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Famous Alcohols Around the World

Alcohol is a common beverage in people's lives. Although types of alcohols varies in different countries, they all preserve a long history and a unique meaning to the country itself. Each alcohol represents a special position in the culture of the country. Therefore, sometimes alcohol is more than just a beverage, it is part of the national culture. This article will introduce various famous alcohols around the world.

The Difference Between Distilled Alcohol and Fermented Alcohol

Distilled alcohols are a variety of alcoholic beverages that have a higher ethanol concentration than the original fermentation product. Brandy, whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, tequila and Chinese Baijiu are all distilled spirits, mostly of a higher alcoholic strength. The production process involves first brewing, then distillation and cooling, resulting in a high number of alcoholic solution drinks. The raw materials for distilled spirits are usually substances rich in natural sugars or starch that can be easily converted into sugar. Examples include honey, sugar cane, sugar beets, fruits and corn, sorghum, rice and wheat.

Fermented alcohols are made by fermenting substances containing starch and sugary raw materials through the action of yeast to produce alcoholic ingredients. The production process includes saccharification, fermentation, filtration, sterilization, etc. The most natural way of making alcohol is fermentation, and the main raw materials are grains and fruits, which is characterized by its original taste, low alcohol content and low harm to the human body. Beer and sake are both fermented alcoholic beverages.


Famous Alcohols in the World

  1. Russian Vodka

Russia is located in a cold, austere region. The natural geographic location and climatic conditions have led to the Russian people's affinity with alcohol. Russians are known for their love of alcohol, especially vodka. For Russia, vodka is not only a drink, but also resembles the spirit and national character of the Russian people. Vodka is strong, as the Russian people are.

Vodka is traditionally distilled from barley, rye, potatoes or corn to produce a 96% alcoholic liquor. Vodka is 40-50% in ABV (Alcohol by Volume). Vodka is colourless, odourless and extremely spicy in the mouth.

Alcoholism kills tens of thousands of people in Russia every year, and it accounts for more than half of all social crimes. In order to reduce the harmful effects of alcohol, the government has introduced a number of measures to control the production and distribution of alcohol products, such as licensing and increasing the tax rate on vodka. According to Russian Statistics Agency, vodka constituted 81.4% of total alcohol sales back in 1995, and only 36.4% in 2018.

  1. Chinese Baijiu

Chinese liquor, or baijiu, is one of the six most famous distilled spirits in the world. The raw materials needed to brew spirits are diverse, so the spirits made out of them have different styles. Baijiu is made from grain as the main raw material, with qu as the special fermenting agents. Qu is made from crushed barley, wheat, peas, etc., which are mixed with water and pressed into bricks to allow various natural microorganisms to grow on them. Baijiu is colorless or slightly yellow, with an aromatic odor. Alcohol content is relatively high, with an ABV ranging from 50% to 60%.

There are five main types of spirits aroma.

Sauce Aroma Baijiu has an aroma similar to the soybean sauce. Maotai is the representative of this type of liquor.

Strong Aroma Baijiu uses sorghum as the main ingredient and daqu as the sugar fermenting agent. It has a strong aroma.

Light Aroma Baijiu also has sorghum as the main material, but with xiaoqu as the fermenting agent. It is sweeter in taste and is widely accepted by most Chinese citizens and visitors.

Rice Aroma Baijiu, as suggested by its name, is made from rice. The fermentation is short, resulting in its mild and sweet taste. Rice aroma baijiu is most popular in southeast China.

Mixed Aroma Baijiu is a liquor that has both aromas listing above. Strong and Sauce Aroma Baijius are most commonly the dominant scent in this spirit.

China is a homeland of liquor. In the 5,000-year history of the Chinese nation, liquor and liquor culture have always played an important role, and Baijiu has penetrated into almost every field of social life. It can be seen at various occasions such as good seasons and festivals, family celebrations, reception of friends, funerals and so on.

  1. Korean Soju

The main ingredient of Korean Soju is rice, usually accompanied by wheat, barley or sweet potatoes. Korean soju is transparent in color and the ABV is generally about 20%.

In 1965, the Korean government banned the brewing of soju in order to alleviate food shortages, and since then, the main method of making soju has been diluting the alcohol with water and adding spices. A large amount of cheap soju is still made in this way today. The government restricts the alcohol content of diluted soju to no more than 35%. Due to the low price of soju ($1.5) compared to other alcoholic beverages, it has become the most common alcoholic beverage in Korea. And because of its low alcohol content, it tastes great with barbecue and seafood, which is one of the reasons for soju's popularity.

