2:58 pm

Here's another filled decanter:

20190520_151839.jpg
Apricot XO brandy filled decanter; notice the little bit of leftover infusion in the measuring cup...

And here is the complete set of final filled decanters with an extra bonus. You'll notice my affinity for flat style decanters over typical vertical bottles. I LOVE flat decanters. High end spirits should be served from something special that stands out from the typical wine bottle. From left to right we have: Peach XO Brandy, Pineapple XO Cognac, Apricot XO Brandy, Tart Cherry XO Cognac, Blueberry XO Calvados and Black Currant XO Brandy. Remember all that topping up with extra spirit I was doing? It gave me quite a bit of leftover infusion to play with even after straining and mashing the fruit. So I made a 500 ml infinity bottle from the leftovers for a seventh and final decanter of "tutti frutti" XO brandy.

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The completed homemade XO Marnier project and the bonus Infinity bottle

After putting the decanters away in my spirit cabinet, the final step was to put the brandied fruit away for storage in the fridge for future dessert making. Or maybe giving the old morning oatmeal an extra kick. [wow.gif] The fruit is very tasty, completely infused with brandy but still retaining quite a bit of fruit flavor:
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Brandied pineapple, peaches and apricots
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Brandied blueberries
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Brandied Black currants
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Brandied tart cherries

This should be fun sipping neat and on the rocks as well as adding to some iced tea this summer. It was fun to document and share with everyone. Now it's time for a tipple! Salud everyone! [cheers.gif]
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#8 Post by Chris Blum » May 22nd, 2019, 11:19 am

Just aesthetics, but since you’ve taken this project so far, would you using a fining agent to get rid of the cloudiness?

(Not suggesting it needs it, but you’ve kinda awesomely geeked out on this so far)
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#9 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 22nd, 2019, 6:56 pm

Chris Blum wrote:
May 22nd, 2019, 11:19 am
Just aesthetics, but since you’ve taken this project so far, would you using a fining agent to get rid of the cloudiness?
A legitimate and interesting question, Sir! First of all, the cloudiness Chris is referring to is due to of course cellular material from the fruit making its way into the liquid. This is of course unavoidable even with the double straining and filtering I did with the sieves. I suppose I could've used cheesecloth as well but I didn't want to waste a single drop of precious XO goodness. The bottles have now all had a couple of days to settle and you can see below that they are quite a bit less cloudy than before... but only because the particulate matter from the macerated fruit has now settled at the bottom of the decanters. The brandies are still cloudy overall, though, and clearly not translucent as a properly fined liquid is.

Fining is legit. It makes a huge difference in the attractiveness of the final product by giving the liquid a pureness in clarity. Just compare the professionally made Grand Marnier XO Cuvée de Centenaire to my homemade XO Marniers. It's crystal clear and completely translucent, so much so that the liquid is actually reflecting its surroundings from inside its clear glass decanter. In the lighter colored peach, apricot and pineapple XO Marniers, you can clearly see the particulate at the bottom of the decanters:

20190522_212206.jpg
Grand Marnier XO vs my XO Marniers
20190522_212211.jpg
Crystal clear Grand Marnier XO Cuvée de Centenaire

You can clearly see the sediment at the bottom of the Peach XO, Pineapple XO and Apricot XO. However, the darker the brandies get the harder the sediment is to see:

20190522_212237.jpg
Gaaa! Particulate matter! :O
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Sediment at the bottom of the Peach XO and Apricot XO Marniers.

Compare those lighter ones to the naturally darker colored Tart Cherry XO, Black Currant XO and Blueberry XO and the sediment pretty much becomes a non-factor as it's really hard to even see in the bottle:

20190522_212222.jpg
The sediment is really hard to see in the darker XO Marniers like the Tart Cherry as compared to the Pineapple XO beside it.
20190522_212231.jpg
Sediment is all but impossible to see in the Black Currant XO brandy and Blueberry XO Calvados.

