(872 words)

The first “burning water” (Latin: aqua ardens) was made from heated wine in the 11th century, probably at Salerno. During the 12th and 13th centuries, the art of distillation became known in alchemist circles across Europe and Asia (Alchemy). Brandy, as a secret elixir, was thought to be the quintessence of wine, and hence life force itself (Latin spiritus), and it was regarded as a fountain of youth and remedy against all illnesses (Latin, aqua vitae, “water of life”). Commercial production began around 1320 in Germany, restricted to apothecaries with a special privil…

Cite this page
Spode, Hasso, “Brandy”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Executive editor of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy. Consulted online on 20 March 2018 <>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20160907

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