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Brandy vs Whiskey

Will Beck
Last Updated: July 31st, 2023

Brandy and whiskey are two liquors that have much in common. Both are distilled (whiskey from grain, brandy from fruit). Both are produced primarily in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, France, and the United States, and both are stored in oak barrels to give them their distinctive flavor.

However, there is a significant difference between brandy vs whiskey. Brandy has an ABV (alcohol by volume) of less than 40 percent. Whiskey has an ABV of more than 40 percent. In other words, brandy is not whiskey.

So what exactly is the difference between brandy and whiskey? 

What is Brandy


Brandy is a spirit that has been around for centuries, and its popularity continues to grow. Brandy is distilled wine, made from fermented fruit, most commonly grapes.

However, brandies can also be made from apples, apricots, peaches, and other fruits. 

Similar to whiskey, there are many different styles of brandy produced all over the world, and it is often enjoyed straight (without ice or mixers). Brandy also forms the foundation of several classic cocktails that are enjoyed by drinkers worldwide.

Brandy is a distilled spirit made from wine. The word “brandy” comes from the Dutch word for “burnt wine,” brandewijn.

Brandy began to be distilled in France circa 1313, but it was prepared only as a medicine and was considered as possessing such marvelous strengthening and sanitary powers that the physicians named it “the water of life,” (l’eau de vie) a name it still retains, according to the Brandy Bar

Brandy was first introduced into England by the soldiers of Eleanor of Aquitaine toward the end of the 12th century. It wasn’t until the 16th century that brandy began to be produced commercially in Cognac, France.

Today, brandy is produced all over the world, with some of the most popular brands being Hennessy, >Rémy Martin, and Courvoisier.

Brandy also holds a storied past throughout American history, and will forever be synonymous with George Washington.

The two names are forever intertwined in the annals of American history. But what many people don’t know is that George Washington was also a distiller of brandy – one of the largest in early America. 

What is Whiskey


Whiskey has been around for centuries, Mr. J Marshall Robb’s book ‘Scotch Whisky’ provides the oldest reference to whisky which occurs in the Scottish Exchequer Rolls for 1494. 

The entry includes ‘eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aquavitae’. A boll was an old Scottish measure of not more than six bushels. This is equivalent to 25.4 kilograms today.

TheFriar John Cor is making whisky almost 500 years ago and it is safe to say that the art of making whisky has been perfected over time. 

There are many different ways to make whisky, each with its own unique flavor profile. The type of grain used, the aging process, and the climate all play a role in the final product.

The process of making whiskey has changed very little over time, and today, there are four main types of whiskey. Bourbon, Rye, Scotch, and Irish. Each type of whiskey is made from a different grain and has its own unique flavor profile.


Scotch is a type of whisky that is made from barley and typically has a smoky and peaty taste. It is produced in Scotland and is often considered to be the best quality whisky in the world.

The process of making scotch is very specific and includes several steps. 

First, the barley is germinated in water for around two weeks. This helps to break down the starches into sugars, which will be needed for fermentation.

Next, the barley is dried over a peat fire, which gives scotch its signature smoky flavor. Finally, the barley is distilled twice in copper stills before being aged in oak barrels for at least three years. 

This lengthy process results in a smooth, rich whisky with complex flavors that are perfect for sipping on a cold winter night.


Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% corn. It originates from Bourbon County in Kentucky and allegedly gets its name from this location.

Bourbon is typically distilled to between 40 and 50% alcohol by volume and has a characteristic sweet, caramelly flavor. 

The use of corn gives bourbon its sweetness, while the aging process in charred oak barrels contributes to the caramel flavor.

In order for a whiskey to be classified as bourbon, it must be aged in new oak barrels that have been charred on the inside. This charring helps to extract flavors from the wood that contribute to the unique taste of bourbon.


Rye whiskey is a type of American whiskey that is made from at least 51% rye grain. It is known for its spicy, earthy flavor, which makes it a popular choice for cocktails.

Rye whiskey is also the traditional choice for making Old-Fashioned cocktails. 

The spicy flavor of rye whiskey is also perfect for making Sazeracs and Manhattan cocktails. In addition to being used in cocktails, rye whiskey can also be enjoyed on its own or with a mixer.

