Brandy History

“I know Brandy is for heros”

Quote out of “A farewell to arms” by Ernest Hemingway


History and info

Allow me to dedicate a few words to my favorite spirit. One of the drivers for this page is that I simply could not find a page that has a lot of information on Spanish brandy. I’m trying to change this here by putting together what I know or what could be found in the internet. Hope it is to your liking or intrigues you to dive into the world of Spanish Brandy.

When it comes to drinking a pure alcohol for me Spanish Brandy is the best. Brandy somehow always is in the shade of french Cognac or other beverages like Whisky that are more complex (in most of the cases). Even the connoisseurs of the Spanish Brandy say, you‘ll like it better from the second glass on. But for me, nothing can beat a good brandy.

Then of course I have to admit that this drink always reminds me of when I was a kid and the adults at our frequent and cheerful family encounters drank brandy after a nice meal. And up until today I enjoy drinking a good glass of brandy with my dad.

In Spain brandy traditionally was not only enjoyed at night time after a dinner if up until a few decades ago it was a brick layers late breakfast. It was very common to take a break from work in the morning and go to your local bar where you would drink a coffee and a brandy. The Spaniards have this saying ,cafe, copy y puro‘ (coffee, drink and a cigar). It is rather popular to do tastings of cigars and drinks in order to see what beverages goes well with what cigar. This is call ,maridajes‘ and by the way is part of the Habanos Sommelier contest as well, where the best Cigar Sommelier is chosen every year at the Habanos Festival in Cuba.

Brandy is distilled wine and it got popular in the medieval times at first as medicine. Spain today is considered to have the oldest tradition and is the biggest producer of brandy. The brandy is distinguished by quality or age according to how they are produced and aged.

In particular Spanish Brandy from Jerez has a unique way of aging not known in any other country. This is called the Solera system. The system consists out of different layers of oak casks (usually pre-used for Sherry aging) containing different ages of brandy. The lower the cask the older the spirit. Brandy out of the lowest level comes into bottles. The one-third empty casks are filled up with the content of the layer above and so forth. This is done until the highest layer is empty and is filled once again with freshly distilled brandy. It is heard of 12 layers of casks, most just use 3.

This solera system ensures a consistent quality but is the reason as well why Solera brandy does not have an age declared unlike Whisky or brandies produced without the Solera system.

Brandy with the Solera system is typically distinguished in three categories:

Solera – at least six months in the cask, typically 18 month tough

Solera Reserva – at least 12 months up to 3 years

Gran Reserva Solera – at least 36 months but most commonly the brandies used are much much older as on an average one can expect a minimum of 8 to 15 years. Some bodegas release brandies with much more years as more exclusive version (e.g. Gran Duque d‘Alba Oro)

Brandy from other regions has different classifications as for example the Mascaro uses XO (Extra Old) used for French Cognac or other Brandies are labeled with Gran Reserva or simply Reserva (for this I do not know the age limits).

As said above Spain is producing most of todays brandy in the world. 90% of the Spanish Brandy comes from Jerez de la Frontera (in short Jerez). The second biggest region in Spain is the well known wine region ,Penedés‘.