Almost all Korean soju comes in a 360ml round green bottle, which makes soju highly recognizable even abroad. These small green bottles appear very frequently in Korean dramas, so as the Korean entertainment industry has grown, Korean soju has become increasingly globalized. Now Korean soju has become the most popular liquor in the world. In 2019, around 33.9 percent of total alcoholic beverage sales were Soju.

  1. Scotch Whisky

Scotland has been producing whisky for 500 years, its products have a unique style. Scotch is brownish in color, and has a burnt aroma and certain smoky flavor. Scotch whisky has a taste dry and strong characteristics, and is one of the world's best whiskies.

Scotch whisky can be divided into three categories: pure malt whisky, grain whisky and blended whisky, according to different raw materials and brewing methods.

Pure malt whisky is made using only barley as a raw material. Pure malt whisky is made from barley malt roasted in the open peat as raw material and distilled in a pot stills, usually through two distillations. This alcohol has a rich aroma produced by peat. According to the regulations, it should be aged for at least three years, generally whisky aged for more than five years are ready to drink, seven to eight years are finished wines, and scotch aged for ten to twenty years are of the highest quality. The quality of scotch aged for more than 20 years will be lower. Pure malt whisky is very popular among Scottish people, but because of the strong flavor, only 10% of it is sold directly, and the remaining 90% is used as the original spirit in blending whisky. So it is rarely exported.

Grain Whisky is made from a variety of grains, such as oats, rye, barley, wheat and corn. Grain Whisky requires only one distillation and is produced primarily from non-malted barley with malt as the mashing agent, it differs from other whisky spirits in that most barley is not malted and fermented. Because most of the barley is not malted, there is no need to use a lot of peat to bake, so the peat aroma of grain whisky will be less and the taste will be a lot softer and more delicate. Grain whisky is mainly used to mix with other whiskies and gins, and is rarely sold at retail.

Blended whisky is made by blending pure malt whisky with grain whisky. When blending, not only the proportion of pure malt whisky and grain whisky, but also other characteristics such as age, place of origin and taste of the various blends are taken into account. The vast majority of whisky spirits sold throughout the world are blended whisky spirits. The common pack size for Scotch blended whisky is between 700ml and 750ml and has an alcohol content of around 43%.

  1. Mexican Tequila

Tequila is the national drink of Mexico and is known as the soul of the country. The agave plant takes 12 years to mature. The spiny fruit can weigh up to 150 pounds and is filled with sweet, sticky juice. Freshly distilled agave extract is completely clear and colorless, and all the agave extract that is available on the market has color because it has been aged in oak barrels or because of the addition of caramel. From the beginning of the agave harvest to the production of the finished product, about 1 liter is produced for every 7 kilograms of agave pina.

Blanco and Plata, meaning "white" and "silver" in Spanish respectively, are unaged and do not require barrel aging, while Blanco-grade tequilas should not be barrel-aged for more than 30 days.

Reposado. This grade has been aged in oak barrels for a certain amount of time, just short of one year. Reposado can be aged between two months and one year.

Añejo. simply put, wines that have been aged in oak barrels for more than a year belong to this category, with no upper limit. Generally speaking, the most suitable ageing period for tequila is four to five years, after which the alcohol in the barrels will evaporate too much.

  1. Japanese Sake

Sake is the national alcoholic beverage of Japan, which was developed by borrowing the brewing method of Chinese rice wine. Sake is fermented and has an alcohol content between 5%-17%. Sake needs to be protected from light for preservation, so most common bottles on the market are designed to be dark brown or greenish blue.

Sake can be divided into different grades depending on the raw materials used to brew it and the level of the rice.

Rice Brewed Sake: Only rice, rice malt and water are used as raw materials, and no cooking alcohol is added.

Honjo-brewed sake: This brew is a medium-grade sake. The amount of cooking alcohol added is lower than that of regular brewed sake.

Ginjo-brewed sake: The ratio of polished rice to the raw materials used for making ginjo must be 60% or less. The gin brewed sake has the taste of bananas or apples. Ginsjo is divided into ginjo and daiginjo according to the difference in the rice content. The ginjo is the highest grade of Japanese sake and the daiginjo is known as the "King of Sake".

The Japanese are very particular about drinking sake. Sake is drunk cold from March 3 to September 9 in the lunar calendar and hot in the cold autumn and winter months. The bottle of sake is placed in boiling water to warm it up. The temperature is about 40 degrees Celsius for warm sake and 55 degrees Celsius for hot sake.

  1. Cuban Rum

Cuban Rum is a traditional drink of the Cubans. Rum can be classified into different types based on various aspects such as raw material, fermentation and Distillation method, age and alcohol strength.

