aqua vitae

Aqua vitae (Latin, “water of life”) is an archaic name for a concentrated aqueous solution of ethanol. The term originated in the Middle Ages and was originally used as a generic name for all types of distillates. It eventually came to refer specifically to distillates of alcoholic beverages.

Aqua vitae was typically prepared by distilling wine; it was sometimes called “spirits of wine” in English texts. “Spirits of wine” was a name for brandy that had been repeatedly distilled.

A local translation of aqua vitae was often applied to an important local distilled spirit. Thus, we have whisky in Scotland (from Gaelic, uisge-beatha) , whiskey in Ireland (from Irish, uisce beatha) , eau de vie in France, and akvavit in Scandinavia.

When the term is used in England, it usually refers to French brandy.

Aqua vitae was also known in Slavic lands; it appears in Ukrainian оковита (okovita), Belarusian акавіта (akavita), and яковита (yakovita) is southern Russian dialects.

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