Brandy and whisky both have strong points, and in my biased opinion, they don’t have any weak points. They are both great products that are made for our enjoyment.
The question is, where do they come from, how are they made, and what are they made of? Well, Let’s get into it.
Whiskey is made from malted or unmalted barley. Some ingredients include grains, wheat, rye, and corn. Brandy is made from fermented fruit juice, mostly grapes. Whiskey dates back to Scotland at least 1000 years ago, and brandy dates back to France in the 1300s. They are both made through fermentation and distillation.
In this article, we are going to take an in-depth look at how each of these products is made, where they come from, and what ingredients they contain.
We will also talk about what the best drink for beginners is, which is best to collect, which is most popular, and a lot more so, keep reading.
Brandy VS Whiskey: The Ingredients
I love answering questions like these because not many people ask them, and I think that they are important to know.
When you know what ingredients go into an alcohol, you will better understand the flavors.
Also, understanding the ingredients can influence how a whiskey or brandy will hit your palate.
In this section, we are going to talk about the ingredients that go into brandy and whiskey, and we will talk a little bit about them.
What Ingredients Is Brandy Made From?
- In some cases, brandy can be made from any fruit.
The majority of brandy that you come across will be made from grapes. The cultivar of grape used in a brandy depends on the region that it is from.
In order to simplify this, you can say that most brandy is made from red grapes.
Sometimes a Brandy will be made with other fruits such as pears, apples, plums, or pineapple.
However, if it is made with any of these other fruits, it will be labeled as such.
In this article, we are not really focusing on cognac. However, it is important to note that a Cognac cannot be a cognac unless it is made from white grapes only.
What Ingredients Is Whiskey Made From?
- Malted or unmalted barley
- Various fermented grains
- Corn (Mostly only in American Whiskeys)
Whiskey’s from all over the world are made differently; it really depends on where the whiskey is being made. The region will determine the ingredients used.
You also get different types of whiskey. For example, a single malt will be made using only barley, mostly malted barley. A bourbon whiskey will be made from barley, grains, and at least 51% corn.
In fact, most American whiskeys contain corn. Whereas whiskey that is made in Scotland or Ireland does not contain corn at all.
Ingredients such as rye and wheat are specialty ingredients that get added to certain whiskeys. They can completely change the dynamic of the whiskey and its flavor. Let’s use bourbon as an example.
For bourbon, you get traditional, which is made from corn, barley, and other grains.
When wheat is added, it gives the bourbon earthy flavors, almost like toasted grains. When rye is added to the bourbon, it gives it a hint of spicy flavors.
- Learn more about rye and bourbon and their differences.
Brandy VS Whiskey: How Is It Made
Much like how understanding the ingredients of an alcohol can influence how the flavors hit your palate, the same can be said when it comes to how the alcohol is made.
There is quite a difference between how brandy and whisky are made. Although some of the processes can be similar, ultimately, they are different. Let’s get into it.
How Is Brandy Made: Step By Step
- Grapes are picked, and they start the fermentation process. In some cases, but not all, yeast is added to speed up or help with the fermentation process.
- Once the grapes or fruits have fermented, all the juice is extracted. Most of the time, the grape skin is not used.
- At this point, it is basically wine and not brandy. It will now be placed into vats where it is heated over and over again, which allows the alcohol content to be separated from everything else.
- At the end of the distillation, only brandy will be left, and the base wine will no longer be present.
- The brandy is, at this point, stored in large oak barrels. It will be left here to age.
I tried to make that step-by-step guide as informative as possible without boring you. Once the brandy has been placed into large Oak barrels, it will age.
The amount of time that it spends in the barrel depends on what the manufacturer wants. Do they want a 12-year-old brandy, or do they just want to let it age for a year or two?
Something very interesting is, the quality of the barrel that it is stored in can significantly impact the flavor of the brandy.
It can also influence the color. If you have to store brandy in a charred oak barrel, you will get a darker color, and if it is stored in a fresh oak barrel, it will be lighter.
How Is Whiskey Made: Step By Step
- Most whiskeys contain malted barley. The barley is made wet and then placed on special floors where enzymes turn starch into sugars.
- It is now ready to be fermented. However, it is first dried in a kiln. At this stage, peat is either naturally obtained from the smoke, or it is added artificially.
- Once it is dry, it gets mashed up into fine flour.
- Water is added in different stages to the flour.
- It gets constantly stirred where the sugar content will naturally increase while the starch content will decrease. The liquid is now called “wort.”
- This wort is added to large wooden or steel vats. These are called “washbacks.” Here, the wort will ferment.
- This is where the distillation begins. It is a complicated process. Basically, the alcohol is separated from all other materials.
- The alcohol will be clear at this point. It gets its color from the barrel it is stored in.
- The whiskey is left to age in large oak barrels.
Again, the quality of the wood in terms of all the storage involved can significantly affect the quality of the whiskey.
Also, for good whiskeys, only the best quality fresh water is used in these steps. And again, I tried to simplify those steps as much as possible.
Brandy VS Whiskey: Their Origins
In this section, we are going to be talking about the origins of brandy and the origins of whiskey.
I would say that this section is more about learning some interesting facts than anything else.
I might get slightly carried away because this topic is something I find fascinating.
- Learn Why is Whiskey called Whiskey, Whisky, Bourbon or Scotch in my guide.
Where Is Brandy From?
The history of brandy can be broken down into two important years. It can be traced all the way to the early 1300s in France, where brandy was distilled.
