WHAT ARE ALCOHOLIC SPIRITS?
Spirits are distilled from fermented drinks, where the pure alcohol spirit and its aromas are collected, leaving behind water and other elements such as sugar, yeast and colour compounds.
For example, wine is distilled to make Grappa, Brandies (such as Cognac) and Pisco. Whisky is made from fermented malted grain, which is essentially essentially distilled beer and Vodka can be made from grapes, grain, potatoes and pretty much anything that will ferment (see our British Milk Vodka for example), as long as the resulting product is 'neutral' tasting.
Gin is Vodka that has been infused with botanicals, most notably juniper. Rum is made with fermented molasses or sugar cane; and finally Tequila from fermented agave. The agave in Mezcal is cooked over charcoal before fermentation, giving it that smokey flavour. Similarly, the grain in Whiskies from the Isle of Islay is malted over smokey peat fires.
All alcoholic spirits begin life as clear liquids. Brown spirits like Whisky, Dark Rum and Brandy get their colour from being aged in oak barrels. Cheaper brown spirits have caramel added to give the appearance of oak ageing when there hasn't been any.
Choosing the right spirit depends mainly on whether you want to sip it neat, use it in cocktails or with a mixer, and which flavours you enjoy the most. However you drink yours, there's a spirit for all palates and preferences.