There are many types of distilled spirits and liqueurs on the market, and two popular ones are brandy and whiskey. Brandy and whiskey have some similarities; both are distilled and aged in oak barrels. Both have several regional variations. But while they have a few things in common, there are some key differences that set them apart. When it comes to brandy vs. whiskey, the differences lie in origin, aging time, taste, and alcohol content.
Brandy vs. Whiskey: The Key Differences
The distilled beverage brandy comes from fermented fruit, while whiskey is made from fermented grain mash. Sweet brandy has a light, fruity flavor, while whiskey has a much stronger taste. Whiskey generally has a higher alcohol content than brandy.
Brandy vs. Whiskey: Nutritional Differences
Both distilled spirits have the same amount of calories, 97 per shot or 1.5 ounces. They both have low sugar content and are low in sodium. Brandy and whiskey can be enjoyed on their own or as mixed drinks and cocktails. The mixers and added beverages are where the nutritional differences are key. Sugary juices and syrups alter the nutritional profile of both brandy and whiskey.
What is Brandy?
Brandy is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented fruit. It is usually made from grapes, but it can be made from other fruits too. This distilled spirit has several regional variations like cognac, armagnac, grappa, and pisco. Brandy is from distilled wine. The process separates the alcohol and creates a liquid with high alcohol content. The distilled spirit has a distinct, concentrated flavor, and the alcohol content of brandy is usually from 35% to 60%, depending on the style and region. Many drink brandy as an after-dinner drink because of its sweet taste. It is also used in cocktails and desserts.
Brandy was first distilled in France at the beginning of the 14th century, but it was only considered medicine and used medicinally until the mid-16th century when it was introduced to other parts of the world through trade.
Types of Brandy
- Cognac is from the Cognac region of France. It is distilled twice and aged for at least two years. It is protected by the French government and processed according to strict guidelines.
- Armagnac is from southwest France in the Armagnac region of Gascony. It is also protected by French governmental restrictions.
- Brandy de Jerez is a brandy from Spain. It is produced throughout Spain, but it is required to be aged in the Jerez region of Spain.
- Eau-de-vie is a light unaged fruity brandy made in France. It is used in fruity liqueurs.
- American Brandy is produced in the U.S., usually by local wineries using local grape varieties. There are no guidelines or restrictions on the process.
- Grappa is a strong Italian brandy. It can be aged or not and is made from leftover grape skins and seeds. Originally created to use every part of the grape in the wine-making process.
- Pisco is a brandy from South America that can be aged or unaged and is primarily made in Peru and Chile.
- Flavored Brandy is a brandy made with different fruits or spices.
Brandy is aged in oak barrels, and the longer it is aged, the better it tastes. These are the four main types of aged brandy.
- Very Special (VS): Brandy is aged at least two years.
- Very Special Old Pale (VSOP): Brandy is aged more than four years.
- Extra Old (XO) Brandy is aged at least ten years.
- Hors d’âge Brandy is aged between ten and thirty years.
What is Whiskey?
Whiskey is an alcoholic drink made from fermented grains like rye, corn, barley, and wheat. This distilled spirit is made all over the globe. Each style of whiskey is connected to the country it is made. And some countries have strict regulations about the production and distilling process to meet those guidelines. Whiskey is between 40 and 70% alcohol content.
Monks first created whiskey in monasteries of Ireland and Scotland. The region didn't have vineyards, so they got creative and started fermenting grains. Later it spread to the rest of the world.
Types of Whiskey
- Blended Whiskey is made with a mix of aged whiskey from different styles or grains.
- Single Malt Whiskey is made from just one fermented type of grain.
- Irish Whiskey can be either single malt or a blend, but it must be made in Ireland and aged at least three years.
- Scotch Whiskey is made in Scotland and can be single or blended. It has a unique smoky taste due to the malt drying over a fire.
- Bourbon Whiskey is an American whiskey with strict regulations and must be made with 51% corn and aged in charred oak barrels.
