Definitions of Distilled Spirits

I've taken the following from the American Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) website, from their Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits. I've edited it a fair bit, trying to make it easier to read & understand. So if its important to you, go and get the full version for yourself (its about 32 pages long). Also, these definitions may vary from country to country.

Some terms used ...

Gallon : U.S. gallon of 231 cubic inches of alcoholic beverage at 60 °F
Proof gallon A gallon of liquid at 60 °F which contains 50 percent by volume of ethyl alcohol.. or the alcoholic equivalent thereof (eg 2 gallons at 25% a/v...)

Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits

Neutral spirits or alcohol.

Neutral spirits or alcohol are distilled from any material at or above 95% a/v, and if bottled, bottled at not less than 40% a/v
  • Vodka is neutral spirit distilled, or treated after distillation with charcoal or other materials, to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste, or color.
  • Grain spirits are neutral spirits distilled from a fermented mash of grain and stored in oak containers.

Whisky.

Whisky is distilled from a fermented mash of grain at less than 95% a/v, such that it possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whisky, stored in oak containers (except that corn whisky need not be so stored), and bottled at not less than 40% a/v
  • Bourbon whisky, rye whisky, wheat whisky, malt whisky, or rye malt whisky is whisky produced at not less than 80% a/v from a fermented mash of not less than 51% corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 62.5% a/v in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.
  • Corn whisky is whisky produced at not exceeding 80% purity from a fermented mash of not less than 80% corn grain, and if stored in oak containers stored at not more than 62.5% a/v in used or uncharred new oak containers and not subjected in any manner to treatment with charred wood.
  • If they have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more, they can be further designated as straight; for example, ``straight bourbon whisky'' or ``straight corn whisky''
  • Light whisky is whisky produced at more than 80% a/v, and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers.
  • Blended whisky is a mixture which contains straight whisky or a blend of straight whiskies at not less than 20 percent on a proof gallon basis. If it contains not less than 51 percent on a proof gallon basis of one of the types of straight whisky it shall be further designated by that specific type of straight whisky; for example, ``blended rye whisky''
  • Scotch whisky can only be made in Scotland
  • Irish whisky can only be made in Ireland
  • Canadian whisky - I'll let ya try and guess this one

Gin

Gin is a product obtained by
  • original distillation from mash, or by redistillation of distilled spirits, or by mixing neutral spirits,
  • with or over juniper berries and other aromatics,
  • or with or over extracts derived from infusions, percolations, or maceration of such materials,
  • and includes mixtures of gin and neutral spirits.
It shall derive its main characteristic flavor from juniper berries and be bottled at not less than 40% a/v.

Brandy

Brandy is an alcoholic distillate from the fermented juice, mash, or wine of fruit, or from the residue thereof, produced at less than 95% a/v in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to the product, and bottled at not less than 40 % a/v
  • Fruit brandy is brandy distilled solely from the fermented juice or mash of whole, sound, ripe fruit, or from standard grape, citrus, or other fruit wine, with or without the addition of not more than 20 percent by weight of the pomace of such juice or wine, or 30 percent by volume of the lees of such wine, or both. If it hasn't been aged for at least 2 years in an oak container, it is called "immature" (even if say its been on oak chips for >2 years).
  • Cognac is grape brandy distilled in the Cognac region of France
  • Dried fruit brandy is brandy that conforms to the standard for fruit brandy except that it has been derived from sound, dried fruit, or from the standard wine of such fruit. Brandy derived from raisins, or from raisin wine, shall be designated as ``raisin brandy''. Other brandies shall be designated in the same manner as fruit brandy from the corresponding variety or varieties of fruit except that the name of the fruit shall be qualified by the word ``dried''.
  • Lees brandy is brandy distilled from the lees of standard grape, citrus, or other fruit wine
  • Pomace brandy, or marc brandy, is brandy distilled from the skin and pulp of sound, ripe grapes, citrus or other fruit, after the withdrawal of the juice or wine therefrom. Grape pomace brandy may be designated as grappa or grappa brandy.
  • Residue brandy is brandy distilled wholly or in part from the fermented residue of fruit or wine,
  • Neutral brandy is brandy produced at more than 85% a/v

Rum

Rum is an alcoholic distillate from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, sugar cane molasses, or other sugar cane by-products, produced at less than 95% a/v in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma and characteristics generally attributed to rum, and bottled at not less than 40% a/v.

Tequila

Tequila is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash derived principally from the Agave Tequilana Weber (``blue'' variety), with or without additional fermentable substances, distilled in such a manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to Tequila and bottled at not less than 40% a/v, and made in Mexico.

Cordials and Liqueurs

Cordials and liqueurs are products obtained by mixing or redistilling distilled spirits with or over fruits, flowers, plants, or pure juices therefrom, or other natural flavoring materials, or with extracts derived from infusions, percolation, or maceration of such materials, and containing sugar, dextrose, or levulose, or a combination thereof, in an amount not less than 2.5 percent by weight of the finished product.

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