barcelona spanish brandy

Spanish brandy's push for domestic appeal

28 October, 2021

Miguel Torres Maczassek, fifth generation of the Torres family and managing director of the group, finds Alta Luz an exciting product. “When bartenders see the bottle they’re mesmerised by the design, but when we tell them it’s an aged brandy they can’t believe it, they’re always amazed. It would feel special if we could make Spanish brandies more popular here in Spain because I don’t think they’re appreciated as much as they should be.” 

The development of innovative products is a central focus for Torres, particularly as the Brandy del Penedés regulations are more relaxed than those for Brandy de Jerez. During a lunch in Barcelona, prior to flying to Mexico to launch Alta Luz, Visalli discussed a host of secret innovative experiments with Drinks International which, if they come to fruition, will be unique to the global spirits industry – let alone Spanish brandy, which could help revive interest within the domestic on-trade. 

In the Jerez region on the south coast of Spain, the most famous area for producing Spanish brandy, is Cardenal Mendoza which was introduced by the Sánchez Romate family in 1877. While the brand has a strong international presence, also featuring in the Annual Brands Report, Borja Leal, sales director of Bodegas Sánchez Romate, told Drinks International that, while its domestic sales are strong, its exports are the area gaining traction. 

“Today Cardenal Mendoza represents 40% in the domestic market and 60% in foreign markets,” says Leal. “In both cases the brand has very consolidated and loyal consumers. We are seeing strong growth in markets such as Germany or the United States, where there is a trend of dark spirits consumption in general and the brandy category in particular. 

“We can say that Cardenal Mendoza’s business is diversified at 50% on-trade and 50% off-trade. On the one hand it has a presence in the best cocktail bars and restaurants around the world to drink either straight or in classic cocktails. On the other hand, the consumer of Cardenal Mendoza likes to buy the bottle in specialist stores and enjoy it at home in a quiet way. 

“Obviously consumption at home has increased a lot in the circumstances of Covid. Beyond this, we are seeing other ways of consumption growing, such as pairing with cigars, coffee or in cocktails.” 

Fellow Brandy de Jerez producer Bodegas Williams & Humbert, which makes several brandies, including Marqués de Misa, 1877 and Alfonso, believes the popular region is leading from the front when it comes to trend- setting for the category. 

Alfonso Roldán, international sales manager at Bodegas Williams & Humbert, says: “The wineries of the Jerez region are in the process of creating new trends in brandy. For instance, we are looking to endow brandy drinkers with more serving glass options than the classic brandy snifter. Likewise wineries are also promoting the use of Brandy de Jerez in cocktails. 

“We have observed a marked tendency of ever greater ranges of Brandy de Jerez. A clear example of this is Gran Duque de Alba XO (a premium brandy expression under the Williams & Humbert portfolio), which has been widely accepted in the retail trade in big cities across Spain. On the other hand, we have noticed that the Reserva category is steadily growing due to its consumption as a long drink in the segment of consumers aged between 25 and 45 years old.” 

Clearly the way for Spanish brandy to tap into the younger generation of both domestic and international consumers is through cocktails or long serves – particularly with the strong G&T market in Spain where there is a thirst for similar styles of drinks, such as brandy Highballs. 

Torres has taken note with the launch of a new cocktail competition earlier this year. Torres Brandy Zero Challenge combines the company’s passion for sustainability with the bar world by challenging bartenders to present the most sustainable bar project possible, with the winner receiving €25,000 to put it into action. 

These types of activations, particularly ones carrying a sustainable ethos, are likely to communicate well with younger consumers. Having spoken with several locals in Barcelona there was a sense of fatigue with the G&T and Aperol Spritz movements, which suggests now is the ideal time for Spanish brandies to push in the domestic on-trade from both a quality and social responsibility perspective.

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