Photo by Pixabay: -- pure spirits

A Beginner’s Guide to Pure Spirits: What New Enthusiasts Need to Know

If you’re a new craft spirit enthusiast eager to learn more about various blends, great distillery tours, and unique histories, you’re in the right place. One of the first things to know about craft spirits involves distinguishing which are considered pure spirits. Today, we’re highlighting what beginner craft spirit fans need to know about pure spirits, what they are, how they’re made, and where to find them. 

What Are Pure Spirits?

What does it mean when craft spirit industry experts talk about pure spirits? While there are hundreds of blends and craft spirit varieties out there, the pure spirits are those made from grains and other plants. A pure spirits’ ingredients are minimal, and its finished product is as close to an ethanol and water base as you can get. A pure spirit exists on its own, with usually a 38% ABV or higher, without additional flavor enhancements or blending required. The higher the ABV, the purer a spirit becomes.

How is a pure spirit made?

When you visit a distillery near you, you can watch the process for creating some of your favorite pure spirits. Typically, fermentation and distillation result in an extractable alcohol, relatively high concentrate, which becomes the pure distilled spirit.

ABV vs. Proof

For most of today’s craft spirits, the legal minimum ABV is 40%. When you calculate a spirit’s proof, you double the ABV. So, a pure spirit with 40% ABV is 80-proof. Some pure spirits are higher, like vodka, known to have 50% ABV. These vodka spirits are what we call 100-Proof.

Pure Spirits That Beginners Should Consider

The most popular pure spirits to know include gin, brandy, tequila, whiskey, rum, and vodka (arguably the purest of them all.)


Gin begins as a pure ethanol spirit derived from grain. Because the ethanol is typically without flavor, the gins’ most notable essences are redistilled into the spirit. Juniper berries and botanicals are introduced to steep in the pure alcohol, releasing gin’s most iconic tastes and hues.

Gin Distilleries to Explore

  • 1220 Artisan Spirits – St. Louis, MO
  • ASW Distillery – Atlanta, GA
  • Aristotle Spirits – Garner, NC


Brandy is a liquor made essentially from wine. But during the distilling process, brandy becomes a pure spirit. Often considered as an after-dinner aperitif, brandy usually has 35%-60% ABV. And it’s best enjoyed as a sipping spirit, served neat in its purest form.

Brandy Distilleries to Explore

  • Autry Cellars – San Luis Obispo, CA
  • 10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Co – Gypsum, CO
  • Admiralty Distillers – Port Townsend, WA

Tequila (Mezcal, Agave)

The exploring Spanish introduced the distillation process to Mexico. And it was the town of Tequila, within the state of Jalisco, Mexico, that calls itself the origin of the iconic pure spirit. It involves distilling the juice of the blue agave plant. And pure tequila contains 40%-50% alcohol, which is a U.S. equivalent of 80-100 proof, making it one of the purest spirits available today.

Tequila Distilleries to Explore

You’ll have to go to Mexico to find an authentic Mezcal/Agave distillery experience. However, there have been recent attempts to grow agave plants stateside, including in California, Hawaii, Arizona, and New Mexico. 


Technically, for any whiskey to be categorized as a “whiskey” or “whisky,” it has to maintain at least 40% ABV, which automatically qualifies it as a pure spirit. Many whiskey blends are much higher, meaning they’re purer still. And some whiskey varieties go through the distillation process two or three times, resulting in super-smooth and pure sips every time.

Whiskey Distilleries to Explore

  • Adirondack Distilling Company – Utica, NY
  • Angel’s Envy Distillery – Louisville, KY
  • Arizona Distilling Co. – Tempe, AZ


Rum is also a pure spirit made from fermented molasses or sugarcane and typically earning 40% ABV. Some rum varieties are much higher, up to 57.5% ABV. Rum varieties vary in potency, with lighter rums being more popular with cocktails like Mojitos and Daiquiris. Overproof rums can be as high as 75% ABV (150-Proof) or 80% ABV (160 Proof,) including Bacardi 151 and Pitorro moonshines.

Rum Distilleries to Explore:

  • 11 Wells Distillery – St. Paul, MN
  • Dented Brick Distillery – Salt Lake City, UT
  • Loaded Cannon Distillery – Bradenton, FL


To distill vodka, only four ingredients make the cut. Water, rye, wheat, and barley come together in the distillation process to produce this potent craft spirit. And vodka is often hailed as the purest of all distilled spirits, with an ABV average range of 40%-50%.

Vodka Distilleries to Explore:

  • Western Son Distillery – Pilot Point, TX
  • Anchorage Distillery – Anchorage, AK
  • 28 Mile Vodka Company – Highwood, IL

Where to Find Pure Spirits

According to the American Craft Spirits Association, there are nearly 2,300 craft distilleries throughout the U.S. And while you can try to explore finding these locations yourself, let Distillery Nearby be your guide! Sort and search to find your favorite craft spirits and locations nearest you for distillery tours. From coast to coast, we can help you create your ultimate distillery tour bucket list.


Explore some of these beginner-friendly Q&As about pure craft spirits.

How should you drink pure spirits?

You can consume your pure spirits however you like! Mix them to form deliciously unique cocktails or sip on them neatly to enjoy them in their purest spirit form.

Are pure spirits rare?

While pure spirits are highly revered by craft spirit enthusiasts and incredibly iconic, their availability is relatively unlimited. Additionally, there are thousands of pure spirits makers out there and plenty of distilleries in the U.S. offering some of the best pure spirits you can sip.

What differentiates pure spirits from other types of spirits?

It’s about ingredients and alcohol proof when gauging whether or not a craft spirit is a pure spirit. Moreover, the fewer the ingredients and the higher the proof, the purer the spirit is.

Distillery Nearby Is Your Roadmap to Finding Pure Spirits 

For beginner craft spirit enthusiasts, check back often to the Distillery Nearby ongoing blog series, where we share all kinds of unique histories, iconic spirits, and great distillery tours near you. So, tart plotting your course across the U.S. with our distillery locator!

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.