Brandy is a spirit produced by means of distilling wine, the wine having first been produced by means of fermenting grapes. Brandy contains 40%–60% alcohol by volume and is normally consumed as an after-dinner drink. Brandy can also be made from fermented fruit, other than grapes.
- Bourbon must be made of a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn.
- Bourbon must be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof.
- Bourbon must be 100% natural (nothing other than water added to the mixture).
- Bourbon must be aged in new, American, charred oak barrels.
- Bourbon which meets the above requirements and has been aged for a minimum of two years, may (but is not required to) be called Straight Bourbon.
- Bourbon aged for a period less than four years must be labeled with the duration of its aging.
In practice, almost all bourbons marketed today are made from more than two-thirds corn, have been aged at least four years, and do qualify as “straight bourbon”—with or without the “straight bourbon” label. The exceptions are inexpensive commodity brands of bourbon aged only three years and pre-mixed cocktails made with bourbon aged the minimum two years.
Canadian whiskies are usually lighter and smoother than other whiskey styles. Another common characteristic of many Canadian whiskies is their use of rye that has been malted, which provides a fuller flavor and smoothness. By Canadian law, Canadian whiskies must be produced in Canada, be distilled from a fermented mash of cereal grain, be aged in small wooden barrels for no less than 3 years, and possess the aroma, taste, and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky.
Cognac, named after the town of Cognac in France, is a brandy produced in the region surrounding the town. It must be made from at least 90% Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, or Colombard grapes. The remainder may consist of the grape varieties Folignan, Jurançon blanc, Meslier St-François, Montils, and Sémillon; however, most cognac is made from Ugni Blanc only. It must be distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged at least two years in French oak barrels that are sealed airtight in order to be called cognac.
Gin is a spirit flavored with juniper berries. Distilled gin is made by re-distilling white grain spirit which has been flavored with juniper berries. The most common style of gin, typically used for mixed drinks, is London dry gin. London dry gin is made by taking a neutral grain spirit (usually produced in a column still) and re-distilling after the botanicals are added.
Most Irish whiskeys are distilled three times. Though traditionally distilled using the pot still method, column stills are used for the grain whiskey used in Irish blends. By law, Irish whiskey must be aged in wooden casks for a period of not less than three years, although in practice it is usually three or four times that period.
Liqueurs / Cordials
A liqueur is a sweet alcoholic beverage, often flavored with fruits, herbs, spices, flowers, seeds, roots, plants, barks, and sometimes cream. Liqueurs are not usually aged for long periods, but may have resting periods during their production to allow flavors to marry. In some parts of the world people use the words cordial and liqueur interchangeably. Though in these places the two expressions both describe liqueurs made by re-distilling spirits with aromatic flavorings and are usually highly sweetened, there are some differences. While liqueurs are usually flavored with herbs, cordials are generally prepared with fruit pulp or juices. Most liqueurs are noticeably sweet.
Vodka is one of the world%99s most popular distilled beverages. It is a clear liquid containing water and ethanol purified by distillation — often multiple distillation — from a fermented substance such as potatoes, grain or sugar beet molasses, and an insignificant amount of other substances such as flavorings or unintended impurities. Vodka usually has an alcohol content of 35% to 50% by volume. Although vodka is traditionally drunk neat, its popularity owes much to its usefulness in cocktails and other mixed drinks, such as the Bloody Mary, the Screwdriver, the vodka tonic, and the vodka martini.