Spanish Brandy has a longer history than cognac; it is more varied and in some ways more intriguing. Most Spanish Brandy should be called Brandy de Jerez because they are distilled and sold by the firms that make sherry. Brandy making in Spain goes back to the early Middle Ages when the Moors occupied southern Spain and Jerez. As its full name “de la Fontera” suggests, it was on the frontier between Christendom and the then more civilised Moorish Kingdom of Granada.
The Brandy making tradition disappeared until the arrival of the Dutch, in the late 17th century, came looking for brandy for their sailors as they had earlier in Cognac. The locals then developed what they called holandas, still the name used in Jerez for brandy, distilled to the same 70 per cent alcohol as cognac.
The next impetus came when Cognac was invaded by the phylloxera vastatrix louse in the late 19th century. It was Brandy de Jerez that filled the gap for a couple of decades, until Jerez was also hit by the bug. Probably the largest boom was triggered by the demand from soldiers on both sides, during the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Spain's post war industrialisation then carried on the good work, by creating a demand from industrial workers looking for inner warmth and by better heeled customers wanting a civilised spirit. The drink was kept afloat until the 1980’s when duties soared and Spanish drinking habits changed.