Last Updated on December 29, 2022 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
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
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.
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  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
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.
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.
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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.
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
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.
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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.
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.
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?
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!
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! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.