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Brandy vs Bourbon: What’s the Difference? (2024 Updated)

Brandy vs Bourbon

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Lydia Martin

Brandy and bourbon are particularly common liquors. If you’re new to the world of spirits, you might get confused as they are similar in color, but different in taste. Between brandy vs bourbon, which is stronger, sweeter, or smoother?

We’ll help you understand how they’re made and what makes them different.

Bourbon & Brandy: Key Differences 

Few Bourbon

While it is common to use brandy in place of bourbon in some dishes, these two are not alike in taste and appearance. Brandy is distilled wine, while bourbon is a type of whiskey. Brandy can be made anywhere in the world, while bourbon must be produced in the United States. 

When it comes to ingredients, brandy is essentially made from fermented fruits. On the other hand, bourbon is a spirit distilled from fermented mash. Brandy also tends to be pricier than bourbon, especially top-shelf brands. 

Closer Look At The Differences 

Closer Look At The Differences 

Origin

Some people ask if bourbon is whiskey, and the answer is yes. In fact, 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. Check out the infamous Kentucky Bourbon Festival here

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.  

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,” and the history of whiskey began. 

Ingredients

fermented fruit wine

Brandy is a distilled, fermented fruit wine. Traditionally, these are made from grapes because of their high acidity. Grapes need to be stored in an oak barrel. Other brandies use apples, peaches, pears, and plums.  

The common ingredients for bourbon are 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. But what is MGP bourbon?

How It’s Made

Both brandy and bourbon use fermented products. Brandy starts with fermented [1] fruit mash. The most common are grapes, with the best ones coming from the region of France.

The juice is secreted from the fruits and subsequently fermented. These are then distilled after removing the congeners. Congeners are substances produced during fermentation. 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, 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

Flavor Profiles

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 distillation process – 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. 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. 

Types

French brandy

Brandy is one of the many alcoholic beverages that has multiple varieties. French brandy is 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. We also have 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. We also have Kentucky Bourbon whiskey, Sour Mash, Tennessee bourbon whiskey, Straight bourbon whiskey, Small-Batch, and Single-Barrel Bourbon. 

Related Posts: Evan Williams Price & Sizes

Color

Brandy gets its color from the ingredients and the wooden casks. As it matures inside the wooden barrels, it influences the color and incorporates the caramel savor. 

Grape brandy like 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. It starts with a clear liquid then acquires a brownish color the longer it stays inside the barrel. 

Strength

Brandy is a popular choice for wine drinkers, not just in the US but worldwide. Compared to beer which 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 with 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 goes through the Lincoln County process, filtered with sugar maple charcoal to remove the impurities and mellow down the strength of whiskey. 

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. 

Read: Cognac vs Bourbon

Health Benefits & Risks

Ginger Bourbon Smash

Brandy 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 weight loss. But will whiskey help alleviate sore throat?

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. Check out the differences between bourbon and scotch here

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.  

Also Read:

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. Check out the differences between bourbon and rye here

Mixers

Between the sheets

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 and taste 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 for the special edition whiskey which is significantly more expensive. 

 

Brandy vs. Bourbon vs. Whiskey

Brandy, bourbon, and whiskey are distinct spirits with unique characteristics. Brandy is a broad term encompassing spirits distilled from fermented fruit juice, with Cognac and Armagnac being specific types.

Bourbon, a subset of whiskey, is an American spirit made primarily from corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.

Whiskey, a global category, includes various styles like Scotch, Irish, and rye, each with its own production methods and flavor profiles. While bourbon and whiskey share similarities, brandy stands out with its fruit-forward notes, and each offers a diverse range of tastes and applications.

Brandy vs. Bourbon Taste

Brandy and bourbon offer distinct taste profiles. Brandy, often featuring fruit undertones and a smooth sweetness, can vary from the rich complexity of Cognac to the more robust notes of American brandy.

Bourbon, characterized by its corn-based mash bill, presents a sweeter and fuller-bodied taste, with notes of vanilla, caramel, and sometimes spice.

The tasting experience varies based on aging, production methods, and regional influences, contributing to the unique flavors associated with brandy and bourbon.

