What Is The Difference Between Brandy And Bourbon

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Are you intrigued by the world of spirits and fascinated by their differences? You’re in luck, as today we’ll explore two popular yet distinct libations – brandy and bourbon.

These timeless favorites have unique characteristics ranging from their base ingredients to flavor profiles and production techniques.

Key Takeaways:

  • Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fermented fruits, while bourbon is a type of whiskey made from corn mash.
  • Brandy is aged in oak barrels to enhance its fruity and floral notes, while bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels to give it a smoky and sweet flavor.
  • Brandy has fruity and floral notes, while bourbon boasts an unmistakable sweetness with vanilla undertones.
  • Bourbon pairs well with barbecue and smoked meats, while brandy pairs well with rich desserts like chocolate-based desserts or cheeses.

Table of Contents

What Are Brandy And Bourbon?

Glass of Brandy

Brandy is a distilled spirit made from fermented fruits, while bourbon is a type of whiskey made from corn mash.

Brandy Is A Grape-based Distilled Spirit

It is often called “the nectar of the gods,” is a distilled spirit made primarily from grapes. It’s created by fermenting grape juice, then carefully filtering it to capture and concentrate the captivating aromas and flavors of the fruit.

Sipping on a well-crafted brandy-based drink for cocktail enthusiasts offers an enticing blend of fruity and floral notes that can elevate any gathering or special occasion.

Famous examples include French cognac, Spanish brandy de Jerez, and California’s homegrown varieties. These decadent libations showcase the diverse range of grape varietals used to produce this storied spirit, each imparting its unique qualities onto the final product.

Bourbon Is A Corn-based Whiskey

Bourbon holds a special place in the hearts of cocktail drinkers, with its distinct sweetness and full-bodied flavor. This American classic gets its unique characteristics from a mash bill that must contain at least 51% corn.

Corn imparts subtle notes of caramel and butterscotch to the spirit while still providing a smooth mouthfeel. As cocktail enthusiasts sip on an Old Fashioned or enjoy a neat glass after dinner, they can truly appreciate how this versatile whiskey enhances their drinking experience.

Production Methods

Brandy is distilled in a pot still, while bourbon is distilled in a column still – but did you know there’s more to the process? Keep reading to learn about these two spirits’ unique aging and maturation process.

Brandy Is Distilled In A Pot Still

The distillation process is a crucial aspect of creating brandy and using a pot is still the traditional method many producers favor. This method involves heating wine or fermented fruit juice in a large copper container until the alcohol becomes vapor.

Pot stills impart unique characteristics to brandy that set it apart from other spirits like bourbon. The slower and more labor-intensive process enables better control over temperature and pressure during distillation, resulting in a richer and more complex tasting profile for brandy lovers.

For example, Cognac – one of the most sought-after types of brandy – must be distilled using Charentais alembic pot stills as part of its intricate production guidelines dictated by A.O.C regulations in France.

Bourbon Is Distilled In A Column Still

Bourbon is a type of American whiskey distilled in a column still. This method allows for higher alcohol content and less flavor variety than pot still distillation used for other types of whiskey like Scotch and Irish.

The result is a smoother, more consistent taste profile among different bourbon brands. However, this does not mean all bourbons are the same – each brand has its own unique recipe or mash bill made up of various grains such as corn, rye, or wheat, which impact the final product’s taste.

Aging And Maturation Process

Brandy is aged in oak barrels to enhance its fruity and floral notes, while bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels to give it a smoky and sweet flavor.

Brandy Is Aged In Oak Barrels

One of the defining characteristics of brandy is its aging process in oak barrels. These barrels play a crucial role in developing the smooth and complex flavor profile that brandy is known for.

The type of oak used, as well as how long the brandy is aged, can significantly affect its taste and aroma.

Cognac, a type of brandy produced exclusively in France’s Cognac region, has stringent rules regarding barrel aging. It must be aged for at least two years in Limousin oak barrels to earn the prestigious label “VS” (Very Special).

VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) cognacs are aged for at least four years, while XO (Extra Old) cognacs must age for a minimum of ten years.

Bourbon Is Aged In Charred Oak Barrels

A key characteristic of bourbon whiskey is its aging process in oak barrels. These barrels are charred on the inside, which gives bourbon its distinctive flavor and color.

During aging, the liquid seeps into the wood and extracts flavors such as vanilla, caramel, and oak. The longer a bourbon is aged, its flavor profile becomes more complex.

As a result of this unique process, each bottle of bourbon has distinctive tasting notes that reflect both its mash bill (the mix of grains used to make it) and how long it was aged in those charred oak barrels.

Flavor Profiles

Glasses of Bourbon

Brandy has a delightfully floral and fruity aroma, while bourbon boasts an unmistakable sweetness with vanilla undertones.

