If you appreciate a good sherry cask maturation, here comes a recommendation: Besides sherry-matured whisky, there is another type of spirit you should definitely keep in your sights, namely Brandy de Jerez. Like cognac, armagnac and other brandies, Brandy de Jerez – which became a controlled term of origin in 1989 – is made from grapes. Its most distinctive feature is its provenance. To categorize as Brandy de Jerez, the spirit must be matured and bottled in the sherry triangle between the Spanish towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria. The latter city is the home turf of Carlos I Brandy, the uncrowned king of this tradition-rich kind of spirit.
Carlos I Brandy is named after the Spanish monarch Carlos I (or Karl V as we call him in Germany), who became king in 1520. The brandy, however, is not quite as old as its name giver. Its story began in 1889. Today, Carlos I Brandy belongs to Grupo Osborne – the oldest family-owned business in Spain and one of the most renowned sherry producers in the world. This is more than a footnote. After all, the close ties with Grupo Osborne mean that Carlos I Brandy has access to some of the absolute best sherry casks on the market! To spell it out: Many sherry-matured whiskies you find these days come from so-called seasoned casks, which only held sherry for a few months or years. These vessels were not filled with sherry as an end in itself; they were treated with sherry so that they could harbor other spirits afterwards. Carlos I Brandy, on the other hand, is matured exclusively in long-serving sherry casks that contained fortified wine for 20 years or longer. Often, these butts and barrels, which Grupo Osborne does not sell to other spirit companies regardless of the offer, are more than 100 years old! Don’t get me wrong: Lots of contemporary whisky is, of course, laid to rest in excellent sherry-soaked wood. But Carlos I Brandy’s reach and resources in this regard go even further. Since this precious spirit was born and bred in Andalusia over a century ago, its heart and history are inseperably connected with the sherry region … and the wood, in which it sleeps, is the cream of the crop!
So what effect do these exquisite casks have on the spirit? I recently learned more about this in the course of a virtual tasting with Michael Lutz, Carlos I’s Brand Development Manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Originally, this get-together was planned as an on-site event in cooperation with Edeka Popp in Würzburg. But then came the pandemic – and you know the rest. Luckily for all participants the tasting did not get cancelled entirely, but transferred to the virtual space. This also gave me the chance to take part. Since Würzburg is almost 600 kilometers away from my hometown of Hamburg, I would not have been able to join the physical event. The digital one, however, did not demand a six-hour drive from me. All it took to join in were a few clicks on my laptop.
We started with Carlos I’s standard bottling. It was a smooth and easy everyday sipper. Besides the signature honey sweetness and orange zestiness, which you will find in any Carlos I expression, it was also rich with vanilla, toffee and cream. When Michael told us the price, everyone in the audience was quite surprised: Usually, you will find this lovely pour for less than 30 Euro! The following two brandies were based on Carlos I’s regular edition – however, one was finished in Amontillado casks (dry sherry) and the other in PX casks (sweet sherry). The Amontillado one had a really nice nuttiness (walnuts, almonds). It also produced lovely notes of raisins, tobacco and chocolate. Plus all kinds of light, crisp fruits. When I visit my local dealer again, I will buy a bottle! The PX one was wonderfully sweet with lots of marmalade, cocoa, raisin and nougat as well as dark forest fruits. After a while, it also developed a typical Pedro Ximenez spiciness. In regard to its texture and mouthfeel, I loved how full-bodied, creamy, silken and elegant it was!
The dark and deep Imperial XO was next. It brimmed with dark chocolate, coffee, licorice and sulphur. Additionally, it also offered lots of brighter and sweeter notes that appeared in the form of raisins, berries and fruits. For a detailed description of this complex and special drop, feel free to read my review of it here. After the Imperial XO we concluded the tasting with the 1520, which got its moniker from the year in which Carlos I was crowned kind. This is one of only a few limited editions that occasionally get released under the Carlos I brand. It was bright, fresh, delicate, refined and playful. It offered a few sturdier notes (coffee, cocoa) alongside all kinds of fruits (strawberries, apricots), delicacies (lemon tart, deep-frying dough) and sweet spreads (honey, jam). With its sophisticated character and many layers of flavor, it put a great end to a superb tasting … a tasting during which I learned a lot, laughed a lot and drooled a lot! Thank you, Michael and Carlos I, for having me as your guest. I am now going to finish this post by reiterating my statement from the beginning: If you appreciate a good sherry cask maturation, I would definitely recommend you to delve deeper into the exciting world of Brandy de Jerez in general and Carlos I Brandy in particular!
Carlos I Brandy (Brandy de Jerez / Spain / NAS / 40% / EUR 27)
Carlos I Brandy Amontillado (Brandy de Jerez / Spain / NAS / 40.3% / EUR 47)
Carlos I Brandy PX (Brandy de Jerez / Spain / NAS / 40.3% / EUR 47)
Carlos I Brandy Imperial XO (Brandy de Jerez / Spain / NAS / 40% / EUR 47)
Carlos I Brandy Imperial 1520 (Brandy de Jerez / Spain / NAS / 41.1% / EUR 90)
Carlos I Brandy @ Web: https://carlosbrandy.com (Brandy)
Carlos I Brandy @ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carlosbrandy.int (Brandy)
Michael Lutz @ Web: https://www.facebook.com/michael.lutz.ambassador (Host)
Edeka Popp @ Web: https://www.edeka.de/e-center-popp (Organizer)
Reidemeister & Ulrichs @ Web: https://www.ruu.de/ (Distributor)
Eggers & Franke @ Web: https://www.egfra.de/ (Distributor)
*** I got the invite to the tasting und the samples for free from Carlos I Brandy. ***