Brown Spirits Explained, The 5-Minute Guide to What Makes them Special

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Brown Spirits Explained, The 5-Minute Guide to What Makes them Special

There’s no doubt all brown spirits are delicious. Their complex aromas and robust palates make them an authentic treat to bring a smile to everyone’s face. There’s a reason the category has such a large fan base! From rare & unique bourbon to premium whiskey — we just can’t get enough of the stuff.

The thing is, all brown spirits look pretty similar in the glass, but they taste incredibly different. It might sound silly, but why do spirits taste and smell the way they do? What makes premium spirits better than your bottom-shelf alternatives? The answer might surprise you.

Before we start, ensure your cabinet is well stocked with your favorite premium spirits. Find a rare & unique collection of finest spirits at Sam Liquor Store, your go-to online liquor store in California. Yes, everyone needs a reliable liquor store delivery service!

Straight out of the Still

Every brown spirit comes out crystal clear from the still, whether distilled in copper pot stills or immense column stills. In fact, most of our favorite spirits are relatively flavorless at this point.

Before becoming Bourbon, America’s darling is known as white dog. Un-aged Cognac is called Esprit de Cognac, and both have around 80% ABV; that’s 160 proof! Needless to say, these spirits taste like alcohol and not much else.

So, even if we love to talk about malts and grains and romanticize the malting, mashing and distilling processes, when it comes to premium spirits, it is in the barrel room where simple alcohol becomes something special.

American or European Oak, What’s the Difference?

If all brown spirits are uninteresting when they come out of the still, to discover what makes our favorite premium spirits so exciting, we must dig deeper into what happens in the oak barrel.

There are three main types of oak for barrels: American oak, French oak and European, AKA Slavonian oak. Without going into details, barrels made with these types of wood have a different effect on the spirit stored in them.

Barrels made of American oak are, by far, the most expressive, as they infuse their contents with intense vanilla and brown spice scents (smoky scents, too, if the barrels are charred enough!). French oak is, for many, more elegant, and European oak is more subtle (It’s cheaper too!).

What’s even more interesting is that distilleries in some parts of the world use used barrels that once contained other beverages to make their spirits even more complicated. Scotch producers love a good Sherry cask, for example. And although American whiskey needs to age in new oak barrels, the used containers don’t go to waste — even premium tequila ages in Bourbon barrels. The spirit industry is one big family.

Concisely, barrels give your favorite premium spirits their color, flavor and aroma. But that’s not all! Producers can bend different batches for even more enjoyable beverages.

To Blend or Not To Blend

What makes a brown spirit stand out from the rest is what happens after the lengthy barrel-aging process. Okay, aged spirits are already colorful, flavorful and lengthy. What’s next?

Spirit companies in most, if not all, producing regions must blend the contents of their barrels to arrive at a final product. Here’s where master blenders come in. Although single-barrel spirits exist and can be extraordinary, most premium spirits are a combination of different batches, and it is here — in this critical step — where the magic happens. Like fine perfume, premium spirits are an harmonious blend of already extraordinary ingredients. What makes a bottle of premium spirit stand out is the time and attention spent into achieving balance.

The Bottom Line

If you’re like us, you appreciate the unusual bottles in our rare and unique collection of finest spirits. Premium spirits are exceptional! Well, now you have a better idea of the steps in the labor-intensive process that turn flavorless ethanol into authentic multi-senatorial experiences.

Order your favorite liquor from our California liquor store and treat yourself to these authentic art pieces.


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