I'm afraid, however, that fining is not a skill I possess and would be very hesitant to do so with such expensive product. I personally don't mind the cloudiness which gives it a more natural look. That said, I readily admit the Marnier is much prettier looking in its decanter and in my Glencairn. Is it attractive enough for me to invest the time, effort, expense and risk to fine the brandies? Not really. It's all going in to the same place and exiting the same place as far as I'm concerned. [wow.gif]
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#10 Post by Chris Blum » May 22nd, 2019, 7:10 pm

Those actually look pretty great. Since it’s settled so much, I suppose you could just use some tubing to rack off the clear 90% into the fancy “company bottle” and then drink the delicious 10% sediment “Private hooch”

Again, I kinda feel like a dick for even suggesting it, cuz it’s not necessary and it’s pretty awesome as it is. It’s my nature to look for tiny incremental improvements when I get interested in something. And who knows, maybe the sediment imparts some good properties as well.

Again, thanks for the ride along. Cool project.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#11 Post by Andrew Kotowski » May 23rd, 2019, 9:46 am

What Chris said - enjoying this thread and commenting so I can continue to follow. I'm totally going to try this :D
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#12 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 23rd, 2019, 11:58 am

Andrew Kotowski wrote:
May 23rd, 2019, 9:46 am
What Chris said - enjoying this thread and commenting so I can continue to follow. I'm totally going to try this :D
Thanks man. One quick note as I was going to post an update later tonight on this but since you said you were going to try: my Marniers have actually gotten sweeter on my last tasting despite no longer having the fruit macerating in them. Enough so that I would strongly advise using less than even the 1/2 cup sweetener to start with as re-tasting them next to the Centenaire I find the Cognac up front and the orange on the finish in the Centenaire and the fruit up front and the brandy on the finish. They are exact polar opposites that way. I am strongly considering dilution with more XO Cognac or brandy but will wait a couple of more days to see if there is any more evolution. Will post again tonight with proper tasting notes on all.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#13 Post by Bill Tex Landreth » May 23rd, 2019, 12:56 pm

Some thoughts on fining:

Step pour through several disposable paper coffee filters.

Run through a Brita water filter pitcher. I don't know how this would affect color or taste, but it surely would render an almost particulate free end product.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#14 Post by Tran Bronstein » May 23rd, 2019, 7:53 pm

Alright, with the project complete it is now time for some proper tasting notes on the finished XO Marniers. You'll notice a change in the decanters, BTW. I did mention that I LOVE fancy flat decanters and I found another one I can use and transferred the Tart Cherry XO Marnier into that one and the Black Currant XO Marnier into that now empty decanter.

First off, I will do a tasting note on the Centenaire as our "control" Marnier seeing as how it is a professionally made product, after all:

GRAND MARNIER XO CUVEE DU CENTENAIRE 100TH -- XO aged Cognacs make up 82% of this Cuvée and it shows. Strong Cognac heat, Muscat grapes and burnt orange on the nose. In the mouth, a little sweetness hits first followed by classic aged Cognac flavors next, and that is followed by rather strong heat that makes the tongue tingle. The sweet orange essence kicks in on the finish followed by strong caramelized sugar sweetness and more high heat. Complex and very well integrated but no acidity to speak of.

20190523_214017.jpg
Grand Marnier XO Cuvée du Centenaire 100th

CALIFORNIA PEACH XO BRANDY -- Slightly burnt straw gold color. Tremendous peach skin and fuzz aromas and very faint heat on the nose. Sweet and tangy peaches hit first and then fade out into some cherry wood and cream before the heat finally comes on and lingers in the finish. Slight touch of peach skin without sweetness in the finish as well. Really strong fruit flavor and the most acidity of all the Marniers.

The cherry wood and cream, FYI, come from the Mazzetti XO brandy which I used as the base. It is a 20 year brandy made from native Italian grapes and aged in cherry wood barrels. Alone this brandy is far better than any equivalent 20 year old Cognac or Armagnac and a steal at its price.