Irish Whiskey

Irish whiskey is a type of whiskey that is produced in Ireland. Unlike other types of whiskey, Irish whiskey is typically distilled three times. This extra step in the distillation process results in a smoother, more mellow flavor. 

In addition, Irish whiskey is often made with a blend of different grains, including barley, wheat, and rye. This unique mixture of ingredients gives Irish whiskey its signature taste.

While Irish whiskey can be enjoyed on its own or mixed into a cocktail, it is also a popular choice for cooking. The smooth flavor of Irish whiskey lends itself well to sauces, Marinades, and glazes.

So next time you’re enjoying a glass of your favorite whiskey, take a moment to think about the centuries-old process that went into making it. 

Similarities of Brandy vs Whiskey

brandy and whiskey

Brandy and whiskey both have a long history that started in the 15th century. Another similarity they share is that they both use aged ingredients.

They convert sugar from fermented grain and fruit to ethanol which gives spirits their alcohol content. 

While brandy is usually made with grapes, whiskey can be made with a variety of grains including rye, wheat, and barley. The different types of grains used will give whiskey its distinctive flavor profile. 

Brandy is typically aged in oak barrels, while whiskey can be aged in both oak and non-oak barrels. The type of barrel used will also affect the final flavor of the spirit.

Brandy is typically sweeter than whiskey, but both spirits can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks. However, the most popular cocktail made with brandy is the Sidecar, while the Whiskey Sour is a classic drink made with whiskey. 

When it comes to digestifs, both whiskey and brandy are great choices after a meal. The high proof of whiskey stimulates the stomach’s enzymes, helping to break down food. Additionally, whiskey can help to ease an upset stomach by relaxing the muscles that line the stomach. 

As a result, drinking a whiskey after a large meal can help you to digest your food more effectively and avoid feeling uncomfortably full. So next time you’re feeling sluggish after a big meal, reach for a glass of whiskey and enjoy both its taste and its benefits.

The same can be said for brandy, and few digestifs are as well-known as apple brandy. Also known as Calvados, this spirit is produced in the French region of Normandy and typically served at the end of a meal.

In addition to their role as a digestive aid, Calvados is also said to create a “trou,” or hole, in the stomach, making room for the courses to follow. Whether or not this is true, there’s no denying that Calvados is a refreshing way to cleanse the palate.

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Differences between Brandy vs Whiskey

While they are similar in many ways, there are also some key differences between brandy and whiskey. For example, brandy is usually sweeter than whiskey, and it is typically served in a smaller glass. 

Brandy is a spirit made from the distillation of wine. Unlike whiskey, there are no international laws governing brandy production. Certain areas are known for their own particular type that must adhere to specific criteria. 

In France, brandy must be made from grapes that have been grown in one of the country’s specific regions. The spirit must also be distilled in copper pot stills and aged for at least two years in French Oak barrels.

Cognac, one of the most popular types of brandy, is named after the town in southwest France where it originates. 

In order to be called cognac, the brandy must be made from a blend of Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Colombard grapes that have been grown in the Cognac region. It must also be distilled twice and aged for a minimum of two years in French Oak barrels. 

Cognac producers often age their spirits for much longer, resulting in a deeper flavor profile. Other well-known types of brandy include Armagnac (France), Calvados (France), Metaxa (Greece), and Grappa (Italy).

While there are no global laws governing brandy production, the spirit remains an important part of many cultures around the world.

So, what’s the verdict? Is whiskey better than brandy or is brandy better than whiskey? The answer is… it depends on your personnel preference.

They are both great liquors and have their own unique flavors that set them apart from each other. 

Brandy is typically smoother and sweeter than whiskey, which tends to be harsher and more savory. However, there are many different types of brandy and whiskey, so there is considerable variation in taste between the two.

Ultimately, the best way to decide which spirit you prefer is to try them both for yourself. 

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About The Author

Will Beck

Will is a true digital nomad, taking his work on the road at every opportunity. His first love is coffee, with whiskey a close 2nd. He loves nothing more than enjoying a perfectly brewed coffee with spectacular scenery whilst he coordinates behind the scenes of the Drink Stack blog!

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