Brandy and bourbon are particularly common liquors, but not everyone knows what these spirits are. Between brandy vs bourbon, those unfamiliar will find them similar as they have the same color.
To help you know your drinks, we’ll help you understand how the two are made and what makes them different.
Bourbon or Brandy: Key Differences
While it is common to use brandy in place of bourbon in some dishes, these two are not alike in taste and appearance. Brandy normally derives from fermented fruit juice. However, some are fermented grain mash. The most common distilled spirits, though, are from fermented grapes.
On the other hand, bourbon is a spirit distilled from the fermented mash. It is the same family as whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. The aging process makes bourbon different from a typical whiskey aged in charred oak barrels. It uses new barrels, unlike the rest.
Closer Look At The Differences
Some people ask, “is whiskey bourbon?” The answer is yes. This is probably the most popular type of American whiskey. People have been drinking bourbon since the late 1780s. However, it isn’t clear whether the name originated from Bourbon Street, New Orleans, or Bourbon County in Kentucky.
Brandy, on the other hand, began in France. Good brandy is made from grapes grown in Champagne, a region in France. However, as time evolved, they started using other fruits for this alcoholic beverage. Unknown to many, the origin of brandy is related to that of bourbons.
Dutch merchants were shipping their products in the 16th century. These Dutch traders brought their concentrated brandy produced from France to Holland. They accidentally kept these distilled wines in French oak barrels longer. This was when they first tasted “burnt wine,” where what is now called whiskey began.
Brandy is a distilled, fermented fruit wine. Traditionally, these are made from grapes because of their high acidity. However, there are other fruit juices used as brandy. Other brandies use apples, peaches, pears, and plums. On the other hand, grapes need to be stored in an oak barrel.
The common ingredients for bourbon would be a fermented mash of grain or corn, yeast, and water. Typical bourbon contains 70% mash bill, while other grains are added for taste or flavor. They also use unmalted cereals such as wheat and maize.
How It’s Made
Both brandy and bourbon use fermented products. Brandy starts with fermented  fruit mash. The most common are different grapes, but the best ones are from the region of France. They secreted the juice from the fruit and fermented it.
These are then distilled after removing the congeners. These are substances or alcohol produced during fermentation. Once separated, they will distill the grape wine or fruit spirits. The congeners will be readded once the distilled spirit is stored in oak barrels for aging.
On the other hand, fermented grain mash is used in making bourbon. Half of it is corn like rye whiskey, or any whiskey is made, while the rest are the grains intended for that variety. It is then distilled and kept in charred American oak barrels to produce its unique flavor.
Also Read: Bourbon vs Whiskey
Brandy is typically fruity as these are made from grapes and apples. Other fruits are used for “eau de vie,” like peaches, plums, or cherries. Normally, these fruits are used by local brands, which are very common in Europe and other parts of Central Europe.
It uses the same process of distillation. The same way grapes from the Cognac region of France are processed.
On the other hand, bourbon has three common flavors: vanilla, caramel, and oak. These flavors emerge during the aging process. There are spices and other flavors incorporated while the liquor is inside wooden barrels. These barrels contribute highly to the strength and personality of each bottle of bourbon.
Secondary flavors found in whiskies, particularly bourbon, all passed the taste test. You will find the taste of cornbread, oatmeal or toast, cinnamon or pepper, as well as fall spices such as nuts, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie.
Brandy is one of the many alcoholic beverages that has multiple varieties. French brandy would be the most popular, and the first on the list is cognac. The grape brandy, cognac, is distilled twice in copper pot stills.
Its meticulous production ensures impeccable flavor. A minimum of at least two years in French oak barrels is needed in making cognac. Then there is the American brandy, Spanish Brandy, Obstler, Armenian, Pomace, Cypriot, South African, and Pisco brandy. The European Union approves authentic brandy manufacturers.
Bourbon also has a good number of choices. Standard Bourbon Whiskey is similar to the whiskey native to Scotland, the bourbon Scotch. Then there is the Kentucky Bourbon whiskey, Sour Mash, Tennessee bourbon whiskey, Straight bourbon whiskey, Small-Batch, and Single-Barrel Bourbon.
Brandy gets its color from the ingredients and the wooden casks placed into age. As it matures inside the wooden barrels, it influences the color and incorporates the caramel savor.
Grape brandy such as cognac darkens as it ages, but it starts with a golden hue. The more it stays inside the wooden casks, the darker it gets but not the same color as dark chocolate. It is closer to mahogany or amber.
Since bourbon is a type of whiskey, it also passes through the same process as any other whiskey. The difference is that it uses new charred barrels to be called bourbon. That is why it starts with a clear liquid. It acquires a brownish color the longer it stays inside the barrel.