Brandy Has Fruity And Floral Notes

It is known for its fruity and floral notes, which give it a unique flavor profile compared to other spirits. This is because brandy is made from fruit, distilled in a pot still, and aged in oak barrels.

The fruit used can vary but commonly includes grapes, apples, or pears. As the brandy ages in the oak barrels, it takes on flavors like vanilla and caramel while maintaining its fruity and floral profile.

This makes it an excellent choice for cocktails that require a sweet yet complex flavor, such as the classic Sidecar or Brandy Alexander.

Bourbon Has Sweet And Vanilla Flavors

Bourbon is a type of whiskey known for its sweet and vanilla flavors. Corn in bourbons contributes to their sweet character, while the oak barrels used during aging impart a distinct vanilla note to the spirit.

Bourbon typically has a flavor profile that includes vanilla and caramel, making it perfect for mixing in cocktails or savoring neat.

One classic bourbon cocktail is the Old Fashioned, which combines sugar, bitters, and orange zest with bourbon to create an iconic drink that highlights the whiskey’s complex flavor profile.

Serving And Pairing Suggestions

Serve brandy neat or on rocks as an after-dinner drink or with dessert, while bourbon can be enjoyed in cocktails, mixed drinks, or neat and pairs well with barbecue and smoked meats.

Brandy Is Best Served Neat Or On Rocks, With Dessert, Or As An After-dinner Drink

Brandy is a versatile spirit that can be enjoyed in many ways, but it’s best served with dessert or as an after-dinner drink. Here are some tips for serving brandy:


  • Neat: The most traditional way to drink brandy is neat, which means no ice or mixers. Pour the brandy into a snifter glass and hold it in your hand to warm it slightly before sipping.
  • On the rocks: If you prefer a colder drink, try serving brandy over ice. However, keep in mind that adding ice will dilute the flavor of the brandy.
  • With dessert: Brandy pairs well with decadent desserts like chocolate-based desserts or cheeses. For an indulgent treat, try serving it alongside a slice of cake or a cheese plate.
  • After-dinner: Brandy is commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner drink to help aid digestion and unwind after a meal. Sip slowly and savor the complex flavors of the spirit.


It’s important to note that brandy can be pretty strong, usually between 70 and 120 proof. Enjoy responsibly, and never drink and drive.

Bourbon Is Enjoyed In Cocktails, Mixed Drinks Neat, With Barbecue And Smoked Meats

Bourbon is a versatile drink that can be enjoyed in many ways. Whether you prefer it straight, mixed into a cocktail, or paired with your favorite foods, there’s no denying its unique flavor and complexity. Here are some examples of how bourbon can be enjoyed:


  • Bourbon and Coke: This classic mixed drink combines the sweet notes of cola with the bold flavors of bourbon to create a deliciously refreshing beverage.
  • Old Fashioned: A true classic, this cocktail is made by combining bourbon, bitters, sugar, and a splash of water over ice. Garnish with an orange peel for added flavor.
  • Manhattan: Another iconic cocktail, the Manhattan, is made by combining bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters in a glass over ice. Garnish with a cherry for a touch of sweetness.
  • Neat or on the rocks: For purists who want to savor every drop of their bourbon’s complex flavors, enjoying it neat (straight up) or on the rocks (over ice) is the way to go.


When it comes to pairing bourbon with food, several options work particularly well. Barbecue and smoked meats are two great choices because their rich flavors perfectly complement bourbon’s boldness perfectly. You might also want to pair bourbon with chocolate or cheese for a sophisticated twist on dessert. No matter how you choose to enjoy it, one thing’s certain: Bourbon is one drink that never goes out of style.

Types Of Brandy And Bourbon

Brandy includes cognac, Armagnac, and pisco, while bourbon includes straight bourbon, blended bourbon, and rye whiskey.

Brandy Includes Cognac, Armagnac, And Pisco

This is a distilled spirit made from any fruit juice and can include specific types such as cognac, armagnac, and pisco. Every kind of brandy has its own unique flavor profile and production methods.


  • Cognac: This type of brandy is named after the town of Cognac in France and must be made from specific grape varieties grown in the Cognac region. Cognac is double-distilled in copper stills and aged in oak barrels for at least two years.
  • Armagnac: Made in the Gascony region of southwestern France, this brandy is also double-distilled but aged for at least one year in oak barrels. Armagnac is typically more full-bodied than cognac, with flavors that lean towards dried fruit, spice, and earthiness.
  • Pisco: Originating from Peru or Chile, this brandy is made from fermented grape juice that isn’t aged. It’s often used as a base spirit for cocktails like the Pisco Sour. Pisco varies by style and producer but generally has a smooth texture with tropical fruit notes.


