Eaux-de-Vie is in many ways is a synonymous term for Brandy. It is a French term, like so many things related to wines or spirits, and it refers to a pure distillate of fruit products. The most famous brandies produced are those of Cognac and Armagnac (learn about these here!) which are made from wine grapes, though these aren't known too often as Eaux-de-vie. Although, the real spirits known as Eaux-de-vies in commonplace terminology are Calvados (apple brandy) and Poire Williams (pear brandy).
Legally all Eaux-de-vie spirits must be unsweetened. It is incredible the amount of fresh fruits that are needed for the pure distillate, it takes just over 100 kilograms to produce between 5-10 litres of spirit! The fruit will be lightly pressed and the resulting juice is fermented to produce a liquid high in flavour compounds and naturally higher alcohol content. Calvados, in particular, has a very slow fermentation process which lasts a couple of months which helps to produce an incredibly high flavour compounds.
Most often Eaux-de-vies are produced through using a pot-still which preserve the pure fruit flavours, where column-stills tend to make smoother but less aromatic spirits. The fair majority of Eaux-de-vies will be bottled immediately without any ageing in oak containers.
The one exception to this is Calvados which will see a minimum of two years in oak. The legal ageing requirements for Calvados are:
|XXX||Minimum two years|
|Vieux/Reserve||Minimum three years|
|VO/Vielle Reserve/VSOP||Minimum four years|
|XO/Hors d'Age/Napoleon||Minimum six years|