$$ — 40% ABV — ~15 years
The flagship brand of Romate, this is one of the creamiest spirits on the market. It pours like a syrup, with a lush brown hue that's so thick it's nearly opaque — even in the glass.
As the bottle suggests, this is a distiller's reserva that became too popular not to bring to market, a peculiarly common experience (i.e. mild B.S.) but if it's good, it's good. Cardenal Mendoza is deservedly named for Pedro González de Mendoza, the fighting cardinal who helped win Andalusia from the Muslims for Ferdinand and Isabel. Without him, the Spanish sherry triangle might not have come to exist!
Typical of a Jerez brandy, this Romate is aged in American white oak casks previously used for sweet oloroso sherry. When combined with the brandy notes, it almost begins to taste more like a tawny port. Needless to say it goes down very well after a meal.
Since this brandy was made in a 'steps and ladders' solera system, it's hard to say exactly how old it is. The best estimate is an average of 15 years, which is probably over the hump. For those looking to have a quiet sipper, Cardenal Mendoza may well be perfect but to the aficionado it can come off as slightly tame. Still, there's a lot of complexity to be found that might be best summarized as rum raisin ice cream with a kick — and a nightcap that thinks it's a dessert doesn't sound like a bad thing at all.
Romate is located in Jerez, Andalusia in southern Spain. Established in 1781 by Juan Sánchez de la Torre, it remains an independent distiller.