20190523_214836.jpg
Peach XO Brandy

PERU PINEAPPLE XO COGNAC -- Straw gold color. Nose is exactly like an old-fashioned pineapple upside-down cake without the maraschino cherries for anyone who remembers that dessert. Baked pineapple and brown sugar flavors followed by cream and mellow heat. I am surprised at how little acidity there is considering how tangy pineapple is as a fruit. There is finally a touch on the finish to go with the heat but this is actually surprisingly close to the Centenaire overall.

20190523_215543.jpg
Pineapple XO Cognac

APRICOT XO BRANDY -- Slightly burnt straw gold color. Wonderful apricot fruit aromas with slight heat makes this as close to a fresh apricot as you can get and easily the most appealing nose of all the Marniers. I could smell this for hours or leave an open glass out as an air freshener, it's that good. Apricot syrup in the mouth to start and then the fruit flavor and acidity REALLY kicks it into high gear, finally followed by some pleasantly mild brandy heat. Like the peach, this one goes down far too easily.

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Apricot XO Brandy

TART CHERRY XO COGNAC -- Cloudy ruby red in the glass. Cloudiness is notable even after settling. It looks exactly like an old Bordeaux does in the glass. Cognac heat is strong on this one and masks a barely perceptible cherry aroma. In the mouth, the Cognac hits first followed by tart cherry flavor. The sweetness comes in last with the high heat on the finish. This one follows the Centenaire formula of Cognac first, fruit second most closely. Acidity is also high on this one.

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Tart Cherry XO Cognac

BLACK CURRANT XO BRANDY -- Also cloudy ruby red in the glass but not as dark as the tart cherry which is surprising. High heat on the nose followed by strong black currant aromas. Sweetness and cassis flavors all up front but the brandy flavor comes and then the heat really kicks up high on the finish to numb the tongue. Sweet cassis then returns on the finish. Low on acidity, but far better than any creme de cassis you've ever had.

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Black Currant XO Brandy

BLUEBERRY XO CALVADOS -- Rich dark purple in the glass. Sweet blueberry on the nose followed by heat and oak aromas, the first infusion where I can actually nose the wood. To be fair, though, that is typical of Calvados. Baked apple, vanilla and oak all up front followed by high heat. Then, sweetness and blueberries and cream. Honestly, up until the blueberry finish this tastes pretty much like the Calvados that serves as its base. Tasty but easily the least integrated of all the infusions.

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Blueberry XO Calvados

INFINITY BOTTLE XO BLEND -- Light purple in the glass. Extremely high heat on the nose followed by peach and apricot fuzz aromas. In the mouth, a melange of fruit flavors. The peach and apricot hit up front right away with nice acidity but then give way almost immediately to the richer cherry and black currant flavors. The sweet baked pineapple and blueberries come on the finish. Sweetness hits up front and strengthens before fading away on the finish. For a blend done purely on a lark with unexpected leftovers, this is really quite good as the stone fruit based and cherry XO infusions lift the pineapple, blueberry and black currant ones which lacked acidity.

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Infinity Bottle XO Blend

So as mentioned above, based on the tasting of the final finished infusions, it is clear that my infusions are very fruit forward for the most part and not quite as subtle as the Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire. Remember, that brandy is 82% XO blended Cognac up front before we even get to the remaining 18% famous Curacao orange infusion. My Marniers are 100% infusion up front.

Based on my tasting, I did a tweak to the recipe above to cut the starting sweetener amount to 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 to allow for more of the spirit base to shine through. I think I failed to account for the fact that the fruit infusion would be so strong as well as the dried fruit adding its own sweetness despite my carefully choosing unsweetened dried fruit. True, there was no extra sugar added but that doesn't mean the fruit didn't bring any sweetness of its own. In my case, I will likely be adding more XO level brandy when my bottles are 1/4 way through each to emphasize more of the traditional Cognac flavor. Not that you have to follow me to a T in any way, shape or form.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#15 Post by Mike Grammer » June 10th, 2019, 11:17 am

Andrew Kotowski wrote:
May 23rd, 2019, 9:46 am
I'm totally going to try this :D
You would [grin.gif]

FTR, Drew mixes some ass-kicking cocktails.