So next time you’re ordering a cocktail or sipping on some after-dinner liquor, consider trying out one of these unique types of brandy!

Bourbon Includes Straight Bourbon, Blended Bourbon, And Rye Whiskey

Bourbon is not a one-size-fits-all type of whiskey. It includes a few different varieties, each with their unique characteristics. Here are the three main types of bourbon:


  1. Straight Bourbon: This type of bourbon must be aged for at least two years in new charred oak barrels and contain no added flavors or colors.
  2. Blended Bourbon: As the name suggests, this type of bourbon is made by blending straight bourbons to create a unique flavor profile.
  3. Rye Whiskey: Although technically not bourbon, rye whiskey is similar in that it must be made from at least 51% rye grain and aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years.


Popular Brands

Hennessy, Martell, and Rémy Martin are some of the most famous brandy brands available in the market, while Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and Maker’s Mark are among the top bourbon brands that cocktail drinkers love.

Brandy Brands Include Hennessy, Martell, And Rémy Martin

If you’re a fan of brandy, you’ve probably heard of these popular brands:


  • Hennessy: Founded in 1765, Hennessy is one of the world’s most well-known and respected cognac producers. They offer a variety of cognacs at different price points, including their VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), and XO (Extra Old) blends.
  • Martell: With a history dating back to 1715, Martell is another prominent cognac producer. Their range includes the classic Cordon Bleu blend and the more affordable VS and VSOP options.
  • Rémy Martin: Established in 1724, Rémy Martin is known for producing high-quality cognacs using grapes from the Champagne region. Their VSOP and XO blends are trendy.


While these brands are primarily known for their cognacs, they also produce other types of brandy, such as fruit brandies and eaux-de-vie. If you’re a cocktail drinker looking to experiment with brandy-based drinks, these brands are an excellent place to start.

Bourbon Brands Include Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, And Maker’s Mark

If you’re a cocktail drinker, chances are you’ve encountered some popular bourbon brands like Jim Beam, Jack Daniel’s, and Maker’s Mark. Here are some key facts about these beloved bourbons:


  • Jim Beam is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey that has existed since 1795. It has a smooth and sweet flavor profile with notes of vanilla and oak.
  • Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey famous for its charcoal-mellowing process, giving it a distinct taste. It has a bold and slightly smoky flavor with hints of caramel and butterscotch.
  • Maker’s Mark is a wheated bourbon made using red winter wheat instead of rye in its mash bill. This gives it a softer, sweeter taste compared to other bourbons. It has flavors of vanilla, caramel, and cinnamon.


These bourbons are all excellent choices for cocktails like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans. They can also be enjoyed neat or on the rocks for sipping. Try them out and see which one suits your taste buds best!

Price Differences

While bourbon can be found at a lower price point than brandy, the factors affecting prices for each are vast and varied.

Factors Affecting Brandy Prices

Brandy prices can vary depending on several factors. Here are some of the key factors that can affect the price of brandy:


  1. Age: The longer a brandy has been aged, the more expensive it typically is.
  2. Production method: Handcrafted or small-batch brandies tend to be pricier than mass-produced brands.
  3. Brand reputation: Popular or well-known brands are more expensive than lesser-known ones.
  4. Region of origin: Brandy from specific regions, such as Cognac in France or Jerez in Spain, can command higher prices due to their reputation and quality.
  5. Production costs: Factors such as the cost of grapes, barrels, and labor can impact the final price of the brandy.
  6. Limited availability: Some rare or limited-edition brandies may have a higher price tag due to their exclusivity and scarcity.


Understanding these factors can help cocktail drinkers decide which brandy to purchase and how much to spend. It’s important to consider your budget and priorities when choosing a bottle of brandy that fits your taste preferences and wallet.

Factors Affecting Bourbon Prices

Various factors can affect the price of bourbon, including:


  1. Age: The older the bourbon, the higher the cost, as more time spent in oak barrels allows for more excellent flavor development and complexity.
  2. Rarity: Limited edition or small-batch bourbons that are hard to find may command a higher price due to their scarcity.
  3. Brand Reputation: Popular and well-established brands, especially those with a long history of producing high-quality bourbon, may be priced at a premium.
  4. Ingredients and Production Methods: Higher-quality grains and artisanal production techniques can make for a more expensive end product.
  5. Proof or Alcohol Content: The higher the proof or alcohol content, the more expensive the bourbon will likely be.


Overall, it’s essential to do your research and consider your budget when selecting a bottle of bourbon. But keep in mind that while price can be an indicator of quality, plenty of affordable options on the market offer excellent taste and value.

