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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. See alsoaquavit; brandy; gin; liqueur; rum; vodka; and whiskey.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on distilled liquor, visit Britannica.com.