About Spanish Brandy

About Spanish Brandy
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 Spanish Brandy

Cardenal Mendoza "Carta Real" Solera Gran Reserva Brandy
98 points
Bronze color. Complex, smoky aromas of dark roasted nuts, baked fruits, suede, and tobacco with a satiny, crisp, fruity sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, complex, long molasses, herbs and barks, raisin bran, and nougat finish with chewy well-integrated tannins and heavy oak. A sensationally complex and nuanced, well-aged Spanish brandy that will be great with cigars.
Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva Brandy
96 points
Mahogany color. Rich, complex aromas of creme brulee, chocolate cherry fudge, roasted nuts, and leather with a supple, crisp, fruity sweet medium-to-full body and a warming, long mocha, cola, dried tropical fruitcake, and peppery spices finish with fine tannins and moderate oak. A very stately and evolving Spanish brandy for contemplative sipping.
96 points $44.99
Ysabel Regina Pedro Ximénez Brandy
94 points
Golden amber color. Bright, creamy, fruity complex aromas of cream of wheat with peaches, frosted orange cake, acacia honey, and buffalo grass with a glycerous, tangy, off-dry medium-to-full body and a tingling, intricate, long tonka bean, almond custard tart, exotic spices, and sarsaparilla finish with light oak. A brilliantly fruity and complex brandy that has a great lightness of being.
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 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 sassafras and cola, toasty oak, and hint of soy finish. A rich, vibrant Spanish brandy with a great mix of sweet and savory flavors.
Romate Brandy
89 points
Best Buy
Copper color. Rich, complex aromas of dark sautéed almonds, leather, and raisin bread pudding with a velvety, soft, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a warming, intriguing, medium-long nutskin, cedar, and cocoa finish with medium tannins and moderate oak. A wonderfully lively Spanish brandy that hits all of the right toasty, nutty notes.
89 points $14.99 Best Buy