Gin vs Whiskey: How Can You Tell the Difference?

Gin vs Whiskey: How Can You Tell the Difference?

Gin vs Whiskey: How Can You Tell the Difference?

If you want to experience the finer things that the world of cocktails and spirits has to offer, it is essential to understand the bedrock spirits – gin and whiskey. For the uninitiated, these two classic spirits might seem to have a lot in common. After all, they both constitute the most popular alcoholic spirits on the planet, and they are both a staple of cocktails and highballs alike. However, this is where the similarities end.


Gin vs Whiskey: How Can You Tell the Difference?


When assessing the merits and qualities of gin vs whiskey, one must first understand the origins of each, and their distinct flavor profiles. Read this two-minute explainer to find out what you need to know before diving into the world of whiskey and gin drinks.

Origins of Gin vs Whiskey

First, let's break down where gin and whiskey come from. Whiskey originates from the highlands of Scotland, with a pedigree stretching back centuries.  Today, all whiskey from Scotland is still referred to as “Scotch”, while American whiskey (made with corn instead of rye) is referred to as “bourbon.” Gin has a less straightforward story. Although popularized in England during the Victorian era, gin is thought to have come from southern France and Italy, where it was mostly used for its purported medicinal purposes.

Today, gin is not tied to a particular region, and different types of gin are widely produced across every corner of the globe.

Production Process

This is where the difference really becomes apparent. When making whiskey, the most important thing is that it is aged in a cask. Different whiskeys require a specific type of cask, made from a certain type of wood and often altered in some way. For example, scotch must be produced in a cask that has been charred slightly by an open flame to produce that smoky flavor. You can find out more about the relationship between casks and whiskey in this essential guide to whisky casks.


Gin vs Whiskey: How Can You Tell the Difference?


This aging process means that it can take many years for whiskey to go from the production process to actually end up in a bottle on the shelves. Gin, meanwhile, does not require any aging. It is made from distilled juniper berries and combined with a base alcohol, in a process that can be done in a single day. While gin can be stored in casks, this is rarely a necessary part of the production process. These two distinct journeys result in two very different flavors.

Flavor Profile

Most whiskey has a smoky flavor profile, although scotch will invariably be smokier than bourbon. Some whiskies lean towards a sweeter taste, and all whiskies have a more “rugged” flavor profile, featuring oak, smoke, and even peppery notes.

Gim, meanwhile, is a botanical drink. Its flavor comes from punchy, bitter juniper berries, and is often infused with citrus notes from coriander, angelica root, or lime.
Put simply, whiskey is a chilly fall evening, and gin is a hot summer day.


Gin vs Whiskey: How Can You Tell the Difference?


Develop Your Palette

When choosing between gin vs whiskey, remember that each drink serves a different purpose. Gin might be more appropriate for a summery, fruity mixer, while whisky might better fit a low-key and relaxed pairing. Of course, finding the right spirit and combination for you comes with an experienced palette. For this, we are here to help.

Our expertly curated food and drink guides offer you the building blocks you need to become a connoisseur in just about anything. Check it out to see what you can learn.


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