Best Brandy vs. Bourbon

Determining the “best” between brandy and bourbon is subjective and depends on personal preferences.

Brandy enthusiasts might appreciate the refined and complex flavors found in high-quality Cognac or Armagnac, while bourbon aficionados may favor the rich and sweet characteristics of well-crafted bourbons.

The best choice ultimately comes down to individual taste preferences and the desired drinking experience.

Brandy vs. Bourbon vs. Cognac

Brandy, bourbon, and Cognac are distinct categories, each with its own characteristics. Brandy is a broad term, while bourbon is a specific type of American whiskey.

 Cognac, a type of brandy, is produced in the Cognac region of France, following strict regulations. Cognac often exhibits a sophisticated and nuanced flavor profile, with notes of fruit, oak, and a well-balanced complexity.

While bourbon shares some sweetness with brandy, Cognac stands out for its elegance and the meticulous craftsmanship involved in its production.

The choice between brandy, bourbon, and Cognac depends on individual preferences and the desired flavor experience.

FAQs

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. But will bourbon ever go bad?

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. So, is brandy good for your health?

Are brandy and bourbon the same?

No, brandy and bourbon are not the same. Brandy is a broad term referring to distilled spirits made from fermented fruit juice, while bourbon is a specific type of American whiskey made primarily from corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. They differ in ingredients, production processes, and flavor profiles.

Which is stronger, brandy or whiskey?

The strength of brandy and whiskey is typically measured by their alcohol by volume (ABV). Both can have similar ABV, usually ranging from 40% to 60%, depending on the specific product. The perception of strength may vary based on individual taste preferences.

Is Jack Daniel’s a bourbon?

No, Jack Daniel’s is not a bourbon. It is a Tennessee whiskey. While bourbon and Tennessee whiskey share similarities, the distinction lies in the additional charcoal filtering process known as the Lincoln County Process, which Jack Daniel’s undergoes.

Can you substitute bourbon for brandy?

Substituting bourbon for brandy in a recipe may alter the flavor profile of the dish or drink, as they have distinct taste characteristics. However, it can be done in certain cases, depending on the specific recipe and desired outcome.

Is Hennessy a brandy?

Yes, Hennessy is a brandy. It is a type of Cognac, which is a specific category of brandy produced in the Cognac region of France.

Is brandy sweet or dry?

The sweetness of brandy can vary. Some brandies, especially those labeled as “sweet” or “dessert” brandies, may have added sugars, resulting in a sweeter taste. Others may be drier, with a more subtle sweetness.

Is Alfonso a brandy?

Alfonso is not a specific type of brandy. It may be a brand or a reference to a specific product, and without additional context, it is challenging to determine its categorization.

Which is healthier, brandy or whiskey?

Healthiness depends on factors such as moderation and individual health conditions. Both brandy and whiskey, when consumed in moderation, may have similar health implications. Excessive alcohol consumption can have negative health effects.

Is bourbon a Scotch or whiskey?

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey, not a Scotch. Scotch refers to whisky (note the spelling difference), specifically produced in Scotland. Bourbon and Scotch have different production methods, ingredients, and flavor profiles.

What is the difference between brandy and whiskey?

The main difference lies in their ingredients and production processes. Brandy is distilled from fermented fruit juice, while whiskey is distilled from fermented grain mash. Each undergoes unique aging processes, leading to distinct flavor profiles, with brandy often featuring fruit notes and whiskey presenting a range of flavors influenced by grains and barrel aging.

What’s the difference between bourbon and whiskey?

Bourbon is a type of whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. Bourbon is a specific kind of American whiskey that must meet certain legal requirements, including being made from a mash that is at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels. Whiskey is a broader category that encompasses various styles, such as Scotch, Irish, rye, and bourbon, each with its own production methods and characteristics.

Key Takeaways 

Comparing the flavor profiles of bourbon and brandy requires a little bit of expertise. The fermented wines when making brandy create a huge impact on the flavor as the grapes and fruits may vary. Bourbons tend to be sweeter due to the residual sugar during fermentation. We recommend you try both distilled spirits!

References:

  1. What is Fermentation?

 

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