Words by: Simon Difford
A spirit or liquor is a strong alcoholic beverage produced by distilling an already alcoholic liquid ('wash') produced by fermentation, most commonly wine or beer.
The term 'spirit' has numerous meanings but in reference to alcohol, the word originates from Middle Eastern alchemy where the vapour generated by distillation and collected after condensation was referred to as a spirit of the original substance.
'Liquor', and indeed 'liquid' come from the Latin verb liquere, meaning to be fluid. The use of the word 'liquor' as a term for an alcoholic drink dates back to the 16th century.
Beer, wine and other fermented beverages are limited to a maximum alcohol content of around 18% alc./vol. as the yeasts which produce alcohol during fermentation cannot survive in alcohol strengths much above this. Distillation can be used to concentrate the alcohol in the fermented beverage to produce a spirit.
Distillation separates the alcohol from water and other substances in the fermented beverage via evaporation due to Ethanol alcohol boiling at a lower temperature than water. Distillation also has the benefit of separating the Ethanol alcohol from toxins in the fermented beverage such as methanol and fusel oils due to their also boiling at different temperatures.
It's worth noting that a primitive form of distillation can be achieved by freezing the alcoholic beverage and then removing the ice. Unlike vapour distillation this has the negative effect of concentrating the levels of toxins rather than reducing/removing them.
The term spirits is generally used for beverages with an alcohol content over 18% alc./vol. containing no sugar or low amounts of sugar. Alcoholic beverages with more than 100 grams per litre of sugar are termed 'liqueurs' rather than spirits.
Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of the European Parliament and the Council dated 15 January 2008 defines 'spirit drinks' as "alcoholic drinks intended for human consumption. By definition, spirit drinks possess particular organoleptic qualities and have a minimum alcoholic strength of 15 % vol. Spirit drinks are produced either directly by distillation, by maceration or by the addition of flavourings, or by mixing a spirit drink with another drink, ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin or certain distillates."
Capucana Cachaça is distilled in Piracicaba, near Sao Paulo, using the fermented juice of three different varieties of sugar cane and is aged for three years prior to bottling. The name borrows from the old Brazilian Capu Cana meaning ‘sugar cane house’ (capu = house and cana = sugarcane). Light muscovado sugar, aloe vera, soft leather, peach and pear fruit, dried herbs, black pepper and faint mandarin orange zest.
Matured for 15 years in charred oak ex-bourbon barrels, Angostura 1787 celebrates the establishment of the first sugar mill in Trinidad in 1787, at the Lapeyrouse sugar plantation. Angostura 1787 was launched in London in September 2016 for release in November. Passion fruit, dried apricot, charcoal toasty oak and vanilla fudge. Faint overripe banana, plum and rose petal.
Carte Blanche à Baptiste Loiseau is a limited edition fine champagne cognac named after Baptiste Loiseau, Rémy Martin’s Cellar Master who was appointed in 2014 at the age of 34. He personally selected this Carte Blanche N°1 from eau-de-vie, more than 20 years old, laid down by his predecessors. Leather, tobacco, nutmeg and cinnamon spice, old oak wardrobe, black tea leaves, delicate floral lilac and violet, vanilla, dark chocolate mocha coffee and caramel.
Distilled on the Isle of Wight with hand-picked island botanicals such as Rock Samphire and Boadicea hops grown at Ventnor Botanic Garden. Other botanicals include, juniper berries, English coriander seeds, fresh lemon zest, angelica root, liquorish, orris root, elderflower and grains of paradise. Pungent lemon zest with underlying pine, cereal and peppery spice.
Based on cider apple spirit distilled on Chase’s own farm using apples grown on the farm. This is re-distilled distilled with nine botanicals: juniper, coriander seeds, liquorice, cassia bark, lemon peel, almond, cardamom, cloves and angelica. This truly estate gin is also bottled on the farm. Overripe banana and pine juniper, nutty angelica root, with lemon and sage coriander seeds. Black pepper spice with faint curry like aromas.
Based on a blend of two different grain spirits, wheat neutral alcohol from the UK and rye spirit from Central Europe, both distilled from GM free grain. This is re-distilled with nine botanicals that are steeped in the spirit for 24 hours prior to distillation. Pungent jasmine blossom dominates with piney juniper and liquorice.
This new make (unaged spirit straight from the stills) is the first release from the new Kingsbarns distillery. Bready with spirituous white pepper and delicate orchard fruit with faint saltiness. Pear skin emerges with water.
An independent bottling of Aberfeldy, hogshead matured, this release of 379 bottles was bottled in 2014. Honeysuckle and red apple with light cinnamon and clove. More fruity with water. And indeed waxy snuffed candle.
A heavily sherried 1988 vintage bottling of Bunnahabhain by independent bottler Wemyss. Sherry butt matured, this non chill-filtered release of 442 bottles was bottled in 2014. Blackened fruit cake, sherry and struck match with mocha coffee. Faint orange zest with water.
To create the Garden Tiger Gin, distiller Barney Wilczak gathered a vast library of botanicals and set about distilling each, dividing them according to the six different flavour profiles he sought to combine. These test distillations culminated in a recipe that includes 34 different botanicals. Zesty orange marmalade and tangerines, menthol, pear and cumin spice. More Indian spice notes emerge with water.
Released in 2015, Frey Ranch Gin is based on spirit distilled on the ranch from rye, barley and corn grown and milled right on the ranch. This is distilled with juniper berries and sagebrush also sourced from the ranch. Incredibly pungent – pine and overripe banana juniper, green cardamom and lemon oil. More green cardamom and pine with water.
As The Periodic Table inspired name might suggest, Au Vodka is packaged in a tall, shapely gold mirrored bottle with hand-applied pewter plaque labels. Au Vodka is made at Hayman Distillery from wheat neutral spirit. Clean and fairy neutral with cracked black pepper and faint cereal notes.
Showing results per page