Is it possible to know what was the most common hard liquor of the Late Middle Ages?

I am not asking for the strongest drink in the Middle Ages, but which hard liquor was the most common during the Late Medieval Period.

  • There is an answer of on Reddit that might satisfy you: reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/y15po/… – farmersteve Aug 3 '17 at 18:02
  • Also, I re-read your question and you ask "is it possible to know" and or course it's possible to know. If I go by Google then the answer is Brandy, but there was also a lot of whiskey. This one needs a deep dive that I can't give with some real book research. – farmersteve Sep 3 '17 at 14:48

I finally did a little digging. The Late Medieval Period is generally considered from 1300-1500. Whisky, did not become wide spread until the 1700s. The first recorded instance of Whisky production was in 1494:

The Guild of Barber Surgeons.[15] The earliest Irish mention of whisky comes from the seventeenth-century Annals of Clonmacnoise, which attributes the death of a chieftain in 1405 to "taking a surfeit of aqua vitae" at Christmas.[16] In Scotland, the first evidence of whisky production comes from an entry in the Exchequer Rolls for 1494 where malt is sent "To Friar John Cor, by order of the king, to make aquavitae", enough to make about 500 bottles.

There is ample evidence that liquor distilled from grapes and other fermented fruit well before the 1300's and Brandy was widespread by 1500. Neither Brandy or Whisky was drunk as much as wine or beer during this period, but just from the time line it looks like Brandy was a) easier to make since you start with wine and no cooking involved until distillation b) had a several hundred year head start on Whisky.

There were distilled beverages in Asia, but again not as widespread as Brandy in Europe.

Just based on the fact that the first mention of Whisky production isn't until 1494, only 6 years before the end of the Late Medieval Period and Brandy production is mentioned many times in The History and Taxonomy of Distilled Spirits before 1500, I think we can safely assume that Brandy was the most widespread distilled beverage in this time frame.

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I would imagine it would be either whiskey or wine brandy came from Brandivine (excuse spelling or similar pronunciation) meaning burnt wine also cider was probably popular due to the fact that the water quality was poor

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    References for your claims would be beneficial. – Ken Graham Sep 15 '17 at 12:16

It would depend on the crop the region had plenty of. Corn and rye would lean towards bourbon and wheat and potatoes towards vodka but it's all shine in the end.

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    I don't think corn and potatoes were known in Europe in the late middle ages, so I doubt they were producing alcohol from them. – Monica Cellio Aug 11 '17 at 23:26

It depends on the region. Most produced ales at the time were barley wines and meads, all reaching anywhere from 7% to 12% ABV. (Roughly, I am not an academic in this by any means.) As for liquor, I don't think liquors came around until later.

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