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Understanding the Distinction: Distilled vs. Extract-Based Non-Alcoholic Spirits

In recent years, the market for non-alcoholic beverages has expanded rapidly, with an increasing demand for sophisticated alternatives to traditional spirits.
 
It is important to understand the landscape of non-alcoholic spirits in order to manage your expectations around flavour, quality and price. Two prominent categories in this realm are distilled non-alcoholic spirits and extract-based non-alcoholic spirits. While both offer flavourful options for those seeking alternatives to alcohol, they differ significantly in their production methods and flavour profiles. Let's explore some of the key differences between these two types of non-alcoholic spirits and dive into their unique characteristics.

 

Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirits

Distilled non-alcoholic spirits are created using a process similar to traditional distillation, involving botanicals or other ingredients that undergo a maceration process to extract the flavours.

Production Method

  • Maceration The botanicals or ingredients are soaked in a liquid, typically alcohol, to extract their flavours and aromas. During maceration, the alcohol extracts the essence and flavour of the botanicals over time, resulting in a full-flavoured aromatic mixture that serves as the basis for the non-alcoholic spirit.
  • Distillation For distilled non-alcoholic spirits, the macerated liquid then undergoes a distillation process where the different ingredients including the alcohol are separated using heat and different boiling points.
  • Alcohol Removal After the distillation process, the result is a traditional spirit with a level of alcohol that is safe for consumption, however not fit for a non-alcoholic spirit.  Therefore, after the distillation process, the distilled non-alcoholic spirit requires a second process where the alcohol is removed through various techniques, which remove the alcohol content while ensuring the spirit retains its flavour. This process is more difficult than it sounds! 

Flavour Profile

Distilled non-alcoholic spirits intend to replicate the depth and complexity found in their alcoholic counterparts. They offer a broad range of botanical or herbal notes, creating a more authentic spirit-like experience especially when enjoyed mixed with various non-alcoholic mixers, or as a base in mocktails and cocktails. 

 

Extract-Based Non-Alcoholic Spirits

Extract-based non-alcoholic spirits utilize different methods to extract flavours and aromas from botanicals or other ingredients. The extract-based approach generally requires fewer steps than distilling the non-alcoholic spirit.

Production Method

  • Extract-Based Non-Alcoholic Spirits typically begin with a water base where flavours and extracts are added to create the non-alcoholic spirit, as opposed to using alcohol and botanicals to undergo a distillation process before removing the alcohol. They are made by extracting flavours and aromas from botanicals or other ingredients using methods like infusion (steeping ingredients in liquid to capture their essence) or using pre-manufactured flavour extracts. The extracts are then blended and combined with other ingredients to create the desired flavour profile

Flavour Profile

Extract-based non-alcoholic spirits are often designed with specific flavours in mind, aiming for a more straightforward and targeted taste experience. They may highlight a particular ingredient, such as citrus or a specific herb, resulting in a concentrated flavour profile.

These spirits work well in enhancing the taste of beverages by adding a distinct flavour element. They are frequently used as flavour enhancers in non-alcoholic cocktails and mixed drinks.

Making the Distinction and Choosing Between the Two 

It's important to note that the specific characteristics and flavours of distilled and extract-based non-alcoholic spirits can vary depending on the brand and the ingredients used in their production. Different manufacturers may have their unique methods and formulations, leading to variations in taste and quality across products.

Distilled non-alcoholic spirits and extract-based non-alcoholic spirits each bring their unique characteristics to the table. Distilled spirits strive to replicate the complexity and depth of traditional alcoholic spirits, this is why we chose to go this direction here at Sobrii! On the other hand, extract-based spirits focus on specific flavours and offer a targeted taste experience. Ultimately, the choice between these categories is about personal preference and the desired experience.

As the market for non-alcoholic alternatives continues to evolve, both distilled and extract-based non-alcoholic spirits contribute to the diverse landscape of sophisticated non-alcoholic options. Both provide enjoyable and flavourful options for those seeking a non-alcoholic beverage experience.

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