Distiller’s Guide to Overproof Spirits

June 1, 2023

High proof spirits have certainly become popular products among booze aficionados and cocktail imbibers in recent years. And although the term overproof is usually referring to high proof rum, the number of cask strength whiskeys is continuing to increase. Of course, the gin family is no stranger to high proof bottlings, but “navy-strength” is the phrasing which is used for these spirits. Regardless of what they’re labeled, these overproof spirits offer more bang for your buck. So it’s always nice to have a couple in your home bar.

What Does Overproof Mean?

Before we discuss overproof, let’s go over the term “proof.” Proof refers to the amount of alcohol in a spirit. In the US, we determine that the alcohol proof is double the alcohol-by-volume, or ABV. Therefore, a spirit with an ABV of 45% will be 90 proof. Other countries determine proof differently, so if you’re traveling or making an online purchase from a foreign seller, be sure to find the ABV as that number will be consistent.

Overproof Spirits

As for the term “overproof,” these are spirits which have a higher alcohol content than the standard proof. Historically, that standard was 50% ABV, or 100 proof, and therefore overproof spirits are bottled above that. However, today most spirits are bottled at 40% ABV or 80 proof. Incidentally, underproof spirits also exist. For example, Australian rum brand Bundaberg makes an underproof rum that clocks in at just 37% ABV or 74 proof.

How to Use Overproof Spirits?

Certainly there are some overproof spirits that can be enjoyed as you would a whiskey — neat or on the rocks. But for many overproof spirits expressions — especially rum and gin — cocktails are the way to go. Overproof rum is great in a tropical drink with fruit juices or cream in them as the flavor of the spirit won’t be lost in the mix. Pro tip: Adding a floater of overproof rum to a Piña Colada is always appreciated.

Of course, the world of rum has a wide range of flavors from lighter and delicate flavors to heavier and funkier tastes. Our Overproof Rum List will help you with your next purchase.

Meanwhile, navy strength gin makes certain the gin flavors don’t get lost in cocktails. Try them in Negronis, Gimlets, and Martinis. We’ve got a list of our favorite Navy Strength Gins for you as well.

Discover more Overproof Spirits with Distiller

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