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

Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva Brandy
94 points
$44
A triumphant example of fine Spanish Brandy that brings the aged and tertiary flavors and aromas to the forefront but remains well within balance.
Mahon Gin
94 points
$36
Gin
A touch anise forward and with a beautiful balance of juniper and citrus against a hint of sweetness.
Dos Maderas 5+3 Double Aged Rum
93 points
$31
A rich, dry Rum with very pleasant notes of sweet, nutty flavors and red fruits.
Dos Maderas Limited Edition Luxus Rum
93 points
$159
Big, bold, and delicious; this is a contemplative sipper that will pair well with numerous desserts, espresso, or a medium to full bodied cigar.
Gin Mare Mediterranean Gin
93 points
$40
A beautiful, lightly citrus forward Gin with a menagerie of fresh green garden herbs.
Cardenal Mendoza Nebulis Unusually Smoky Cask-Finished Brandy
93 points
$49
For fans of old, earthy, and smooooth Brandies that want none of the fruity flavors or alcohol bite.
Dos Maderas 5+5 PX Cask-Aged Rum
92 points
$43
An excellent entry level aged Rum.
Alkkemist Gin Distilled by the Light of the Full Moon
91 points
$44
A dainty, floral gin that will be a good pivot for vodka drinkers.
Puerto De Indias Strawberry Flavored Gin
90 points
$24
A pleasant strawberry Gin for making fruit forward cocktails.
Awards: 2024 Best Buy Bar - Best Value Flavored Gin
Nordés Gin
90 points
$51
Gin
Exceedingly well executed and very perfumed, so be intentional with your cocktail applications.