Jabugo may be the most traditional denomination of ham, but the one that is considered the best and most international ham in the world comes from Guijuelo and is called Joselito. Born in this city of Salamanca in 1868, he will be 150 years old next year, Joselito was another quality ham three or four decades ago. Today it has gained the status of unsurpassed.

The company boasts that Joselito is present in 90% of restaurants with two or three Michelin stars and that it presides over the windows of the best cold meat shops delicatessen from the five continents: in no fewer than 65 countries, including China, which is also beginning to bow to the brand. Not to mention that they have a presence in Dubai at the only seven-star hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab.

And that’s exactly what inspires Joselito’s passions. The best Gourmet They roll their eyes when they taste it, especially his versions vintage. Robert Parker, one of the greatest gastronomic critics in the world, has dedicated passionate words to this exquisite ham, which he considers “the greatest culinary treasure of Spain and one of the best natural products in the world”. Chefs like Joël Robuchon, the French oenologist Oriol Domenech (Dom Perignon) or the dean of the Sorbonne, Jean Robert Pite, also declare themselves unconditional lovers of Joselito. Joselito has always been about quality, but if it has achieved the position it holds today among elite consumers, chefs and fine dining experts, it is thanks in large part to the work of the current owner and director. Jose Gomez, from the fifth generation of the family. Even if he points out that he has limited himself to following tradition and continuing the work of his previous generations, the reality is that since taking office (and even before) he has launched a spectacular series of initiatives that explain why Joselito has evolved from an optimal product to an excellent product recognized by gastronomy gurus, including the French.

world famous brand

It was important to the businessman early on to make Joselito a global brand. “Ever since I was little – he recalls – my whole dream was to be able to be in the best restaurants and in the best shops in the world.” In fact, before he assumed his current managerial position and was barely 20 years old, Gómez was already working in the export of Joselito products. The result of their efforts: while two decades ago the company hardly exported, “today we ship 25% of our production abroad”. Something achieved through meticulous, constant and tireless work: visits by chefs and opinion leaders to Guijuelo, presenting their products in the best restaurants and shops in the world; visiting trade fairs; Alliances with great chefs…

Gómez does not hide the fact that it was a difficult task: “Export requires a titanic effort. You don’t just have to explain the product, a lot of effort to explain it, taste it, put it in the places, but then also open the borders, sign protocols and much more.”

But Gómez from Guijuelo is a man without complexes. When he started working in foreign markets 27 years ago he wasn’t the least bit shy and turned up his Joselito at none other than Harrod’s in London, an exquisite and posh place to be found. I knew Londoners would approve. It was like this. Today the UK is one of its main markets.

“Our strategy – he continues – has always been to appear in the best points of sale and in the best gourmet shops, as well as in the most prestigious restaurants capable of appreciating the excellence of Joselito ham”. For years, Gómez has traveled the world singing the excellence of Spanish ham, particularly his own, in a kind of evangelistic work.

One of its milestones was the founding of the Joselito laboratory, an experiment in gastronomic creation based on its ham, to which it invites a great chef every year. For Gómez, “It’s like a metaphor, a laboratory of ideas around the Iberian pig and its possibilities”.

The project, created with his friend Ferran Adrià and his team, has expanded with the involvement of Michelin chefs such as Massimiliano Alajmo (Le Calandre, Italy), Jonnie Boer (De Librije, Holland) and Japanese Seiji Yamamoto.

All of this would not have happened if Gómez had not also given an aura to its products through a series of marketing initiatives that have proven to be very effective.

One of his brightest ideas was to Segment your products. As with wine, Gómez now offers its ham by vintage. In order to differentiate itself, the manufacturer has been developing a vintage line and its reserves for years. Some of these vintages, exclusive where they exist, have achieved staggering prices. One of them, six years old, fetched 40,000 euros at an auction.

Another brilliant initiative was the Creation of his Joselito collections, with which he addresses the effort to build a luxury product, sometimes almost unattainable for mere mortals, with very few units, but which proves effective in bringing sophisticated elements to the brand. In 2014 he presented the Joselito Premium 2014 collection, in which the Japanese sculptor Etsuro Sotoo, current chief sculptor of the Sagrada Familia, was commissioned to design a luxury packaging for his nine-year-old Joselito Vintage 2006 ham. The collection, for the lucky ones, was limited to 55 pieces. Absolute exclusivity!

Joselito, who made sales of around 40 million euros last year, has grown at double digits in recent years. A trend that will continue in the future. And there will be no surprises. Gómez remains uncompromising when it comes to quality, so much so that Gómez himself affirms that “the cost of production is irrelevant to our hams. The most important thing is to offer the maximum quality.” No one doubts that the brand’s prestige will go even further. And the sale too. Some of its main markets continue to grow. But his hams are still cured by hand in Guijuelo under the watchful eyes and noses of their supervisors. Nectar of the gods that makes Spain a brand.

Secrets of breeding and healing

Joselito’s work begins at the stage of genetic selection of pigs. The animals created by the Gijuelo company have long, slender hind legs, high ribs, a long, thin snout and meat with a very high level of oleic acid due to their diet and genetics. Breeding, determination phase. José Gómez boasts that his pigs are happy. And you are. Each of the 35,000 animals can roam freely on two to three hectares and pick the acorns, from which it eats seven kilos a day. Unlike other ham producers, José Gómez has his own farms, most of them in Extremadura, with thousands of hectares: “We have between 80,000 and 90,000 hectares between owned and leased land.” His concern for the environment and the sustainability of the space, in which the animals roam is so large that he has started a reforestation plan to ensure the continuity of these meadows. Joselito plants around 80,000 holm oaks and cork oaks every year. The goal is 2.4 million new trees in 30 years.

healing and something else. After the animal has been slaughtered comes the crucial part, which is the curing of the ham and other products. The great advantage of Guijuelo is that it benefits from exceptional climatic conditions that make it one of the ideal regions for the production of these specialties. “It’s a special microclimate, very dry and cold in winter,” explains Gómez. To these advantages are added their own quality standards, which they believe are maximum: “The only ham we make is Iberian acorn ham and only for three months a year at the end of March.”