Brandy de Jerez
Brandy de Jerez is a Spanish brandy which is made, as its name suggests, in the Jerez area of the Spanish region of Andalusia. To be more precise, it is produced in the 'Sherry triangle' which is defined by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María. Spanish brandy is sold as a drink in its own right, but is also used as an ingredient in the production of some Sherries.
History of Brandy de Jerez
During the Moorish occupation of Spain, the process of distillation became more and more popular. The Moors used this technology as they were not allowed to drink the famous wines that were already being made in the region for religious reasons. Therefore they made alcohol through distillation in order to make perfumes as well as certain antiseptic medicines.
From then, it is not clear of how distilled wine spirits began to be aged in casks made of oak wood to make brandy. However, we do know that there was a significant amount of wine spirit being made during the 16th century. This is proved by the existence of a financial document which tells us that the Town Council of Jerez used the revenue from the tax imposed on wine spirits in order to construct a Jesuit college in 1580.
The production of wine spirit became an important industry in Spain during the 18th and 19th centuries, with a large amount of the alcohol being destined for exportation to other countries, especially those in northern Europe. At this time, the Netherlands was the biggest market, and from here, it was exported to the whole world.
At the beginning of the 19th century, French and English merchants decided to visit Spain with the aim of setting up their own direct trade routes with Jerez, as well as setting down guidelines referring to the production and ageing process of the drink, as well as the characteristics that Brandy de Jerez should have. The 19th century also saw the creation of a number of Brandy de Jerez brands, which were originally set up by the region's Sherry companies. Many of these brands still exist today, both in Spain and across the world.
The name brandy is actually an English word that was in turn adapted from the Dutch word 'brandewijn' meaning burnt wine. However the brandy from Jerez was often called 'holanda' which was the name given to brandy made from spirits with a low alcohol content.
To produce Brandy de Jerez, there is a choice of two methods of distillation, both of which use copper stills. However, Spanish brandy is never double distilled as the more a wine is distilled, the more of its tastes and aromas are lost. The two distilling option are:
- Alquitara - a traditional pot still that was brought to the area by the Moors. This copper still is heated by an oak wood fire. These stills are used to obtain spirits with a low alcohol content. This method normally requires the best wines and therefore produces some of the best brandy.
- Distillation columns - This is the more modern and more efficient way of distilling the wine. Wine is added continuously to the still which produces much stronger spirits.
In order to be considered a Brandy de Jerez, and to comply with the drink's DO status, the drink must be made according to the following methods set down by the 'Consejo Regulador del Brandy de Jerez' (Brandy de Jerez Regulatory Council):
- The brandy must be made within the Sherry triangle
- It must be aged in casks made from American oak wood, whose capacity is 500 litres, which were previously used for Sherry. Different types of Sherry will give the brandy a different flavour.
- The traditional ageing system of criaderas and soleras must be used.
Brandy de Jerez is classified by the regulatory council and the brandies are classified by age:
- Brandy de Jerez Solera - youngest and fruity, average age of 1 year
- Brandy de Jerez Solera Reserva - average age of 3 years
- Brandy de Jerez Solera Gran Reserva - Oldest, average of age of 10 years
If you ever decided to travel in the South of Spain, particularly in Cádiz, make sure you check out the local brandy and try some of each classification.