Difference between Whiskey and Gin

Key Difference: Whiskey or whisky is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from any form of fermented grain mash. Depending on the geographical region or type of whiskey that is being made, whiskey can be made from barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn. They are often aged in charred barrels. Gin is a sprit that is derived predominantly from juniper berries. It is the flavoring of other spirits with extracts of juniper berries to give it a certain taste. The spirit is made using any fermented grain mesh such as barley, rye or any other grains.

There are various different types of alcohols that are available to cater the market today including vodka, gin, whiskey, scotch, rum, beer, tequila, etc. All the alcoholic beverages go through a similar process of fermentation and distillation; however they differ in taste, flavor and content. The difference between the alcohols arises from the different types of ingredients that are used to make the mash, the different flavors that are added to the alcohol and the aging process. Whiskey and Gin are two different types of alcoholic drinks.

Whiskey or whisky is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from any form of fermented grain mash. Depending on the geographical region or type of whiskey that is being made, whiskey can be made from barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat, and corn. They are often aged in charred barrels. According to Wikipedia, the word ‘whiskey’ is the anglicisation of the Gaelic word ‘uisce|uisge’ meaning “water”. Distilled water was known in Latin as aqua vitae meaning “water of life”. The process of distillation can be dated back to the Greeks in Alexandria around the 3rd century AD; however they did not distill alcohol only spirits for fragrance purposes. The distillation process was passed down through the ages to Italy in the 13th century AD where the first distillation process of alcohol took place and alcohol was distilled from wine. The alcohol was originally used for medicinal purposes before it become consumable as a beverage. Whiskey first become popular as a beverage in Scotland before it spread to other neighboring countries.

There are various different types of whiskey and they differ in terms of base product, alcoholic content and quality. The main two types include malt whisky and grain whisky. Malt whisky is made primarily from malted barley, while grain whisky is made from any type of grain. Malting is when the grain is put under the process of germination. Germination requires the barley being placed in water for a certain amount of time and being constantly turned to ensure proper soaking. Whiskies can further be classified under: 

  • Single malt whisky: is whisky that is from a single distillery and is made from a mash that uses only one particular type of malted grain.
  • Blended malt whisky: is a blend of different malt whiskies from different distilleries.
  • Blended whiskies: is whiskey that is made from a mixture of malt and grain whiskies along with neutral spirits, caramel, and flavoring.
  • Cask strength: These whiskies are bottled directly from the cask and are undiluted or only a little diluted. These are rare whiskies.
  • Single cask: Each bottle of a single barrel whiskey is from an individual cask with the cask number labeled on the bottle.

Whiskies must be strengthened and aged in a barrel. They do not mature in the bottle, hence if a person keeps the whiskey bottle over a long time, it would not become any stronger in flavor or alcohol content. The alcohol content and mash content varies depending on the regulations of the geographic region. The whiskies require a charred oak barrel during the aging process, which provides them with the golden brown and amber coloring. Additional flavors and colors can be added to the alcohol depending on the regulations.

Gin is a sprit that is derived predominantly from juniper berries. It is the flavoring of other spirits with extracts of juniper berries to give it a certain taste. The spirit is made using any fermented grain mesh such as barley, rye or any other grains. Originally, gin was consumed as medicine before evolving to its current alcoholic status. The main flavor of gin is the juniper berries; however the flavor of the berries varies depending on different places. The history of gin dates back to the 11th century, where monks were known to flavor crude distilled drinks with juniper berries and it was also unsuccessfully used as remedy for the black plague. However, the Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius is credited for inventing gin. The term gin is derived from either the French ‘genièvre’ or the Dutch ‘jenever’, both of which mean “juniper.” In short, gin can be known as flavored vodka.

There are four different types of gin:

  • Juniper-Flavoured Spirit Drinks: These are the earliest class of gins, which are produced by pot distilling fermented grain mash. They are approximately 68% ABV in strength and are then redistilled with aromatic compounds.
  • Gin:  These are also juniper flavored, however they are not distilled with juniper or aromatic compounds, but the juniper flavor is added later on. It must have the predominant flavor of juniper in order to be sold as gin.
  • Distilled gin: Distilled gin is made by exclusively redistilling ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin and has an initial strength of 95% ABV. It is also added with additional juniper berries and other natural botanicals.
  • London gin: Wikipedia describes London gin as, “London gin is obtained exclusively from ethyl alcohol of agricultural origin with a maximum methanol content of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100% ABV equivalent, whose flavour is introduced exclusively through the re-distillation in traditional stills of ethyl alcohol in the presence of all the natural plant materials used, the resultant distillate of which is at least 70% ABV. London gin may not contain added sweetening exceeding 0.1 gram of sugars per litre of the final product, nor colorants, nor any added ingredients other than water. The term London gin may be supplemented by the term ‘dry’.”

Both whiskey and gin are made using grain mash; however they differ in terms of aging. After the distillation process is complete, the whiskey is aged in charred oak barrels to give it a certain color and flavor, while gin is flavored with juniper berries to give it a certain aroma and taste.

Image Courtesy: finewinesellers.co.uk, ianmacleod.com

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