Bourbon and microbrews losing their luster? Enter the more refined world of fruit-based liquors. Don't be intimidated. There's really only two terms you need to know.

Bourbon and microbrews losing their luster? Enter the more refined world of fruit-based liquors. Don't be intimidated. There's really only two terms you need to know.

Brandy, short for "brandywine," is produced by distilling wine into a more potent spirit, usually around 80 proof. Brandy can be made from other fruits, but the most popular labels are made from grapes.

Cognac, the most famous type of brandy, comes from a specific region in France. To be labeled cognac, French law states that Hennessy, Remy Martin and others must contain white wines that have been distilled twice in copper pots and aged in oak casks.

Labels often indicate the age of the distilled liquids with a system of initials:

VS, Very Special: At least two years old

VSOP, Very Superior Old Pale: At least four years old

XO, Extra Old: At least six years old