Williams & Humbert

Factotum Fortified

Endless numbers of British, Dutch and other European families established wine and trading businesses in Andalusia, shipping barrels of wine and fortified goods back to their home countries.

The habit of adding grape brandy to the local wines could easily be traced back to these days, when a week’s long sea journey would leave you with nothing but rather unpleasant vinegar. Transporting wines from Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar, El Puerto or even the Douro valley in Portugal took quite a while, the low alcohol, rough climatic conditions and oxidisation on the transporting ships and boats transformed the much beloved wines. Fortification helped to stabilize the fermented must and a new category of drink was born.

Alexander William, married to Amy Humbert, was one of many Brits looking for a better life and business in Spain. Together with Amy’s brother, Arthur Humbert, he established “Williams & Humbert” in 1877, giving birth to an iconic Sherry house. Starting off with two half litre butts of Fino, a novelty outside of the producing country, they soon created “Dry Sack” and thereby formed a much beloved brand.

Since its humble beginnings, a little Pedro Ximenez has always been added to Amontillado and Oloroso, giving a slight sweetness and pleasant roundness to the blend which is still widely enjoyed today and the most popular expression of Williams & Humbert. Furthermore the gentlemen took huge effort in helping to establish not only the designated quality standard and Denominacion de Jerez-Xerez-Brandy but also the foundation of the regulating council, Consejo Regulador.


"If you like a bit of punch and more alcoholic buzz in your drink, go for the Gran Duque d’Alba brandy or Dos Maderas rum, also produced and bottled by the company"


The more recent history has been marked by purchases and a dubious intermezzo with the fraudulent Rumasa enterprise –but that’s a different story entirely. Nevertheless, today the company is firmly held in the hands of Medina family, who have long been involved in the business. First they were in charge of 50% of the company with the Dutch Royal Ahold owning the rest, but in 2005 Medina took control of the remaining half. Nowadays running under the name Bodegas Williams & Humbert S.A., business is flourishing and has also been expanded into other territories. Red wines from Ribera del Duero, Rueda or Rioja are part of the portfolio as well as cheese and Iberico pork goodies, comprised under the Medina del Encinar brand, with all of them being distributed by Sovisur sibling company.

More importantly -at least for this publication, in 2015 the bodega is one of the biggest wine cellars with roughly 180.000 square meters, housing more than 65.000 barrels filled with over 26 million litres of liquid gold. An estimated nine million bottles are filled and sold every year –the juice coming from 300 hectares own vineyards, like Las Conchas in Balbaina and Dos Mercedes in Carrascal. Nevertheless the huge output also demands additional purchase of grapes from independent growers, resulting in white label Sherries sold under various brands and names.

Apart from the “Dry Sack” range, consisting of Dry Sack Fino, Medium and Oloroso Solera Especial (bearing an age statement of fifteen years), there are “Don Zoilo” Sherries: Manzanilla and Fino with roughly about eight years of age, Amontillado, Oloroso, Cream and Pedro Ximenez all stating twelve years on the label. Alegria, Fino Pando and yet another Cream called Canasta offer more variety.

“As you like it” is the name of a rather unusual but highly interesting Amontillado with more than 30 years average age. Twenty seven wooden barrels were left untouched somewhere between other Canasta butts in the 1970’s and recently rediscovered and marketed. This delicate, highly complex wine shows finesse and great depth, all rounded off by just a hint of added Pedro Ximenez for sweetening.

The trend of exclusive high-class Sherries of VOS or VORS quality has also been adopted by Williams & Humbert with Dos Cortados Palo Cortado and Don Guido Pedro Ximénez, both VOS symbolizing 20 year’s worth of aging and Jalifa VORS 30 year Amontillado.

To make things even more “confusing” (in a rather positive way of course), the bodega is one of few specializing in “anadas” (wines coming from a single year) dating back to the 1950’s, very rare and highly sought after. Even a Fino was sold as vintage Sherry, an En Rama quality from 2006, a role model and premier for the whole region.

If you like a bit of punch and more alcoholic buzz in your drink, go for the Gran Duque d’Alba brandy or Dos Maderas rum, also produced and bottled by the company. Guilty pleasure will be provided by the Crema de Alba cream liqueur.

Make your pick and indulge on one of many superb products coming from one of the best established and most reliable producers in Andalusia.


Reinhard Pohorec is a young enthusiastic professional in the world of fine drinks and food. At the age of 26 he has gained wide recognition as international expert on everything...


"Williams & Humbert"

Factotum Fortified

Δημοσιεύτηκε στις 25/05/2015