This will be an enlightening blog post about our intoxicating friends “Spirits” Also known as liquor. Liquor and spirits are the same, and people refer to spirits as hard liquor. Also, keep in mind that Liquor and Liqueur are not the same things, which is another topic that will be mentioned later in this post. Let’s dive into more detail.
Why do we call them spirits?
We start with the name spirits. No one actually knows the reason why we call them spirits but the possible reasons go back in history. One of them comes from the ancient times of the Middle East. During that time the alchemists called the vapor that was coming off, the spirit of the original material. Spirits are made via distillation, and this process involves some boiling action, which is how vapor forms. So, maybe that ancient habit is reflected in the modern liquor world.
Another popular claim goes back to 12th Century Europe. Church monks believed that the soul(spirit) was leaving the fermented material(the mash) during distillation. In fact, this belief still roams in Europe as a superstition. Some old-school rye whisky drinkers pour out the first shot of the bottle onto the soil. This is kind of weird because the soil is where the body belongs not the spirit. Maybe it’s because splashing liquor into the sky is not the best idea either.
Liquor is a much more popular term in our lives, and liquor store sounds less weird than “spirit store”.
What are spirits made of?
Spirits are mostly distilled from 3 main ingredients it’s either fruit, some grains, or sugar. The ingredients can be used as a great distinguisher next to the distilling process to classify spirits.
What is considered a spirit?
All spirits are alcoholic drinks but saying that all alcoholic drinks are spirits would be wrong. Spirits are called hard liquors for a reason. They are at the top of the ABV chart. The ABV of some spirits can be up to 90%. Distillation is what makes spirits have higher alcohol content. Like most other drinks, the process starts with a fermented ingredient. The drink separates during distillation by boiling and condensing it. This process leaves you with a lesser but denser product with higher alcohol content.
Then there are liqueurs, the great helpers for preparing sweet cocktails. Liqueurs are made from liquour. They are more of a sweetened and flavored version of liquor. So, using the term spirits for liqueurs is also wrong.
Why do Different Types of Alcoholic Spirits Taste Different?
Each type of spirit has its distinctive taste. That is due to the base ingredient, the way it is stored, or it is aged.
The 7 Main Distilled Spirits
Gins are distilled from grains and known for their dry flavor, which can carry hints of some fruits and other flavorful ingredients. All of this depends on how the gin is made. Flavored gins are also very popular among drinkers. Gin doesn’t require to be aged, so it is most likely the reason why you haven’t see many aged gins.
The Russian water is distilled mainly from high-starch plants like potatoes, but it can also be distilled from corn, grains, rye, or even beets. It doesn’t have that much of a flavor. Also, aging is not a commonly used process for Vodka.
Molasses or sugar cane are the main ingredients that are being fermented and distilled to produce rum. For this reason, rum stands on the sweeter end of the distilled spirits spectrum. Some types of rum can also have a more earthy and oaky flavor. It depends on how and where the rum is made. Aged rum is a thing, and where it is aged can change the profile of the flavor.
Tequila is made from agave, which gives its sweet taste. The taste can also be more earthy or pungent, depending on where the agave was grown. Tequilas can be aged, preferably in barrels, but some of the variations can be blended as well.
Mezcal is the cousin of tequila, both distilled from agave, but the distillation process is what makes them different. Mezcal is produced via smoking, smashing, and fermenting agave hearts, whereas tequila is made only from blue agave. When it comes to the flavor, mezcal has a smokier aroma compared to tequila.
Malted grains like wheat, corn, barley, and rye are the most common ingredients for whiskey, and it is known for its diversity. It is so diverse that they have to divide it into a couple of main groups. The distinctive flavor of these kinds depends on where the liquor is brewed. The most commonly known types of whiskey are Rye, Bourbon, and Scotch. Rye is spicier and has a dryer flavor with hints of citrus. Bourbon is sweeter and can carry some notes of fruit, vanilla, or caramel. Scotch is Scottish whiskey, and it has a smoky rich aroma compared to the others. Experts usually prefer oak barrels to age whiskey for better flavor.
Brandy is the result of fermenting fruit juice. Wine is also a common key ingredient for making brandy. Due to the main ingredient, the taste is pretty fruity. Aged brandy can also offer more smoky or burnt flavors with hints of oak. Cognac, pisco, and Calvados are the most common types of this liquor.
Is beer a spirit?
Beer is made by brewing which does not involve distillation, and it has a very low ABV, so they are not spirits.
Is wine a spirit?
Making wine has 5 main stages and these are harvesting, crushing, fermenting, clarifying, and aging. Notice anything? There is no distillation process. Even though wine has a higher ABV it is not considered a spirit.
There you have it. You have all the information you need to show off your liquor culture during social events. Now go make some drinks and drink responsibly.