Spirits Terms

Spirits_term Definition
Spirits_term Definition
Aqua Vitae Latin term for "water of life".
Gin The original flavored Vodka. Invented by the Dutch, where it is known as Genever (Juniper) and later adopted by the British. Traditionally there are two main styles; Dutch, or Genever, and London Dry. Genever is richer, sweeter, with a substantial palate weight. London Dry as the name suggests is dry, crisp, often with a citrus edge. Gin is often bottled at a higher proof than typically found in white spirits in order to keep its delicate mix of botanicals evident and in balance. Gin is the primary ingredient of the "real" martini.
Eau-de-Vie Literally, "the water of life" Eau-de-Vie is a brandy made from grape or other fruit and presented clear most often with no wood aging. Good examples are quite versatile being equally good served as an aperitif or with desert.
Cognac The world's most famous brandy grown and produced in the region of the same name near the west coast of France (just north of Bordeaux). Made primarily from Ugni Blanc grapes and aged in oak barrels.
Canadian Whiskey Canadian Whiskey is not as easily defined as Bourbon as there is no standrads for porportions of grains, aging procedures, and strength.
Cocktail A drink made up of one or more alcohol types mixed most often with independent flavors such as juices, fruit, spices, dairy, and practically any anything else consumable. Popular examples include: Martini, Bloody Mary, Daiquiri, Margarita just to name a few.
Calvados Calvados is the famous apple based (many include pear as well) brandy from the district of the same name in the Normandy region of France. Calvados is aged in oak barrels for a period of time vaguely indicated on the label. This wonderful spirit is scandalously under appreciated in the US.
Brandy A spirit created by distilling any fruit wine or fermented fruit base such as cider. Cognac and Armagnac are two of the most popular Brandies. Calvados is a popular example of a brandy made from cider based on apples and pears.
Bourbon A true American (US) Whisk(e)y made primarily of corn (at least 51% by law) with lesser portions of wheat, rye, and malted barley. It is named for the Kentucky County of the same name. While a vast majority of Bourbons are produced in Kentucky, Bourbon can be made anywhere in the US. Bourbon must be aged for a minimum of two years in new, charred, white oak barrels.
Bottled in Bond In the US the term "Bottled in Bond" refers to Whisky, typically Bourbon, bottled after four years at 50% ABV or greater. In the UK almost all Whisky is bottled in bond or simply before the excise task is paid.
Bothie A small house typically in the Scottish Highlands. In some case the term is used to describe such a house were illicit distilling is, or has taken place.
Beer Still Also known as a wash still. This is the first still used in the distillation process.
Blended Whisky A blend of malt Whisky and grain Whisky. Much of blended whisky is of the bulk or industrial sort. However, blended Whisky can be complex and superlative when done by a skilled and careful blender. Commercial blended whisky is typically made up of 65-80% grain whisky. 19 of 20 bottles of Scotch Whisky sold is from the blended category.
Ball of Malt A glass of Whiskey in Ireland.
Angels' Share A fanciful and poetic term used by distillers to describe the amount of aging spirits lost to evaporation.
Armagnac Armagnac, located in the Southwest of France (south of Bordeaux) is the lesser-known cousin to Cognac. Armagnac is much older, as a truly identified brandy-producing region, than is Cognac. The primary flavor difference is derived from the fact that Armagnac (traditionally) is single distilled as opposed to the double distilled technique used in Cognac. Armagnac uses a variety of grapes as opposed to primarily one used in Cognac. Traditionally bottled at natural strength with the vintage date present on the label.
Grappa Grappa is the now famous pomace brandy from Italy being produced in most every region that produces wine. Almost always bottled clear and unaged, Grappa is often bottled with the grape varietal being prominately displayed. The best examples are fragrant, soft, and beautifully textured while lesser-made Grappa has been described as firewater.
Irish Whiskey Yes, you have got it, Irish Whiskey is the "Whiskey" with the "e" as Scotch Whisky omits the letter "e." Irish Whiskies are often simply billed as light, slightly sweet, triple-distilled spirits which of course could not be farther from the truth. Without too much effort you can find traditional pot-stilled Whiskies. Irish Whiskey brands have attempted to co-opt Scotch Whisky's "Single Malt" popularity by creating single malts of their own.
Jigger A must for any bartender. The traditional jigger is double sided with a large measure on one end, and a smaller one on the other. The larger measure is typically 1.5 ounces, and is called a "jigger." The smaller side is usually 1 full ounce, and is referred to as a "pony."
Liqueur A sweet alcoholic beverage made from an infusion of flavoring(s) and a spirit. Liqueurs are versatile and diverse being flavored with many things including: herbs, spices, seeds, and fruits to name a few popular items. A Liqueur can be enjoyed straight-up, as part of a cocktail or used in the kitchen.
Proof Proof is an all but meaningless expression of alcohol strength. It is no longer legally required on labels of Spirits but is most always found there. The origins of this measurement date to the 18th century. Alcohol was determined to be of proof when a solution of the alcohol with water could be poured on a pinch of gunpowder and the wet powder could still ignite. Further than being irrelevant today, proof is calculated differently in the US and the UK, which of course creates much confusion. The US method of calculating proof is to simply double the Spirit's alcohol by volume (ABV) while the UK system calculates on a ration of 7:4. A Spirit with an ABV of 40% would have a US proof of 80, whereas in the UK, it would have a calculated proof of 70.
Rum Rum is the magical and versatile spirit of the Caribbean. Born out of the production and refinement of sugar cane. Rum was an important trading commodity in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most often made from molasses, Rum can be both light and dark with the later gaining color from being aged in wood casks.
Scotch Whiskey In simple terms it's Whisky made in Scotland and by law it must be aged in wood cask for no less than three years. The vast majority of Scotch Whisky is the blended variety meaning it is a blend of predominately grain Whisky with malt Whisky. Single Malt Scotch has gained a huge global following and it most often represents Scotch Whisky in its highest form.
Tequila Tequila is a specific, closely regulated, type of mezcal. The base ingredient is the mysterious Blue Agave plant that looks like a cactus but is actually a member of the lily family. The best Tequilas are made with 100% Blue Agave.
Vodka Vodka is a clear spirit being most often subtle in both aroma and flavor. It can be made anywhere with any material ranging from tubers to nearly every grain or simply sugar (molasses). Vodka for mysterious reasons has become recently fashionable and omnipresent. While styles vary little quality can vary greatly. Shop wisely and don't over pay.


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