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
Gin Mare
Mediterranean Gin
Clear. Wonderful aromas of spicy orange chai, carrot-zucchini cake, and a pine with a silky, dryish medium body and a oily cinnamon, clove, pepper, honeyed citrus zest, and potpourri finish. Delicious, distinctive, and vibrant.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
London Dry Gin
Clear color. Delicate, creamy, spicy aromas of lavender, brown spices, and pinecone with a supple, crisp, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a graceful, interesting, medium-length juniper, coriander custard, pink pepper, and wet stone finish. A rock solid gin for all occasions.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
London Dry Gin
Clear color. Delicate, attractive aromas of spicy panettone, lemon honey tea, and lemon meringue pie with a silky, bright, fruity medium body and an appealing, medium-length orange sorbet, lemon pepper, juniper, and minerals finish. A nice mild gin that is sure to please.
93 points $42.67
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Gin Distilled By the Light of the Full Moon
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 lime leaf, tomato seed, and candy coated anise finish. A crisp gin with a refreshing citrus bouquet and eastern spices.
92 points $39.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Clear color. Clean aromas of deep woods, cucumber peel, roots and cinnamon, and pine sap with an oily, lively, dryish light-to-medium body and a peppery, interesting, medium-length cardamom, white peppercorn, turmeric and galangal, and winter melon finish. An outdoorsy kind of gin, full of zesty spices.
92 points $46.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Clear with a platinum cast. Very distinctive aromas of lemongrass, verbena, juniper, dried oil paint, and dusty cedar with a silky, dryish medium-to-full body and a well integrated, peppery spice, creamy vanilla nougat, mint, and earth accented finish. An artfully composed gin that will shine in craft cocktails.
90 points $39.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Lola y Vera
Clear color. Bright, grainy, earthy aromas and flavors of wet paint, pepper, dusty grain husk, and cucumber and celery skins with a satiny, shy, dry light-to-medium body and a polished, uncommon, brisk chalk eraser, wheat germ and bran, and juniper muffin finish. A very light and mellow, genever style gin.
88 points $25.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Clear color. Mild, curious aromas of spic and span, fancy lemon soap, lime rind, and cream with a soft, crisp, fruity light-to-medium body and a tingling, medium-length lemon gelato, spiced melon, and pepper finish. A citrusy gin for mixing.
88 points $27.99
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab
Extra Dry Gin
Clear color. Delicate, typical aromas of rye bread pudding, juniper, pine bark, and pepper with a even, bright, dry-yet-fruity light-to-medium body and a graceful, fast lemon custard and chalk finish. A balanced, pleasant gin that will mix well.
Date Tasted: in our Chicago tasting lab