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The Differences Between Spirits, from Whisky to Vodka

How is brandy made? Brandy is distilled from fruit-based wine and as we know, wine is typically made of grapes. However, other fruits such as peaches may also be used to distil brandy; when this happens, the name of the brandy will usually reflect this characteristic. Brandy is often aged in oak, frequently blended, and has an alcohol content of around 40 per cent. Well known brandy styles include Cognac, Grappa and Armagnac, and many of the best can be sampled at Heritage Lounge.

Wondering what gin is exactly? Gin begins with distillation, often using grain, to obtain a neutral spirit. A second distillation process then follows in which juniper and any other botanicals are added to produce the flavour – with two common processes being steeping and boiling (similar to how a tea bag works), or by vapour distillation. Having a dry and herbal profile as it does, gin is flavoured for cocktails (such as those from your favourite cocktail bar) that are not sweet in taste and is frequently enjoyed with tonic water. Gin is not usually aged.

Rum on the other hand is distilled from sugar, often molasses. This makes it a spirit that is typically associated with locations that grow sugar cane, such as the Caribbean and South America. As you would expect given it is distilled from sugar, rum has a sweet and toasted flavour, but one which varies significantly based on location. Some rum is not aged, but harder rums may be aged in oak barrels. Rum may sometimes be produced in ‘overproof’ strength that can see it reach up to 75 per cent alcohol content.

What is tequila made from? Tequila is the key ingredient in margaritas and many different types of cocktails that include fruit, as well as being a favoured spirit for shots among the Sydney nightlife. It is distilled by fermenting the juices of the agave plant, which is a type of succulent that is native to hot, arid regions such as Mexico. As with whisky, tequila carries certain rules and regulations, with official ‘tequila’ required to be made in Mexico of a specific type of agave.

How is vodka distilled? Vodka remains highly popular because of its versatility for mixing and its straightforward, relatively neutral flavour profile. Unlike some other spirits, vodka can be distilled from any carbohydrate based source, from neutral grains such as wheat to potatoes. It is not typically aged and is associated with Russia and Poland.

What is the key ingredient in whisky? Whisky is distilled from malted grains with the most common type being barley. It is usually aged in oak barrels, including barrels which have previously housed other spirits, such as brandy. The location can influence the whisky type; for example, bourbon is made from corn in America, whereas ‘Scotch’ is shorthand for ‘Scotch whisky’ which is made using malted barley in Scotland. Like tequila, whisky is heavily regulated to maintain standards.

Where to sample the world’s best spirits

To experience the world’s best spirits, visit our distinguished cocktail bar, Parramatta bar, and Sydney nightlife establishment Heritage Lounge. Our Sydney whisky bar features The Vault menu, inclusive of the world’s very best whiskeys, and we provide a wider range of spirits and liqueurs of global repute.

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