Alcoholic beverage obtained by distillation from wine or other fermented fruit juice or from various cereal grains that have first been brewed. The essential ingredient is usually a natural sugar or a starchy substance that may be easily converted into a sugar. The distillation process is based on the different boiling points of water (212 °F [100 °C]) and alcohol (173 °F [78.5 °C]). The alcohol vapours that arise while the fermented liquid boils are trapped and recondensed to create a liquid of much greater alcoholic strength. The resultant distillate is matured, often for several years, before it is packaged and sold. Seealso aquavit; brandy; gin; liqueur; rum; vodka; and whiskey.
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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.