Xavier Nalty, Saint Felix’s distiller, understands how many Australian drinkers feel about brandy as a category.
This doesn’t mean that he’s not up for the challenge of challenging these preconceptions – and with his background as a chef, he’s hoping he can create recipes that will excite Australians.
“Australians’ perception [of brandy] is they think it’s just something you’re cooking with, it’s something you put in pudding or it’s what grandma used to drink,” he said.
So, how to win over Aussie consumers who might be sceptical about brandy?
“Education is massive, and I think slowly, we’ll get there,” says Nalty. “But I speak to friends and say, you know Cognac is brandy as well, I’m sure you’ve had Hennessy and the reaction is usually ‘oh really?’”
He also says that it’s also a case of people’s tastes in the market changing – not to mention the hard work of distilleries putting out a quality product.
“I remember 10 or 15 years ago, I had one friend that used to drink gin. And we’d always go out and he would order, when Hendrick’s first came out, he was having Hendrick’s with a cucumber, I used to give him so much for it. I was saying, ‘come on man my grandma drinks gin what are you doing?’ And now he always gives it to me because I’m making gin now, but 15 years ago, it was nowhere.
“So markets change, and there’s a few more Australian distilleries doing some brandies: Sullivan’s Cove, Bass & Flinders. I think people are eating better and so people are starting to drink better as well. Australian whisky is smashing it right now, no doubt but I think some people want to try something different in a dark spirit. And hopefully, that’s where we can start changing the minds of people and getting them to drink some tasty brandy.
“The more people that start manufacturing some tasty brandy, the more good product there is on the market to start changing people’s perception of what it is.”
For Xavier’s full interview head to Bars and Clubs.