This just in…

Macieira Royal Spirit Brandy.

We got one! Ok, another one. Macieira Royal Spirit brandy.
It is another reasonably priced and magically delicious spirit from Portugal. In the odd facts department, Macieira means apple tree or apple in Portuguese. There are no apples in this brandy Macieira was the founder’s name. It is made from Portuguese grapes, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Touriga Franca, Arinto, and Fernão Pires. Created in 1865, it comes from the Estremadura region. Lisbon is located there, in what I like to call the nose of Portugal. And what a nose. Chocolate orange comes to mind.

This lovely spirit goes for about eighteen dollars a bottle and goes down in a smooth and enticing manner.
The thing about Portuguese spirits is this, they tend to be soft and elegant and a little bit sweeter than many other spirits. This drink personifies the difference between Portugal and the US. Bigger, bolder, stronger, is the battle cry in the states. Here on the Iberian Peninsula, softer, smoother, refined, and elegant are the key elements. This is part of why I like living here so much. As much as I can appreciate a good 100 proof spirit, I take issue with the in your face, always gotta be off the charts, mentality. Being extreme all the time isn’t necessarily a good thing. I think that current events will attest to that. But I digress.

Back to the Macieira. It has a deep amber color with aromas of orange and caramel. There are rich flavors of caramel and chocolate with hints of orange on the finish, which is silky smooth. In a word, yumilicious! It is my new favorite winter warmer. And it clocks in at only 36% abv. Yes please, may I have another. 😉

How About a GT?

Portugal is well known for its wines, but how about gin? That’s right, I said gin. Many drinks aficionados know about Spanish gins, Gin Mare being one of them, but Portugal? Not so much.
Well, I’m here to tell you that some amazing gins are being produced in Portugal. The lion’s share of Portuguese gin comes from the Alentejo region in the south. However, I am partial to the lesser-known gins from the north. (I live in Porto so, I am biased.)
Probably the most well-known brand is Sharish, which comes in a cool pseudo triangular bottle. Well, look…

Sharish Blue Magic Gin.

It is like a London Dry style of gin, to my taste, with even the juniper flavors dialed down a bit. Sharish also makes a gin called Blue Magic, which changes color when it comes into contact with tonic water. A nice touch, a gin that is refreshing and entertaining!
Big Boss is the next best-known brand and is made with 11 different botanicals. They also make a pink gin. These two are on my list to try, among others.

My favorite is Quinta de Ventozelo gin which is made by the winery of the same name and is located in the Douro wine region. It is the result of a research project with Biomedicas Abel Salazar in downtown Porto, and Cantinho das Aromaticas in Vila Nova de Gaia. (The latter is a farm that produces herb teas and plants. it also has a fascinating history that dates back to the 12th century.)
Ventozelo is a delightful botanical gin made from a wine derived distillate, lemon peel, mint, coriander, juniper, thyme, and lavender, among other herbs.

Ventozelo Craft Dry Gin

It is crisp and lemony on the palate with hints of herb, especially thyme. It also turns opalescent in the glass when served with tonic water. The Ventozelo site suggests making its gin and tonic using non-aromatic tonic water, and three juniper berries, and to garnish with an olive or a grape. (I like to garnish it with a slice of lemon.) It is refreshing and delicious for summer.

My next favorite is Tinto gin. Tinto is a red gin from the Minho region, which is also home to the wines of Vinho Verde. It is made with local ingredients that include, blackberry, rosemary, and poppy, along with Perico, a local variety of pear. The red color comes from the poppy flowers. It also comes in a cool bottle with a plain cork stopper and gold lettering. The Tinto gin has a sweet herbal nose and drinks almost like an amaro, it is so herbaceous in flavor. Fab on its own or with tonic.

Tinto, Red Premium Gin.

There are a host of others that I am on a mission to try. These gins are as unique as the country that produces them and are worth the hunt to find them. Sadly, finding any of them outside of Portugal is a challenge, at best. So, if you come across one, give it a whirl!

Aguardente Anyone? (Agua who?)

Aguardente is the Portuguese take on brandy. And, OMG, it is good. As a longtime brandy, Cognac, and Armagnac lover, I was thrilled to find a Portuguese take on the spirit. In the US, a decent brandy starts at about $30 a bottle. Excellent everyday Portuguese brandy can be found for about fourteen euros a bottle. Yes, Virginia, Portugal is a dream come true for lovers of quality drink! (Wait ’till we get to the gins and vodkas.)

Aguarente.01
São Domingos Aguardente Vinica Velhíssima.

How does Portuguese brandy compare to its European counterparts? Favorably. It tends to be softer and sweeter than traditional cognacs and German brandies. For a stronger spirit from Portugal, there is bagaceira. Bagaceira is clear, strong, and delicious. If you are into that type of jet fuel.  Reminiscent of Italian grappa, it is usually bootlegged. But, it can be found for sale at some wineries.

Aguardente.XO.1
Aguardente from Lourinhã.

Portugal has a demarcated region for it’s best aguardente. It is called Lourinhã and is located on the coast near Lisbon. Lourinhã aguardente is magically delicious and costs more than your average supermarket variety. Aromas of candied fruit, and brown sugar on the nose. On the palate, dried fig and nut flavors with a silky smooth finish and a hint of sweetness. If you like brandy and come across a good aguardente, it is a must-try.