ANISE LIQUORS | an nees
Absinthe (Switzerland, France) / Pastis (France) / Ouzo (Greece) / Arak (Middle East).
Spirits flavoured with anise/aniseed may have sugar added, but are generally drier than/not as sweet as liqueur. Vary considerably in strength: 40 to 75% ABV.
ARMAGNAC | are man yak
Double-distilled brandy from the Armagnac region of Gascony in southwest France. Some pot-still but mostly column-still brandy. Not lower than 40% ABV. Mainly involving the grape varieties Ugni Blanc, Baco, Folle Blanche and Colombard.
BITTERS / DIGESTIFS
Aromatic plant-based spirits typically used in mixed drinks, cocktails, or as tonics. From seeds, herbs, bark, roots, flowers, leaves and/or fruits. Bitter taste. Broad categories:
For use in cocktails
Digestifs, including Amaro liqueurs (Italy)
Made by blending different grape-based distillates.
BLENDED WHISKY / WHISKY
Made from at least 25% malt whisky (mainly from barley) and not more than 75% whisky made from another grain (e.g. from rye, wheat, corn or maize).
BRANDY | bran dee
The word ‘brandy’ stems from the Dutch word ‘branden’ (to burn), a distilled spirit made from fermented fruit juice – the ‘burnt wine’ is usually from white grapes, although other fruit-based brandies also exist. Stills are used in the process of indirectly steam-heating wine to boiling point, whereupon the alcohol evaporates, condenses, and is usually boiled a second time – the middle run or ‘heart’ (rather than the spirit distilled first or last), is the basis of brandy, from pot stills or column stills or both, matured in oak barrels. The final strength is at least 43% ABV (SA law).
COGNAC | kon yak
Double-stilled potstill brandy from the Cognac region in the west of France. The spirit is not lower than 40% ABV and is usually made using the Ugni Blanc grape variety. (Ugni Blanc is used in South Africa, but less so than Chenin Blanc and Colombard)
Produced by redistilling spirit of agricultural origin, with an initial strength of 96% ABV using juniper and other natural botanicals, and to which natural flavouring may be added with water prior to bottling.
A fruit spirit, or fruit brandy (schnapps), is distilled from any number of edible fruits, excluding grapes. Typically used are: apples (e.g. Calvados), apricots, cherries (kirsch), pears, plums. 40 to 45% ABV. The broad categories include:
Spirits distilled from a single fruit source
Spirits distilled from a variety of different fruits
Other fruit spirits
GIN | jin
Colourless, made from distilled neutral grain spirits, flavoured with juniper berries and aromatics. Minimum alcohol strength of 43% (SA law).
Juniper-flavoured spirit produced by adding approved natural flavouring to a neutral spirit of agricultural origin.
GRAPPA / MARC / POMACE
A dry, colourless brandy distilled from fermented grape pomace (pom ace), the residue after crushing the grapes for making wine. The term ‘grappa’ (grap pa) originated in Italy and that of ‘marc’ in France.
GRAIN WHISKY / WHISKEY
BOURBON (burr ben): whiskey made in the USA that is distilled from at least 51% corn/maize.
OTHER: whisky that doesn’t belong to any of the more familiar or established categories, e.g. Canadian whisky to which different regulations apply.
Flavoured, typically heavily sweetened spirits made from fruits, herbs or nuts – distinct from other spirits by way of added sugar. 40 to 45% ABV. The broad categories include:
Non-fruit-flavoured liqueurs, e.g. coffee, chocolate, anise/anisette (e.g. Sambuca)
Obtained exclusively from the spirit of agricultural origin, with flavour introduced exclusively through the redistillation in traditional gin stills using natural plant materials. Nothing other than water and sugar (maximum of 0,1 gram/litre) may be added after the botanical distillation.
Because most of the distillers of this type of gin were once based in London, products were bottled there as London Dry Gin.