Terrific exposition, Tran, of your journey with this project. Fun read for sure.

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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#16 Post by Tran Bronstein » June 20th, 2019, 1:30 pm

You thought it was over? It's not over yet, kids! I found this on the Internet. Apparently it's not just me that likes the idea of fruit infused brandies:

Fruit Brandies.jpg
Commercial fruit brandy plonk!

Now there's two flavors there I don't have: mango and raspberry. Well I was at the St. Lawrence Market today and Domino's bulk foods now has micro-dried raspberries and mango slices! So two more XO Marnier blends coming!
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#17 Post by John S » June 20th, 2019, 2:46 pm

I am not a brandy guy but wanted to say thanks for posting such an educational piece. I've enjoyed the entire process and learned a lot.
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#18 Post by Tran Bronstein » June 20th, 2019, 9:22 pm

Alright, I'm back home and time to get to work. So here I've collected the micro-dried raspberries and regular dried mango. Micro-dried fruit is fruit that uses microwaves and vacuums to dehydrate as opposed to the standard radiant heat method. Right away the characteristics are quite different as even standard dried fruit still has a fair bit of moisture in it, just not at liquid water levels. Micro-dried fruit is completely dry and crumbly to the touch. I had to pick up two more bottles of Torres 20 Brandy de Jerez because since I closed out my spirits collection, I was unwilling to use the very high-end 30+ year olds Armagnacs and Cognacs that remain in my collection. I think this project is worthy of an exception. These two will be the last flavors I do. There was the option to do strawberry, kiwi and pear as those were available at the market too but those flavors didn't appeal to me very much. There was apple too, but I can always buy Calvados so there was no point to that.

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Starters for the Raspberry XO Marnier and Mango XO Marnier

So you know the drill from above: the full bottle of brandy, 1/4 cup of sweetener to start (2 TBSP each of sugar and Stevia in my case, down from the 1/2 cup I used for the previous six bottles I started first) and 1 cup each of premium unsweetened dried fruit in a large clean Mason glass jar. Seal tightly and shake.

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Pouring the Torres 20 brandy over the dried mango
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Pouring the Torres 20 brandy over the micro-dried raspberries

These babies are going to rest for the next two weeks but I suspect that like my previous batch, they will actually be done a little early as the nice warm summer temperatures should help speed up the infusion. Interesting to note that the micro-dried raspberries immediately float to the top of the brandy while the mango stays at the bottom. I'll see how much liquid the rehydrating fruit has absorbed before topping off these last two XO Marniers. Can't wait to try them!
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Re: BOOZED AND INFUSED -- My Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Project

#19 Post by Tran Bronstein » June 20th, 2019, 9:23 pm

John S wrote:
June 20th, 2019, 2:46 pm
I am not a brandy guy but wanted to say thanks for posting such an educational piece. I've enjoyed the entire process and learned a lot.
Thanks, John. I've enjoyed it and learned a lot from it too. I just added two more final flavors as you can see from my new posts.
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Re: UPDATED -- 2 DAY MICRO-DRIED FRUIT FORMULA: Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Proje

#20 Post by Tran Bronstein » June 22nd, 2019, 3:09 pm

I checked on the two infusions and saw something interesting in the raspberry one. After a mere two days, the micro-dried raspberries have given up all their color to the brandy, the brandy has fully changed color to a stunning topaz reddish color, the berries have begun to lose cellular structure, and there's even sediment at the bottom of the infusing jar. Could the infusion actually be ready after just a mere TWO DAYS?!?

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This looks... ready!

Well, astonishing, the answer is indeed YES. I tasted it and it's definitely ready. This is full of raspberry and brandy flavor and is actually quite tart. This can only be attributed to one important change in the formula -- using micro-dried fruit. That's the only thing that's different between all the other infusions and this one. This was a completely unexpected and very pleasant discovery. I was only intending to create a raspberry XO infusion and not trying to speed up the process in any way. It just happened to turn out that micro-dried raspberries were the only dried raspberries available that I could find.