However, it was only used as a medicine, and in fact, it was nicknamed by doctors as “the water of life.”
There are a lot of stories that suggest how brandy was born into a drink. One of these stories includes a trader from Holland.
In the 1600s, a Dutch trader realized that he could ship more wine if he removes all of the water before loading it onto the ships. The plan was that the water would be placed back when the wine reached its destination.
It was at this point where brandy got its name” Bradwijn” which stands for burnt wine.
In America, it was around the mid to late 1700s where brandy started being commercially distilled and distributed.
One of the first brandy’s that was commercially made in America just before George Washington got involved was actually made from apples instead of grapes, and that was called Apple Jack.
Where Is Whiskey From?
I will try and keep this brief because if I don’t watch out, I will be here for the next few weeks writing about where whiskey and brandy come from.
With that said, in order to understand the origins of whiskey, we need to understand the origins of distillation.
It is unclear whether or not distillation comes from Roman Egypt, but that seems to be the consensus, and this process can date back to at least the 1st century.
It was around 200 AD when the process was described by Alexander.
The process of distillation made its way to Scotland via traveling monks, and it was here, around 1000 years ago, where whiskey started being made.
Something that I find absolutely fascinating is that in Gaelic, they used to call whiskey “the water of life,” much like the French doctors used to call brandy.
Which Is More Popular: Whiskey Or Brandy?
The straight forward answer for this is that whiskey is more popular than brandy throughout the world.
I don’t think it generally has to do with how these two alcohols taste. I think it is more to do with marketing, availability, and distribution.
One key factor that could contribute to the popularity of whiskey over brandy is quite possibly the fact that whiskey is a good few hundred years older than brandy.
Whiskey VS Brandy: Which Is More Expensive?
- Whiskey is more expensive than brandy.
- Cognac is more expensive than whiskey.
In this section, we are going to have to give two answers to a simple question. I’m not a huge fan of doing this, but for this section, it is something that I have to do.
So, let’s take a look: is whiskey more expensive than brandy?
Generally, whiskey is more expensive than brandy. It is important to remember that some bottles of whiskey can cost up to thousands of dollars, whereas brandy doesn’t really reach that price point.
With all of that being said, we were talking about whiskey vs. brandy and not whiskey vs. cognac because that is where things get a little bit different.
The process of making cognac is extremely difficult, and also, for a Cognac to be a Cognac, it needs to be made in the region of Cognac France.
It also needs to be made with white grapes, but that is only the start.
Not only is the process of making cognac a lot more complex than the process of making whiskey or even normal brandy, but it takes a lot longer. It takes longer to age than cognac.
And for these reasons, you will find that certain Cognacs can be more expensive than the more expensive whiskeys.
Which Is Better For Beginners: Brandy Or Whiskey?
The straight forward answer to this is brandy is better for beginners. That is if you have it with a mixer.
If you are drinking it neat, then your best option is to go for a whiskey on the rocks – a whiskey such as a Chivas Regal, a bourbon, or any single malt whiskey from Speyside.
It is important to remember that both of these alcohols are very different from each other, and we need to think that brandy also includes cognac.
There are also a few factors that we need to consider when talking about beginners. These factors can include:
- The scenario
- Your personal tastes
- Your affordability
We are going to take a closer look at each of these factors, but in the first one, the scenario, we are going to discuss cognac and not brandy.
After a good meal at a nice restaurant, there is almost nothing better than having a Cognac to wash everything down. Not only does it taste great, but it also acts as a digestive.
A cognac will be served to you in a cognac glass that will be heated up. I recommend that if you are a beginner, you ask the waiter or waitress to ignite the cognac just before serving it to you.
This takes a lot of the harsh undertones away.
Before your meal, if you would like to try whiskey, this is your best option. I recommend going for something that is unpeated or if they do not have an unpeated whiskey, ask for something from Speyside.
Your Personal Taste
We will be shifting away from cognac now and talk only about whiskey and brandy.
If you are a beginner brandy drinker, I highly recommend ordering it as a mixer with something like Coca-Cola.
You can do the same with whiskey. Adding a touch of lime cordial to it can make it less bitter.
- Read my guide of What To Mix With Whiskey: 13 Best Whiskey Mixers.
The price of whisky can range from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per shot. The same can be said about cognac.
However, normal brandy will rarely ever go above 20 to $30. Therefore, if you are interested in either but are thinking about budget, go for a brandy.
If you were looking at whiskey, I would say, go for a whiskey such as Chivas Regal. It is not the most expensive, and it is also not a cheap whiskey.
I would call it the premium version of the budget-friendly whiskies.
Is Whiskey Better To Collect Than Brandy?
This completely depends on you and what you would prefer to collect, whiskey or brandy? The best thing for you to do is to see which of these two products you like and then collect that one.
There are many collectors edition whiskeys, and there are many collectors edition Cognacs. The best thing for you to do is to go to a manufacturer’s website and find the collector’s editions.
If you are collecting brandy or whiskey, it is important that you treat it like wine. Make sure that at least once a week, you turn the bottle over slightly and don’t just leave it in the same position for too long.
- Read also my comparison between Rum VS Whiskey, how they are made, and what ingredients are used in the process of making them.
That brings us to the end of what was an in-depth look at the differences between brandy and whisky.
At the end of the day, you should drink the one that you like the most. They both offer great flavors, and they are both great for different scenarios.
I hope you found this article, and feel free to share it with your friends.