Brandy is a popular choice for wine drinkers, not just in the US but worldwide. Compared to beer that contains 5% alcohol content, brandy is a lot stronger.
The minimum aging of Cognac brandy is at least two years. However, that does not decrease the alcohol content. Brandy is a distilled spirit, meaning it has 70-100% proof, depending on its type. This makes cognac and all other brandy a strong alcoholic drink.
Bourbon is a different story. In the earlier years, regular whiskey, which is non-bourbon requires to go through the Lincoln County process.
It means it will be filtered with sugar maple charcoal to tell legal and taxed spirits. It can remove the impurities and mellow down the strength of whiskey.
This is much higher than regular wine. The proof of whiskey continues to increase as it ages. That is why these are placed inside their respective barrels with no more than 125% proof.
Health Benefits & Risks
Starting with apple brandy, this is believed to eliminate free radicals (2) and toxins in the body. Maple syrup is present in every bottle of apple brandy known for its health benefits. Brandies are also known to help with a sore throat, poor vision and help with weight loss.
Bourbon and other types of whiskies are also known to be beneficial because of the contribution of their ingredients. These liquors are known to promote healthy cholesterol levels and help with diabetes. They are also aiding the body in reducing stress.
The risk in drinking bourbon, whiskey, and brandy is the same, especially if these are in excess. Diarrhea and vomiting are common reactions. The worst-case will be alcohol addiction if you do not drink in moderation.
Alcohol By Volume Level
Brandy contains 35-60% alcohol by volume. This is around 70-120 proof, which is quite high. Cognac is one of the types of brandies that have high alcohol content. So, brandy has a slight edge in alcohol volume between brandy vs bourbon.
Bourbon whiskey is bottled 80% proof, as its minimum. Depending on its manufacturers, this type of whiskey can go up to 100 proof. They go through the same distillery if they are made of the same ingredients.
Popularity & Global Market
Bourbon whiskey is preferred if we talk about popularity between the two distilled spirits. It would be mainly because of the price difference. Whiskey has a cheaper manufacturing process, so the price per bottle is significantly lower.
Whiskey is more popular with the younger generation on a tight budget. Your taste buds will not be disappointed with the delicious savor of bourbon whiskey. You can savor malted rye in a high rye bourbon which is remarkably blended.
Brandy is still sought-after even if it is somehow pricey. Drinkers will always purchase high-quality cognac because of its impeccable taste. Each swallow will leave hints of spices and dried fruit evident in each bottle.
Brandy is a good mixer for cocktails and other mixed drinks. It is even a good ingredient for cooking, including flambé desserts. One factor is that the color of the wine complements certain dishes.
Bourbon whiskey is also another cooking ingredient. It greatly enhances the depth of your flavors. Mixing whiskey with other liquors is not a bad idea as well. You can pair it with the good old soda, ginger ale, or simple pineapple juice.
Price & Value
The process of creating brandy is expensive, thus the price. The meticulous process of picking the ripe fruit to ensure the sweetness of the wine needs to be done first. They also need to consider the distillation process as well as aging. Finish products range from $40 to $6,000 per bottle, and these are not the VSOP or collector’s items yet.
Bourbon whiskey, on the other hand, is a more affordable choice. The malted barley, corn mash, and other grains are fairly easy to process. Prices are roughly $15 to $299.00, except the special edition whiskey that is significantly more expensive.
Can I use brandy instead of bourbon?
Yes, you can use brandy instead of bourbon as a substitute in some dishes because of their similarity in color. However, the caramel flavor present in brandy has lesser sweetness. Therefore, it may not serve its purpose in desserts or cuisines that requires sweetness.
Can I use bourbon instead of brandy in baking?
Yes, you can use bourbon instead of brandy when baking since it has a sweeter vanilla taste compared to brandy. It may change the flavor into a grainier, smokier, or spicier taste. This would depend on where it is made, though, since not all have the same distillation process.
Which has higher sugar content, brandy or bourbon?
Brandy has higher sugar content than bourbon since this is technically a fruit wine. True bourbon does not contain any sugar until flavoring and sweeteners are added.
Does brandy have more calories than bourbon?
No. Bourbon has more calories than brandy, regardless of its proof. Most bourbons are considered a good part of the weight loss program, but brandy has fewer calories, fats, and net carbs.
Comparing the two showcased the flavor of brandy more as its source has more taste from the beginning. Fermented fruit turned into distilled wine produces a tastier flavor than malted barley and grains. Brandy is a French wine which flavor has been perfected for years and is still improving up to date.
This other wine, bourbon, is not considered a bad choice anyway. This type of whiskey is specially made without additives, just pure corn mash, and grains. However, whatever is our choice, the decision still relies on the drinker’s preference in the end.
Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds!