Brandy Vs Whiskey: What’s The Difference?

Glasses of brandy and whiskey


Consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to spirits. There are hundreds of different products to choose from including many delicious whiskeys, brandies, cognacs, and rums.

However, the sheer variety of products that are available can sometimes lead to confusion amongst inexperienced whiskey drinkers. One of the most common points of confusion is understanding the difference between spirits like brandy and whiskey.

Brandy and whiskey are about the same color and often have similar branding on their bottles. There are even similarities in terms of their alcohol content and how they are produced.

To help you gain a better understanding of these delicious spirits, his article will take a closer look at the differences between brandy and whiskey.

What Is Brandy?

Brandy was created in the 15th century when winemakers decided to distill their wines in an effort to cut down on transportation costs. When the distilled product reached its destination, water could be added to turn it back into wine. The word brandy comes from the Dutch word “branwjin” which means “burnt wine” – referring to this distillation process.

People soon realized that the distilled product was also quite enjoyable to drink. Distillers began experimenting with different grapes, distillation techniques, and storage techniques to create a more palatable brandy.

Today, the most common form of brandy remains grape brandy. It is created by distilling a fermented mash of grapes or a wine made from grapes. The distilled liquid is then aged in wooden barrels for at least two years.

“Fruit” brandies are also popular. They are made by distilling the fermented mash of other fruits and non-grape wines.

Cognac is one of the most well-known brandies. It is a grape brandy that is made in the Cognac region of France. There are strict rules in place for the production of Cognac including a stipulation that it must contain at least 90% Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche or Colombard grapes.

A glass of Brandy

What is Whiskey?

Whiskey is a distilled spirit that is made from a fermented grain mash. The grains contained within the mash can vary depending on the type of whiskey being made, but it almost always includes some malted barley. Other grains that are used to make whiskey can include corn, wheat, and rye.

The whiskey-making process begins with the grains being milled then immersed in water to extract soluble sugars. This process is called mashing. The sure-rich solution that is created is referred to as the wort.

The wort is then fermented using yeast to create the wash. The wash is then placed into a still and distilled at least twice. The type of still used can vary based upon the whiskey being produced. However, most whiskeys will use a pot still or column still.

After distillation, the whiskey is placed in a wooden barrel to age. Virtually all whiskeys need to be matured for at least 3 years. During the time in the barrel, the whiskey undergoes a complex chemical process that improves its flavor, aroma, and color.

Similarities Between Brandy And Whiskey

Before we get into the main differences these spirits, let’s take a quick look at their similarities. They include:

Both have a long and interesting history

Both brandy and whiskey have both been around for many centuries. As mentioned earlier, brandy was first produced in Italy around the 15th Century in Italy by winemakers. Whiskey was being produced in Scotland and Ireland no later than the 15th Century.

Both products use fermented ingredients

Both brandy and whiskey are made using a fermentation process which converts the sugar in their ingredients into ethanol. This process is what gives the spirits their alcohol content.

Aged for several years

Brandy and whiskey are both aged for several years in wooden barrels. However, the types of barrels used and the duration of the aging process can vary.

Distilled in pot stills

Traditionally, brandy is distilled using large pot stills, which is the same kind of still used to produce the best Scotch whiskies. Some modern brandies still use this distillation technique, however, most use a more industrial process that can make use of continuous or semi-continuous stills. This makes it easier for brandy producers to produce a high-quality product reliably.

Difference Between Brandy And Whiskey

They use different ingredients

Brandy is a distilled liquor that is made from fermented fruit juice or wine. Whiskey, on the other hand, is a distilled liquor made from a fermented grain mash.

Brandy is sold when it is younger

Most whiskeys have been aged in a barrel for anywhere between 5 to 20 years old, with more expensive whiskeys being aged for as much as 50 years before sale. Brandies are rarely aged more than 10 years, with most products spending less than 3 years in a barrel.

Brandy has a subtler flavor

Brandy usually has a lighter and sweeter flavor than whiskey, with a focus on fruit and flowers. You can expect to taste caramel, vanilla, dried fruit, banana, fig, rose petal, apricot, and prune in brandy.

The flavors in whiskey will vary greatly based on the specific type of whiskey you are drinking. However, you can expect a stronger spirit with more oak, tobacco, and malt. Even a sweet bourbon whiskey won’t be as fruity as an average brandy.