Introduction to Spirits


The production of Brandy is normally associated with France, but any country that produces wine can also make Brandy. In its most simple form Brandy is little more than distilled wine. To age and mature Brandy it is put in oak casks for a period of time. The longer Brandy is kept in these casks the more the flavour will mellow and there will be more of an oak flavour imparted into the final product.

Cognac and Armagnac:

Both are essentially a premium version of Brandy and should be served neat in a brandy ballon. Cognac comes from the Cognac region of central France. Unlike brandy it is distilled twice and is aged in used oak casks for a minimum of twenty years. This makes it somewhat more refined than brandy. Some brands call their product Champagne Cognac (the word Champagne meaning 'open country' in French, it does not pertain to the region Champagne). Some common brands are: Hennessey, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, and Camus Armagnac is produced in the Armagnac region of southern France. Like brandy it is distilled once but is aged in a similar way to Cognac in black oak casks for a minimum of twenty years, giving it similar qualities to both brandy and Cognac. Being from southern France it is also made in a warmer climate and aged in a unique type of black oak and this also contributes to its distinctive character and colouring. France has devised a unique system for grading the age of Brandies, Cognac's and Armagnac's from youngest to oldest VS, VSO and VSOP. (These letters mean Very- Special-Old-Pale) the more letters found on the label the older the product and the better the quality.


It was first produced as a medicinal tonic made from Barley flavoured with Juniper berries in the 16th century. The Dutch name for Juniper is Genever so it was originally called Genever. It was the English that gave it the modern name Gin. Today Gin comes in two main styles:
  1. Dutch, the most flavoursome and sweetest. It is meant to be drunk on its own (best served frozen like Vodka). In some countries this type of spirit is called Schnapps or Aquavit.
  2. English, this style is dryer (the driest of all is Plymouth Gin) with less flavour and is meant to be drunk with a mix. eg Gin and Tonic. some more popular brands are: Gordon's, Bombay, Seagars and Beefeater.


This famous spirit had infamous beginnings in the 1600s in the West Indies. First made by slaves working on the sugar plantations it soon became a firm favourite of pirates and scoundrels throughout the West Indies. Its original name was Rumpus or Rumbullion, which loosely translated means rowdy party! Rum made from sugar can be produced by any country that can produce sugar cane eg. Puerto Rico, Cuba, Australia, Jamaica. There are three main types of rum:
  1. White Rum (made from white sugar is the lightest and driest) eg. Bacardi, Ron Rico
  2. Dark Rum(made from molasses is the sweetest and heaviest) eg. Coruba, Captain Morgan.
  3. Blended or gold rum (made by mixing white and dark together so having some characteristics of both) eg. Bacardi gold, Mount Gay, Bundaberg.


Originally enjoyed by Aztec people of Central America as a wine, it is now a popular Spirit all over the world. Made from a native cactus it has a unique taste which is popular both on its own or mixed in cocktails such as the famous Margarita. To drink Tequila serve with a pinch of salt and a wedge of lime or lemon. Mescal is similar to Tequila and is usually aged in white oak barrels for a period of time. This gives Mezcal a golden colour. A unique feature of Tequila and Mescal is the addition of a worm to the bottle. It is said that these worms absorb the active ingredients in Tequila and eating one has a very intoxicating effect.


The drink associated with the Russian Tsars actually had a much more humble beginning. Peasants living in Poland and Russia during the twelfth century originally invented vodka, by making an extremely strong neutral spirit (this word means colourless and tasteless) from patato skins. This very strong brew was immediately popular with the peasants, but the wealthy ruling the classes were quick to see its merits and adopted as their own. Soon the method on how to make vodka spread throughout most of Western Europe and in some countries is called Schnapps. Today the best Vodka is made from grain or wheat. To drink Vodka in the traditional way, keep it in the freezer and serve it neat. The Russians have a saying for this 'a little ray of sunshine on the inside'. One of the advantages of this tasteless spirit is that in drink mixing you can use Vodka to "spice" up a drink without changing the orignal flavour. Although true Vodka in the original sense has no flavour there are a growing number of brands of Vodka available that are flavoured (the Russians have been doing this for hundreds of years). Some common flavours that are available in many bars are Citrus, Blackcurrant and Chilli Pepper. Some of the most poplular brands are: Stolichnaya, Asoulut, Smirnoff, Finlandia, and Danska.


Whiskey is a barrel-aged distilled spirit made from grain or malt. There are now many different types of whisky, generally falling into three main categories

Return to the Main Index to Elkin Vanaeons Website fro the Mysts of Time

Idaho Web Design Tools
 Idaho Web Design Tools