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Whiskey vs Brandy: What’s the Difference?

by Yajush Sharma

 

Whiskey or Brandy, no matter which you like, it’s good to get to know a little more about your spirit of choice. Beginner or not, it’s always impressive to show off some fun facts! 

Whiskey

Distilled from aged wood barrels and grains.

Flavor of the whiskey derives from the wooden barrels and food grains used. Not many people know that an original whiskey does not contain any additional flavoring such as chocolate, cinnamon, or any other suspected spices. 

Apart from the wood barrel and distillation of whiskey, location plays a big role in determining differences in taste in Whiskey. Canadian Whiskey, Bourbon/American Whiskey, Rye Whiskey, Japanese Whisky, Scotch and Irish Whiskey are key types of the spirit.

Whiskey distillation is all about the mixture of grains, called Mashing. 

For example, a Bourbon mash includes 50%+ corn. Other grains potentially included in the mash would be Rye, Wheat, Barley, etc.  Another must know is Whiskey does not mature in the bottle, even if you keep it for another 15 years! Aging for quality can only happen in its barrel. Bonus fun fact: Whisk(e)y is spelled different, although both correct, based on origin!

Brandy

Brandy is a word that came from the Dutch word 'Brandewijn', which means burnt wine or heated wine. 

Most brandies are made by applying heat or distilled from fermented grapefruit juice. Although apple, peach, and apricot are also used for producing brandy, original bandy comes from grapes.

The separation between dark spirits becomes more confusing as some of the best-known brandies are called by different yet familiar names: Cognac (comes from grapes/white wine), Calvados (comes from apples), and Armagnac (comes from grapes/white wine). Did you know these were all brandy?!

Some more differences?

Aged brandies look like whiskey in color but fresh brandies are usually colorless. Also, many brandies are produced with caramel to adjust the color and flavor of the drink whereas whiskey is not.

Naming logic on each spirit is also a distinct variation. Whiskey a lot of the time will have a said number of years it’s been aged in its barrel (i.e. Macallan 12, Macallan 18, Glenlivet 12, Glenlivet 18 etc).  Brandy on the other hand is not.  For instance, Hors d'age is aged more than 10 years, A.C. for 2 years and Very Superior Old Pale, is aged for at least 5 years. Similarly, Hennessy has alphabetical labeling (i.e. V.S., V.S.O.P., X.O., etc.).  So, the name of brandies is what is used to make them easier to distinguish quality and price. Still, the confusion grows the deeper you dive into the history. 

There is also a significant difference in the aging process. Whiskeys can be aged anywhere from 5 to 20 years whereas brandies are not popularly aged over a decade. However, All brandy are aged for at least 2 years whereas whiskey is not. 

Wait. There Are a Few Similarities Too!

So, you know what is the difference between brandy and whiskey, but there are similarities, which you need to know.

Both whiskey and brandy are produced by fermented ingredients. The process converts the sugar into ethanol and creates stronger alcohol content, in both the drinks.

Brandy is distilled in large pots, and so is the scotch whiskey. However, the distillation depends on the type of drink, but pot distillation is a common process to create high-quality whiskeys and brandys.

Both whiskey and brandy have interesting histories, and both were first produced around the 15th Century. It is said that Brandy was first distilled in Italy by Winemakers, and whiskey was first produced in Ireland and Scotland around the same time.

So, Which One Is Better?

There are a plethora of choices and flavors of amazing whiskey and brandy around the world. Each one of them, however, have a loyal fan base.  So whether you prefer Jameson or Hennessy, hopefully you now better understand why you probably prefer what you do!

Cheers! 

 


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