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Spirits are alcoholic drinks that are made through a distillation process that generally produces higher alcohol content. There are seven different types of spirits, each with slight variations in the distillation process producing their own unique flavour.
Each spirit has its own distinctive taste. This can be from its ingredients, the base from which it is distilled and also the way it is stored and aged. See a brief explanation of each spirit type below.
Vodka is a clear, odorless and generally flavourless liquid (unless botanials and spices have been added). It is usually made from pototatoes, but it can also come from rye, corn, grains or beets. Vodka usually isn't aged, but it can be aged in oak barrels to deliver a distinct flavour. It can be drunk neat or mixed to make cocktails such as the Vodka Martini and the Cosmopolitan. After fermenting and distilling, vodka undergoes a rigorous filtration and refining process to remove impurities and to achieve its unique mouthfeel.
Tequila is also clear in colour, but it is made from fermented blue agave. The flavour of tequila varies depending on where the plants were grown. They are grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco, but valley agave plants give the tequila an earthy flavour, whereas agave grown in the highlands produce sweeter and fruitier-tasting tequila.
Silver or white (Blanco) tequila is not aged. Distillation is the final step. In contrast, tequila that is matured in white oak barrels for at least two months is called Reposado and 12 months is called Añejo. The length of maturation varies greatly from brand to brand. All tequila is regulated and approved by the Mexican government.
Similar to vodka, gin isn't aged. It is made from purified spirits, usually obtained from grain. Unflavored gin generally exhibits a dry flavor with hints of juniper or citrus. Some gins are sweeter or feature botanicals and herbal ingredients. It is most often mixed with tonic water to make a gin and tonic. Gin is also used in gin-based liqueurs such as sloe gin, by adding fruit, flavourings and sugar. View our selection of the best gins from Australia and other countries around the world.
Rum is usually distilled from sugarcane eg molasses or sugar cane juice. Hence it tastes much sweeter than most other spirits. There are many different types of rum - dark, flavored, gold, light, overproof, premium, spiced and brown rum. The ageing process determines the colour of the rum. Darker rums are aged in oak casks, whereas colourless rum is aged in stainless steel tanks.
Whisky is made by distilling malted grains such as barley, corn, rye and wheat. They are usually aged in oak casks. Whisky is strictly regulated. It is an incredibly diverse spirit, with unique flavour profiles specific to different regions, ingredients, maturation processes and finishing.
Distillation is conducted in a copper still to remove sulfur-based compounds from the alcohol. The whisky is then aged in oak barrels for a number of years. In Australia, a minimum of 2 years is required before it can be called whisky. View our selection of the best whiskies from around the world.
Mezcal is also distilled from agave, so it is sometimes called a type of tequila, but it has a very different distillation process. Tequila is made from blue agave, which is cooked or steamed. In contrast, Mezcal is made by smoking agave hearts or stems. The plant is then crushed, fermented, and distilled. Due to this process, Mezcal tastes similar to tequila, but it has a smokier flavor.
Brandy is produced by distilling wine and placing it in oak barrels to mature. Common types of brandy include cognac, Calvados, and pisco.