About Spanish Spirits

About Spanish Spirits
As with many European countries, Spain produces a wide range of spirits and liqueurs, be they cream liqueurs, digestifs, gins, vodkas and fruit liqueurs, however, the most recognized spirit from Spain is brandy, especially those from Jerez zone. Aged in oak, styles vary, from one year of wood aging to the Gran Riserva, aged for a period averaging ten years; these are of exceptional quality.

Brandy de Jerez is made by the Sherry houses centered around the city of Jerez de la Frontera in the southwest corner of Spain. Virtually all Brandy de Jerez; however, is made from wines produced elsewhere in Spain -- primarily from the Airen grape in La Mancha and Extremadura -- as the local Sherry grapes are too valuable to divert into Brandy production. Nowadays most of the distilling is likewise done elsewhere in Spain using column stills. It is then shipped to Jerez for aging in used Sherry casks in a solera system similar to that used for Sherry wine. A solera is a series of large casks (called butts), each holding a slightly older spirit than the previous one beside it. When brandy is drawn off (racked) from the last butt (no more than a third of the volume is removed) it is replenished with brandy drawn from the next butt in line all the way down the solera line to the first butt, where newly distilled brandy is added. This system of racking the brandy through a series of casks blends together a variety of vintages (some soleras have over 30 stages) and results in a speeding up of the maturation process.

Basic Brandy de Jerez Solera must age for a minimum of six months, Reserva for one year and Gran Reserva for a minimum of three years. In practice, the best Reservas and Gran Reservas are frequently aged for 12 to 15 years. The lush, slightly sweet and fruity notes to be found in Brandy de Jerez come not only from aging in Sherry casks, but also from the judicious use of fruit-based flavor concentrates and oak essence (boise).

Penedès Brandy comes from the Penedès region of Catalonia in the northeast corner of Spain near Barcelona. Modeled after the Cognacs of France and made from a mix of regional grapes and locally-grown Ugni Blanc of Cognac, it is distilled in pot stills. One of the two local producers (Torres) ages in soleras consisting of butts made from French Limousin oak, whereas the other (Mascaro) ages in the standard non-solera manner, but also in Limousin oak. The resulting Brandy is heartier than Cognac, but leaner and drier than Brandy de Jerez.

Top Picks for Spain

Padro & Co. Reserva Especial Sweet Vermouth
95 points
Dark brown color. Complex aromas and flavors of fennel, leather, cacao nibs, cola, fig, espresso beans, dried cherry, candied pecan, and nougat with a round, vibrant, moderately sweet medium body and an effortless, complex, long finish with touches of honey on tangerines, quinine, dried apple, cassia, nutmeg, lavender, and gentian finish. A poignant and complex, old-world vermouth for stellar manhattans; thoroughly enjoyable on rocks and in spritzes.
Awards: 2018 Best Vermouth Red
Gran Duque De Alba Solera Grand Reserva Brandy
93 points
Brilliant dark amber color. Roasted, musty aromas and flavors of butter roasted nuts, aged leather and wax, fleur de sel, and rancio with a satiny, bright, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a tingling, captivating, medium-long finish with notes of caramelized dried fruits, delicate spices, and pumpkin bread finish. A wonderfully expressive Spanish brandy with lovely fruit, honey, and rancio notes.
93 points $45.99
Lustau Solera Gran Reserva Brandy
92 points
Mahogany color. Roasted aromas and flavors of salty butter roasted almonds, dried fruits, old leather bound book, and olive skin with a satiny, vibrant, fruity medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, very long finish displaying accents of sassafras and cola, toasty oak, and hint of soy finish. A rich, vibrant Spanish brandy with a great mix of sweet and savory flavors.
Alkkemist Gin Distilled By the Light of the Full Moon
92 points
Clear color. Exotic aromas and flavors of incense and turkish rose, cumin and curry, lavender lemongrass, and lemon balm with a round, crisp, dryish light-to-medium body and a complex, medium-long finish with notes of lime leaf, tomato seed, and candy coated anise finish. A crisp gin with a refreshing citrus bouquet and eastern spices.
92 points $39.99
Mahon Gin
91 points
Clear color. Fresh aromas of fresh juniper berries, spruce tips, mixed citrus rinds, and lavender with a velvety, vibrant, dryish medium body and a warming, complex, long fennel seed, fondant, white peppercorns, honeydew melon, and angelica finish. A full-flavored classic dry gin that nails the style; an excellent gin-lovers gin.
91 points $36.99
Padro & Co. Rojo Clasico Sweet Vermouth
90 points
Dark brown color. Aromas of carob, oregano and thyme, licorice, tomatillo, castelvetrano olive, cacao nibs, eucalyptus, and dried cherries with a satiny, vibrant, sweet medium-to-full body and a smooth, interesting, medium-long black toast, fennel fronds, and molasses finish. A pervasive and dark vermouth that will stand up to robust whiskies; try in a rye manhattan or on the rocks with olives.
Padro & Co. Rojo Amargo Sweet Vermouth
89 points
Dark garnet color. Spicy aromas and flavors of fruitcake, tea with milk and sugar, cedar smoke, plum, jerk spices, and raisin swirl bread with a slightly chewy, vibrant, bittersweet medium body and a polished, captivating, medium-length finish with notes of grapefruit oil and caramelized banana finish. A rich and fruity vermouth with a very balanced bitter character.
Padro & Co. Blanco Reserva Sweet Vermouth
88 points
Light gold color. Interesting, fruity aromas of marigold, spearmint, honeycomb, peach tea, apple-cinnamon potpourri, and glue with a satiny, vibrant, sweet light-to-medium body and a tingling, breezy sour peach gummies, banana chip, fennel, and pineapple cordial finish. A distinctively fruity and somewhat tropical vermouth that will serve as a secret weapon in stirred rum cocktails.
88 points $30.95
Frissé Rosé Frizzante Sangria
88 points
Best Buy
Neon light ruby color. Sweet, confected aromas and flavors of cranberry juice cocktail, sweet lemonade, white grape and strawberry, and cotton candy with a satiny, racy, fruity sweet light body and an effortless, charming, easy finish with touches of fresh celery and tangerine finish. A light and breezy wine spritzer that is super sessionable.
88 points $10.99 Best Buy
Linton Hill London Dry Gin
87 points
Clear color. Aromas and flavors of spruce, coriander, geranium, blueberry, orange marmalade, and anise with a supple, shy, fruity thin body and a smooth, short finish with notes of white pepper finish. An easygoing gin with lots of versatility behind the bar.
87 points $17.99