Not, like, in the “Medium” way…
Ever wondered how gin is made? Or what the difference between tequila and mezcal is?
Look no further than our quick-and-dirty guide to spirits.
Vodka is the most neutral of all the grain spirits. Although these days it’s getting harder and harder to find anything neutral about the new vodkas entering the market! And by that, we’re referring to all of the various flavoured vodkas that keep appearing on our shelves. We carry everything from Bakon flavoured to Peanut Butter & Jelly to whipped cream. Remember when chocolate vodka was the hot new vodka choice?!
Back to basics though. Typically vodka is distilled from the rye grain, however potatoes, corn, soy, beets are also used, and for the ‘value driven’ brands, molasses. In most cases, it’s distilled at least 3 times, filtered through charcoal, and released immediately. Some distillers’ claim to fame is how many times their product is distilled (4, 5, and up to 8 or 9). The more times a product is distilled, the more the flavonoids are removed, therefore the flavour profile is much cleaner.
Gin is the original flavoured vodka, and can be considered historically significant (according to the British) when it was often used medicinally. The neutral spirit base is steeped with juniper berries first and foremost, but coriander, ginger, anise, cardamom, and angelica root, among others. These days, small artisanal distillers are experimenting with oak ageing the spirit, for a fuller flavour and differentiate their products while showcasing their creativity.
Rum is fun because it can be many things to many people. From light and inexpensive that’s perfect for mixing with pop or fruit juice, to rich, dark, and expensive, more along the lines of a single malt whiskey and perfect for sipping. It’s typically made in the tropical climates from the by-product of sugar cane – molasses. Rum can be released immediately upon finishing, or it can be aged in oak barrels as long as the Master Distiller feels necessary. And of course we all know how popular spiced rums are these days (almost as popular as flavoured vodkas!)
Tequila is slowly making a comeback. The notion that tequila was used to get drunk quickly and cheaply is becoming obsolete as you, the consumers, are doing a lot more travel and becoming more interested in artisanal products. High end tequila, like rum and single malt whiskies, is more suited for sipping and serving over ice if you prefer. Tequila is made from the blue agave plant, and is a derivative of Mezcal spirit. The Mexican authorities guard the process and labelling of tequila nearly as fervently as the French with their wine!
Blanco: young, fresh tequila with little to no oak ageing.
Reposado: Minimum ageing is 2 months up to 1 year
Anejo: 1 year to 3 years maximum.
Although Anejo is often the most expensive and thought to be the best, some tequila aficionados feel that as a sipper, Blanco and Reposado are most suited in order to appreciate the nuances and characteristics of the Blue Agave, rather than being masked by the extended oak treatment of Anejo.