- Tennessee Whiskey is made in Tennessee and is filtered through a charcoal filter system giving it a slightly burnt taste.
- Japanese Whiskey uses the same system as Scotland and has a smoky taste.
- Canadian Whiskey is a blended whiskey made in Canada.
- Rye Whiskey is a strong whiskey made with mostly rye grains.
- Moonshine is an unaged raw whiskey. It was popular during prohibition and made in homemade stills.
Best Brandy Brands
There are many brands of brandy available, and these are a few best brands.
Best Whiskey Brands
Here are some notable brands of whiskey.
- Johnny Walker
- Rittenhouse Rye
- Powers Gold Label
- Woodford reserve
- The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Many brandy aficionados sip it after a meal. The sweetness of the spirit is like a dessert all on its own. But it is also a key ingredient in popular cocktails. In the cold days of winter, try a warming brandy-based drink like mulled or spiced wine or a hot toddy. When the weather is warmer, brandy is great in a refreshing fruity sangria or a peach summer shandy. Other classic cocktails featuring brandy are Metropolitan, B&B, Brandy Alexander, Sidecar, and Brandy Milk Punch.
Brandy Food Pairing
Brandy is an ingredient in some holiday desserts like Christmas pudding or fruitcake. It is also popular in flaming desserts like bananas foster, baked Alaska, and cherries Jubilee. The brandy is poured on top and lit for a flaming, sweet, spectacular dessert.
Another way brandy is used in cooking is to deglaze a pan to make sauces and soups. Deglazing a pan is the process of adding a liquid, in this case, brandy, to a hot pan with stuck-on bits of food. The liquid removes the caramelized bits of food left in the pan and becomes the base of sauces. One of the most popular recipes that use brandy is French onion soup.
Pairing bandy with foods that are rich in flavor and texture is the best way to enjoy the spirit. Aged cheeses like cheddar, smoked gouda, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan are excellent when sipping brandy. Oily fish like sardines and salmon can match a fruity sweet brandy. And most desserts pair well with brandy.
Whiskey lovers enjoy it served neat, on the rocks, or in cocktails. Here are a few classic whiskey cocktails that have stood the test of time Old Fashioned, Whisky Collins, Mint Julep, Whiskey Sour, Rob Roy, and Manhatten.
Whiskey Food Pairing
The varieties of whiskey can vary greatly in strength and taste: some are spicy, others have a smoky sweetness, and others have a strong, bold, intense flavor. Matching the right whiskey to the right food is a matter of matching intensity. Strong rye whiskey is excellent with smoked meats, fatty cuts of steak, and thick sauces. While Scotch whiskey is ideal with oysters and other rich, briny seafood. Single malts pair well with nutty hard cheese like Parmesan and Grana Padano. Intense whiskey pairs well with dark chocolate or rich mousse and other decadent desserts. Blended whiskey is ideal for spicy meats like tacos or curries. Whiskey also is great as a marinade or glaze for meats.
Brandy vs. Whiskey: Final Thoughts
Brandy and whiskey are two popular distilled spirits that have a few similarities, such as they are distilled and aged in oak barrels. Even though they have some similarities, they have some differences that make them stand out. Deciding which one to choose depends on your personal preferences. You may prefer one over the other. Here are a few of their key differences:
- Brandy has a light, fruity flavor while whiskey has a stronger taste.
- Whiskey has a higher alcohol content compared to brandy.
- Brandy is usually made from grapes or other fruit.
- Whiskey is made from grains like rye, corn, barley, and wheat.
- 12 ounces of your favorite brown liquor (brandy, whiskey or rum)
- 8 Tablespoons honey
- 4 ounces lemon juice
- 8 cup hot water
- cinnamon sticks and star anise for garnish
- Heat water in a large saucepan.
- Add the liquor, honey and lemon juice, stir to combine.
- Divide evenly between 8 warmed mugs.
- Garnish with a cinnamon stick or star anise.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Alfonso Soler/Shutterstock.com.