My love affair with Spanish brandy started three years ago when I stumbled into a booze shop with the fabulous name “The Wine Palace”. The Wine Palace has the most exquisite range of wine and spirits, and keen to seek out something local, I opted for a bottle of Mascaro and a bottle of Osborne Carlos 1; I wanted to experience the local wares.
I have never looked back.
In Spain, where the duty on local produce is so low (or seems to be), I can get a bottle of brandy that I know will be decent for twenty euro, and it might even be outstanding. For a few euro more, I can guarantee it will be excellent. Please go and find me the same whisky and get back to me; I bought a 24-quid whisky the other day on a pure punt. It could be utter dogshit—chances are it will be—but with Spanish brandy bought in Spain? Never going to be bad. I would now say that I borderline prefer brandy, certainly when it comes to just drinking for enjoyment, and not trying to unravel anything…and the more I explore Spanish brandy, the more disillusioned I become with Scotch.
Obviously, the fact that the only people who drink Spanish brandy are the Spanish, a few Americans and anyone to whom I’ve given a sample means that the producers cannot take the piss too much, not like Scotch, when the famous distilleries know full well they can knock out any old shite. Thanks to influencers and bloggers who just want free shit, they know it will sell (not that I’m bitter…As an aside, did I ever tell you about the time I went to a fancy launch dinner thing and two of the people I met there didn’t even fucking drink whisky?).
When last in Spain, I had a bottle of this in my hand, the twisty, sexy decanter bottle, a thing of absolute beauty—and you know my normal opinion of wanky bottles and pointless boxes—but I didn’t buy it, despite the sheer beauty of the bottle. Knowing just how amazing the Torres 15 and 20 are, why? Three reasons; let me explain.
Number one is the weight of the fucking thing. The massive bottle weighed the same, I kid you not, as two normal bottles. I can only smuggle back half a dozen bottles, two of which I decant into plastic bottles to cut down on the weight, but I couldn’t decant this thing of beauty; even I’m not that uncouth. It is also massive; the bottle comes in a weird swiss cheese-tube box thing, and it takes up half a suitcase.
Second was the price: there must have been two versions, because I saw this for between 70 and 130 Euro, which suggests there must be something going on. The Wine Palace in Salou has this for just under 130 notes. The Whisky Exchange has it in stock for £83.75; I have no idea why this is the case. I saw it in Spain for the lower price too, but Wine Palace is a brilliant shop selling outstanding Spanish products for prices that make you think you’ve entered the 1980s. I felt if I bought the more expensive bottle I’d be getting conned, and I’d be buying the wrong thing if I paid the lower amount, so I binned it.
And the final reason is that no Spanish brandy that costs that much should be 38%; the absolutely stunning Torres 15 is twenty quid and 40%, so 38% can fuck right off.
Oh aye, you can get a wee mini bottle in the same style for a fiver, so I picked up two of those instead, in case you’re wondering where this review is headed.
And now follows a few notes on Spanish brandy.
30 Year Spanish Brandy is not, as the Whisky Exchange suggests, 30 years old; it’s the average age of the brandy, just to keep you lot up to date. It’s not some smoke and mirrors bullshit, by the way; they are very upfront about this.
This brandy is made with the Torres family’s oldest Soleras, and it’s part Paradella wine, which normally makes the decent (if safe) Torres 10; then they fling in some Folle Blanche eaux de vie 1972 to create this. This is one of the crown jewels in the Torres stable, though to be fair, there is a 1985 vintage which I’ve never even seen in real life. Let’s sweep that under the carpet for now.
I am not now going to bore you with every single minutiae of Spanish brandy; you would be here all day, and you can email me if you’re really that bothered. If you’re thinking of buying one Grand Solera Reserva, though, these are the words you’re looking for on a bottle.
Brandy, in my opinion, should be taken neat. I have tried with a touch of water, and it’s awful; it makes the thick mouthfeel just vanish. I’ve tried it with ice, as it’s popular in Spain to do so, but I didn’t like it cold—and so neat, in the glass for a few minutes to open up, slightly above room temperature is best; swirl it around the glass and warm it through.
Shall we begin.
Torres 30 Jaime I brandy – review
On the nose: Dried coconut, damson jam, and almost smells sticky; cherries, dates and prune juice (a lot of people will just shout CHRISTMAS CAKE MIX because brandy is often used in Christmas cake mix, but we need to think deeper), nutmeg, and perhaps some clove.
In the mouth: Like with most Spanish brandies, the thick creamy mouthfeel is a joy, of plump, slightly overripe cherries, red velvet cake, clove, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla. oak, and even rose water? Maybe, just a touch. The finish goes on forever, the vanilla and oak sitting in the mouth right up until you take another swig.
Is this worth 130 pounds? Is it even worth the 70 I’ve seen it for (if indeed it’s the same bottle)? This is a big question. It’s not quite got the punch that Cardinal Mendoza, Grand Duke De Alba or even the Torres 15 have, so no. It seems a bit of shame; I would expect the crown jewels in the Torres spirits collection to be outstanding, but there is just something not right. Bear in mind the other brandies mentioned are all under thirty pounds when bought in Spain, and all are under fifty when bought over here, so I guess this is more about style over content—disappointing.
This is all about the sexy bottle and weird box rather than the outstanding spirit that lies within. I was expecting so much, and although it’s lovely, it’s just not worth the money, by some distance. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money on a full bottle, and I’ll stick with the far superior Torres 15.
I can never give a score, if you need to score then perhaps you make one up based on my review but I am 100% against them.
Lead image from the Whisky Exchange. There are commission links within this article so we can bribe The Captain to join the good ship MALT.
What a read. The ‘Naked Lunch’ of spirit reviews
Well I do try.
Thanks for the comment, check out my websites for more swearing and stuff.
Interesting review. Spanish brandy is something I would not have thought of before. I tend to choose Armagnac over priced French Congnac but did enjoy the SMWS C1.1 and have C1.2 aside for a rainy day. Have you ventured into South African brandy? mostly best with Cola but the Ladysmith 8 year old is quite tasty. I’m off brandy shopping.
I have never tried South African Brandy but I’ll have a look although I tend to stay away from anything you need cola with.
I only discovered Spanish Brandy because I go to Spain a lot on holiday, my advice would be to get a bottle of Cardinal Mendoza or Torres 15.
Have a go on LionGri XO Red Label. Moldova’s finest! Well, at least it’s Moldovan. I ended up buying a job lot of spirits to get 1 bottle of scotch I wanted. I think 11 random bottles cost me £160, 9 of them were brandies of various persuasions, Lion~Gri, Parow, Milenario Solera gran Reserva, Comte Joseph XO, Chateau Tariquet le legendaine, Dion Bardar 20, Fundador Supremo 15 and a Hardy VSOP Cognac. So far I’m two bottles in and from a scotch drinkers perspective it’s very enjoyable, if not slightly ‘easy’ (which sometimes isn’t a bad thing). Any thoughts on any of the bottles in my accidental purchase?
I’m a big fan of Mascaro. The nearest thing to cognac I have found in Spain (or Cataluna to be precise).
As a cognac drinker, I find Spanish brandy way too sweet and cloying; but Mascaro does it for me – and gives the big name cognac producers a helluva run for their money. And, unbelievably, it is VERY inexpensive.
Mascaro is indeed superb, the bottom shelf stuff is average but the rest of the range is perfect.
Spanish Brandy is sweet and cloying, that’s its charm for me, good stuff remains complex despite the sweetness, you just need to take your time, add some water to sort that out and find the magic within.