MALT WHISKY / WHISKEY
MALT WHISKY: distilled from fermented mash comprising mostly barley, using pot stills and aged in oak barrels (malt whisky made from grain other than barley must be labelled as such, e.g. rye malt whisky, buckwheat malt whisky, etc). The addition of peat to malted barley contributes a smoky character to the whisky.
SINGLE MALT WHISKY/WHISKEY: malt whisky made at a single distillery.
VATTED MALT WHISKY/WHISKEY: a blend of one or more malt whiskies from more than one distillery.
At least 90% from pot stills, rather than from column stills, matured in small oak barrels for at least three years (SA law). Pot stills are usually made from copper, similar in shape to the stills used for whisky. The spirit is made in batches, whereas column stills involve a continuous distillation process. The final strength of potstill brandy ranges from 38% to 60% ABV but is typically around 43% (minimum of 38% in terms of SA law).
POT STILL WHISKEY/WHISKY
Distilled from a fermented mash comprising malted and unmalted barley, using pot stills, and then aged in oak barrels.
Distilled from fermented cane sugar or molasses, usually aged in oak barrels, usually with an alcohol strength of at least 43% ABV (SA law), although sometimes lower (40% minimum in the USA), and sometimes as high as 80%.
POT-DISTILLED RUM: the traditional method of making rum involves stills with ‘kettle’ bottoms and swan-shaped necks similar to those used for potstill whisky or brandy; a basic process typically resulting in ‘heavier’ rums usually drunk neat/straight or with ice.
COLUMN-DISTILLED RUM: involving multiple or continuous stills and resulting in more refined, ‘lighter’ rums used in cocktail drinks.
BLENDED RUM: a combination of pot- and column-still rums.
SPICED OR FLAVOURED RUM: made with the infusion of flavours and spices, sometimes caramel, often used for cocktails, sometimes lower in strength. Among the spices: aniseed, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, rosemary. Flavoured rums are based on fruit flavours.
TEQUILA / MEZCAL
Originating in Mexico, in the area surrounding the city of Tequila (te qui la), a spirit made from the blue agave plant, a type of Mezcal (mez cal), which can be distilled from any type of agave plant (mezcal spirits tend to be smokier and hotter than tequila). The different types of tequila include Blanco (Silver, Clear White), Joven (Gold), Reposado (Aged), Añejo (Extra Aged) and Extra Añejo (Ultra Aged). The strength ranges between 35 and 50% ABV, though it is typically 40 or 43% ABV.
Tequila has geographical indication protection from the World Intellectual Property Organisation. When produced in South Africa, it cannot be called tequila/mezcal, but the label of “100% agave” indicates that this home-grown product has been made in the traditional method.
Brandy comprising at least 30% potstill brandy (the balance from column stills), matured in oak barrels for at least eight years. Strength not less than 38% ABV (SA law).
VODKA | vod ka, or wod ka (Polish), or vot ka (Russian)
Produced by the distillation (usually involving column stills) of any fermented vegetable, such as potato, or of cane sugar, or of cereal grains such as rye, wheat, rice. Minimum strength of 37.5% ABV (EU) or 40% ABV (USA) or 43% ABV in South Africa and elsewhere.
NEUTRAL VODKA: no distinctive smell, taste or colour.
FLAVOURED VODKA: involving numerous flavour options and strength often 5 to 10% ABV lower than neutral vodka.
WHISKY / WHISKEY | wisk key
Spirit produced from fermented grain (mash), distilled so that it has a flavour of the raw material that it originated from. The shape and size of the stills are not dissimilar to those used for brandy, and can vary considerably from one distillery to another. The spirit is matured in wooden barrels for at least three years and with a strength of at least 43% ABV (SA law). Whisky made in Ireland and America is spelt whiskey, with an ‘e’, whereas whisky made in Scotland and everywhere else is spelt whisky, without an ‘e’.
Only whisky made in Scotland may be referred to as Scotch.
Irish whiskey is generally triple-distilled, whereas Scotch and most other whiskies are typically double-distilled.