I added 1 TBSP each more of the Stevia and white sugar to balance out the brandy. You'll recall I started out with only 1/4 cup of sweetener this time. The infusion was now good to go, so I once again filtered the contents into a clean unlabeled decanter.

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Filtering the brandy. Notice how firm the rehydrated berries still look.
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Pouring the Raspberry XO Marnier into the clean decanter.
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Filling the decanter.

Based on the happy accidental discovery of this stunning success, I have added a variation of the standard infusion formula to the original post at the top of this thread using micro-dried fruit. Please note that micro-dried fruit is quite a bit more expensive than standard dried fruit.

So of course I have to see how it turned out and do a tasting note. Very strong raspberry jelly aroma along with high heat on the nose. Amazing topaz-reddish color under light, almost like a jewel. Creamy mouthfeel. Huge raspberry flavors with shockingly high acidity, easily the most of all of the infusions thus far. This is actually what I was expecting the pineapple infusion to turn out like, to be honest. Strong heat on the finish. This is really quite good.

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The finished Raspberry XO Marnier in decanter and Glencairn for tasting
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The beautiful color on the homemade Raspberry XO Marnier

I put the rehydrated brandied raspberries away in the same container as the rehydrated brandied black currants. While both have lost structure due to their time macerating in the brandy, you can see quite a difference between the raspberries and black currants. The raspberries are quite a bit firmer and more intact in comparison. They taste more like brandy than raspberries which means they've pretty much given their all to the infusion.

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Brandied raspberries put away for storage next to the brandied black currants. Notice how much firmer the rehydrated micro-dried raspberries are.
Last edited by Tran Bronstein on June 23rd, 2019, 8:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: UPDATED -- 2 DAY MICRO-DRIED FRUIT FORMULA: Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Proje

#22 Post by Tran Bronstein » June 25th, 2019, 5:20 pm

I took another Glencairn of the Raspberry XO Marnier and my impressions are still the same. High heat, high acidity, bursting with raspberry flavor. Very potent stuff. While doing that, I couldn't help but notice that sediment was forming at the bottom of the mango infusion. Now this definitely wasn't micro-dried fruit. Could it actually be ready?

Yep, it sure was. It's been very hot these last few days, maybe the extra heat has been helping the infusions along. At any rate, time to get back to work. You know the dril by now. Filtering, decanting, sealing, putting away the brandied fruit.
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Straining the mango XO Marnier
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Funneling into the decanter
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Fill 'er up!
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Strained rehydrated mango

So what's interesting is that after the least infusion time of the standard dried fruit infusions, the mango XO Marnier has by far the most sediment in the mix that needs to settle out. Look at how cloudy the finished bottled brandy is in the decanter:

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Bottled Mango XO Marnier. Notice how cloudy the brandy is.

And how does this last one taste? Bright golden yellow in the Glencairn glass. Surprisingly, heat is rather low on the nose as is the mango aroma but this also allows the nose to be very well integrated. In the mouth, creamy sweet mango flavors integrate really REALLY well with the brandy. Heat is very mellow. No real acidity to speak of until a slight dose of it on the finish. You know how I said the pineapple XO Marnier was the closest to the actual Grand Marnier XO Cuvée du Centenaire? This has got it beat by a mile and is shockingly close especially in the sweet brandied finish.

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Mango XO Marnier in the Glencairn

And that's it, Boozehounds. This summer's infused XO brandy project is now finished. Time to drink up. Thanks for following along and let me know how your own infusions turned out and if you used different flavors than I did. Anybody out there used dried cranberries? Or pears? Strawberries? I was tempted at times to do a dried banana chip and a dried kiwi infusion myself at times.
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Re: UPDATED -- 2 DAY MICRO-DRIED FRUIT FORMULA: Infused XO Brandy aka Homemade "Cuvée de Centenaire" Grand Marnier Proje

#23 Post by Jason Crawford » July 12th, 2019, 2:25 pm

This thread has inspired me to do a triple sec. Will try a citrus/vodka/sugar mixture in a hot water bath.

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