Brandy And Bourbon In Cocktails

Brandy is commonly used in classic cocktails like the Sidecar and Brandy Alexander, while bourbon is often found in popular drinks like the Old Fashioned and Manhattan.

Classic Brandy Cocktails: Sidecar, Brandy Alexander

If you’re a fan of brandy and looking to try something new, why not try some classic brandy cocktails? Here are two popular options:


  1. Sidecar – Made with brandy, Cointreau, and lemon juice, the Sidecar is a sweet and tart cocktail perfect for sipping on a warm evening. It’s typically served in a sugar-rimmed glass to add an extra touch of sweetness.
  2. Brandy Alexander – This creamy dessert cocktail has brandy, crème de cacao, and heavy cream or milk. It’s perfect for after-dinner drinks or as a sweet treat.


Both cocktails showcase the brandy’s unique flavor profile while incorporating other ingredients to create delicious and complex beverages. So next time you’re in the mood for something new, try one of these classic options!

Classic Bourbon Cocktails: Old Fashioned, Manhattan

The Old Fashioned and Manhattan are two classic bourbon cocktails that every cocktail drinker should know. Here’s what you need to know about them:


  • The Old Fashioned is a simple cocktail made with just a few ingredients: bourbon, a sugar cube, Angostura bitters, and an orange peel. It’s typically served on the rocks in an old-fashioned glass.
  • The Manhattan is another classic bourbon cocktail made with sweet vermouth and bitters. It can be served up or on the rocks and is garnished with a cherry.
  • While rye whiskey is traditionally used in Manhattans, bourbon can also be used for a slightly sweeter variation of the cocktail.
  • Both of these cocktails are perfect for showcasing the flavor of the bourbon, which should be high-quality and smooth.
  • If you’re looking for a simple yet delicious bourbon cocktail at home, start with the Old Fashioned or Manhattan. They’re easy to make and always hit the spot!

Q: What is the difference between brandy and bourbon?

A: Brandy is a spirit that is distilled from wine and aged in barrels, while bourbon is a type of American whiskey that is primarily made from corn and aged in charred oak barrels. The main difference is the base ingredient used in their production.

Q: What types of whiskey are used to make brandy?

A: Brandy is not made from whiskey; it is caused by distilling wine or fruit juice. However, some types of brandy may be aged in barrels previously used to age whiskey, which can impart certain flavors to the brandy.

Q: What types of brandy are there?

A: Brandy can be made from a variety of fruits and wines, including grapes, apples, and peaches. Different types of brandy are named after the region where they are produced, such as Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados.

Q: Can you use brandy instead of bourbon in cocktails?

A: Yes, brandy can often be used as a substitute for bourbon in cocktails, depending on the recipe. Brandy has a similar flavor profile to bourbon and is often used in classic cocktails such as the Sidecar and the Brandy Alexander.

Q: Are there any differences between bourbon and brandy cocktails?

A: Yes, there are many differences between bourbon and brandy cocktails. Bourbon cocktails have a more robust, spicier flavor, while brandy cocktails are milder and sweeter. Bourbon is often used in classic cocktails such as the Old Fashioned and the Manhattan, while brandy is more commonly used in drinks like the Sidecar and the Brandy Sour.

Q: Is bourbon a type of brandy?

A: No, bourbon is not a type of brandy. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey made primarily from corn and aged in charred oak barrels, while brandy is a spirit distilled from wine or fruit juice.

Q: What is the alcohol by volume (ABV) of bourbon and brandy?

A: The ABV of bourbon and brandy can vary depending on the specific product, but typically bourbon has an ABV of around 40-50%, while brandy has an ABV of around 35-60%.

Q: What is the difference between cognac and bourbon?

A: Cognac is a type of brandy exclusively produced in the Cognac region of France, while bourbon is a type of American whiskey primarily made from corn. Cognac is typically aged longer than bourbon and has a smoother, more sophisticated flavor profile.

Q: Can you use brandy for bourbon in cooking or baking?

A: Yes, brandy can often be used as a substitute for bourbon in recipes that call for bourbon, such as in sauces or desserts. However, it is essential to note that the dish’s flavor profile may be slightly different when using brandy instead of bourbon.

Q: Which is better, bourbon or brandy?

A: This is subjective and depends on personal preference. Bourbon generally has a more robust, spicier flavor, while brandy is often milder and sweeter. Both are versatile spirits that can be used in various cocktails and dishes.


In conclusion, significant differences between brandy and bourbon make them unique. Brandy is a fruity and floral distilled wine made from fermented fruits, while bourbon is a type of whiskey with sweet notes made from corn mash.

They have different production methods. Aging processes, flavor profiles, serving suggestions, and price points. While both are enjoyed in cocktails or sipping, they have distinct uses in cooking or pairing with food.