Those who love their liqueurs and have visited or lived in the Algarve at one time or another will almost certainly know the name Brandymel. Made since 1955 in Portimão by the local Cristina family and winner of many international prizes, the brandy and honey tipple has recently seen a bureaucratic detail strip it of its name. Now re-branded as Dom Cristina ­ in honour of the company’s founder Oliveiros Cristina ­, the family business is strongly set on getting the word out that, although the name has changed, “everything else is the same”. “This all happened after my father died,” David Cristina, 67, told Inside. “The brand was solely registered to my father, Oliveiros Cristina, and when my father died in the early ’80s, the brand had to be re-registered. However, I didn’t know that when I took over the business, and the warning letter that supposedly was sent out by Portugal’s brand registration body never made it to us.”

Unknowingly, the brand continued unregistered for 17 years until someone came along and registered it for themselves. The family went to court in a case that dragged on for another 15 years or so, and lost. But, with a never-say-die attitude and intent on keeping this family legacy alive, the founder’s descendants saw it as a chance for the brand to reinvent itself. “We decided to breathe some fresh air into the brand,” said David Cristina. But the family’s recipe, he says, is “as delicious as always”. In the early years, the Cristina family business was mostly known for its soft drinks, with the original Brandymel ­ a deliciously sweet golden tipple made with water, alcohol, brandy, honey and natural plant extracts, aged for at least eight months in oak barrels ­ first produced to keep the business going during the winter. Soon, it had stolen the show. Once produced at the company’s factory in front of Gil Eanes square in Portimão (which the family hopes to turn into a museum), the liqueur is currently being bottled in Castelo Branco, in the north of Portugal, with plans to establish a new production base somewhere on the outskirts of its native Portimão. For the time being, however, the Cristina family is focused on marketing a special edition of their liqueur, which is being sold without a name but with a little booklet featuring a brief overview of its history, before it is officially re-branded as Dom Cristina. “I remember when I was just a boy, we’d walk into a café and I’d be so proud to see one of our liqueur bottles on the shelves,” said David’s son, also named David Cristina, who is now in charge of the family business. “This liqueur is something that has defined our family. We are not re-launching it to make money. We want to protect our family’s legacy, our recipe and our values.” Whilst many remember it fondly as a home remedy to help fight colds, the liqueur has also won many international prizes, including gold medals in 2005 and 2008 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in the US and in 2008 at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in the UK. Besides being a regional and national hallmark, the liqueur is exported to a number of places abroad, including the USA, Germany and Australia. Its upcoming edition, ‘Licor Sem Nome’ (Liqueur without a name), is already available across the country. “Basically, we just want to get our story out there, and let people know that the only thing that has changed is our name,” said the younger David. “Our liqueur is the same.”

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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