Light rum is distilled from sugar cane molasses, sugar cane juice and yeast after fermentation, stored in wooden barrels for many years, and then blended. The rum is light yellow to golden yellow in color, with an ABV of 45%-50%.

Strong rum is produced by the slow fermentation of molasses mixed with the residue of the sugar press under the action of natural yeasts. The resulting spirit is distilled twice in a distillery to produce a clear, colorless liquid and then matured in oak barrels for over 5 years. Strong Rum is golden yellow in color, and has a rich, mellow flavor.

  1. German beer

In the last 500 years, German beer has become synonymous with the so-called purity of the beer. Today, Germany is the world's second largest beer producer, with 1,300 breweries producing more than 5,000 different types of beer. German beer can be divided into six main categories: white, light, dark, kolsch, export and non-alcoholic beer.

Weissbier is a mixture of wheat malt and barley malt. It is characterized by a thicker liquid, a less bitter taste, and a lubricious taste.

Pils is mainly popular in the North German region and is the preferred beer of the locals. It is the most bitter of all German beers. Because of the secondary fermentation process, it contains less sugar and is less likely to cause intoxication, making it suitable for mass consumption.

Schwarzbier's hometown is Düsseldorf and the Ruhr region. It is quite dark in color, with a light coffee-like brown color. Dark beers are not as bitter as light beers, and have a slightly sweet taste.

Kölsch is a very light beer, with a lighter color and less bitterness than light beers. Kölsch is usually drunk in a typical 0.2 litre glass.

Exportbier is a German beer specifically for export, such as the famous Beck's. It has a higher alcohol content than clear beer, but less bitterness and a lighter overall taste, making it very popular internationally. Dortmund, in the Ruhr region, is the city with the highest production of export beer.

Alcohol-free beer (Alkohofreies Bier) is also beer. It tastes similar to clear beer, but it does not contain alcohol and is best for people who drive vehicles.

  1. French cognac

In a narrow sense, brandy refers to the high level of alcohol obtained through distillation of grapes after fermentation, and then stored in oak barrels. Brandy is a kind of distilled spirits, with fruit as raw materials, after fermentation, distillation, storage and brewing. Grape as raw materials for distilled spirits called grape brandy. Other fruit materials can also be made into brandy, such as apple brandy, cherry brandy, etc., but their popularity is far less than grape brandy. Brandy is often called the "soul of wine".

Brandy has a special aroma. The first source of this aroma is the raw material, the aroma of the fine grape varieties. The other source is the oak barrel. The oak barrels also allow the otherwise colorless brandy to develop an amber color.

There are many countries in the world that produce brandy, but France is best known for its production of brandy. Of all the brandy produced in France, the most qualified are those from the Cognac region, followed by those from the Armagnac region. Depending on the year of storage, Cognac brandy is usually labeled with the following abbreviations.

A.C.: Two years old. Aged in wood.

V.O. (Very Old): Aged a minimum of four years.

V.S. (Very Special): Three years of aging in wooden casks. It is often called Three Star.

V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale): the minimum aging is eight years in wood for the youngest in this blend, normally between 10 and 15 years old, which is why it’s sometimes known as Five Star.

X.O. (Extra Old): Also called Luxury. It has a minimum age of eight years. This class also can include Napoleon and Vielle (“Reserve”).

Napoleon/Extra/Vielle Reserve: Napoleon had nothing to do with it, except to order this type of Cognac. At least four years old is required, but generally much older than that.

Varietal: Brandy made with only one type of varietal grape.

Vintage: Aged and was put into the bottle in the year of the vintage.

Hors d’Age: Too old to figure out the age. A true gem.

  1. Dutch Gin

Dutch Gin is made from barley malt and rye wheat, with gin as the main raw material, and gin enzyme as the flavouring material. The spirit is fermented and distilled three times. Dutch Gin is clear and transparent, with a distinctive aroma, sweet and spicy. It is very refreshing on its own or on the rocks and has a ABV of around 52%. Because of its overpowering aroma, Dutch Gin should only be enjoyed pure and should not be used as a base wine for blending, as this may spoil the balance of flavours in the ingredients.

Some Alcohol Statistics From WHO

According to WHO, the global average of 6.4 liters of pure alcohol per person per year therefore equals 53 bottles of alcohol per person older than 15, while for the drinkers, 15.1 litres pure alcohol are consumed annually, meaning they drink 2 to 3 bottles every week.

Globally, spirits is consumed most with a total 44.8% of all alcohol, followed by beer. However, it can be observed that the consumption types vary between regions. In Americas and European region, beer is more popular than spirits, while in South-East Asia and Western Pacific regions, spirits are consumed times more than beer and other alcohols.