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Thread: Neil's Ongoing Liquor Review - Tequilas

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    Default Neil's Ongoing Liquor Review - Tequilas

    Late for this month, (very late!) but In honor of Mexico’s victory over the French (The Cinco De Mayo celebration) this month focuses on a handful of upper end sipping tequila. Tequila, for all my taste buds enjoy it, does not agree with me. Not a hangover problem, but I tend to develop gout in my left big toe if I drink more than one or two tequilas. And considering I’ve broken my foot right below the affected joint several times, it’s no fun if it flares up.

    So this review was a long slow process, is more limited in scope than my whisky reviews, and was done slowly to avoid any painful episodes of limping! And that’s my excuse for it being late!

    Knowledge is good – Tequila education
    Tequila is a type of mescal, but not all mescal is tequila. Tequila is made only from the Blue Agave cactus while Mescal is made from various types of Agave. Tequila does not have a worm in the bottle, but the worm is in some brands of mescal. No one is really sure any more why, some say it’s a sign it’s genuine mescal (the worm lives in the agave plant) some say it’s to add a flavor to the mescal. In any case, it’s harmless to humans.

    By law, Tequila can only be produced in the following Mexican states: Jalisco, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Tamaulpais and can only be made from Blue Agave. Anything else produced in Mexico is considered a Mescal.

    The process of making tequila or mescal is pretty simple as it is for all liquors. First, the agave is harvested. The plant is commonly called a cactus but it’s really more closely related to the Lily plant. The agave is trimmed of leaves and is then cooked- either fire roasted or steamed, and then it is mashed, combined with water and yeast to ferment. Once fermented, the mash is then boiled to distill the alcohol and then it is distilled again for further purification of the spirit. Some distilleries may triple distill, and this creates a lighter more refined liquor, with a lighter character and flavor.

    Types of Tequila
    What happens next due to marketing and legal issues of what is considered tequila is where it gets confusing. These are the same types of issues that confuse people about whiskies.

    The popular Jose Cuervo Gold considered “good stuff” by most bars, is really a blended tequila. Not that is a bad thing, but it doesn’t offer a good quality sipping experience. To be called tequila, a bottling has to be made from a minimum 51% fermented juices of the blue agave. The balance is typically made from a grain alcohol or sugar cane alcohol. This type of blended tequila is usually called “Mixto”.

    You will also see “Joven” or “oro” tequila. This is un-aged tequila mixed with aged tequila or more likely, coloring and flavoring. This is a step up from Mixto blends but is still not really a good quality sipping tequila. Another classification of tequila, “Curado” are tequilas aged with fruit flavorings. These typically are made with Mixto or unaged tequilas. These can be very flavorful and add a nice flavor twist to mixed drinks. These Oro and Curado are perfect for most mixing needs.

    These blended liquors, diluted down with neutral grain spirits, exist for darn good economic reasons. These blends deliver some of the taste of the pure Tequila, Bourbon whiskey, Irish or Scotch whisky, etc, at a significantly reduced cost to the consumer. They give us fodder for mixed drinks, which is a very good thing. And it gives us something for serving to friends who lack taste buds. Frankly, it makes me wince to see people mix Cola with Henessy cognac or 7-Up with Corralejo tequila. Buy a reasonably good brand of mixto or joven tequila and save some money if you are making mixed drinks.

    So while most people tend to think of tequila as something to be taken as a shot with a beer, or mixed as a margarita, tequila sunrise, jello shot, etc. There are a number of high quality tequilas available that deserve to be sipped and enjoyed for the depth of aroma and taste they offer someone whom appreciates finer food and drink. It’s time to take a look at quality sipping tequilas. From here on, we are only talking about 100% pure Blue Agave tequilas.

    Once distilled, a pure tequila will be bottled or aged. If not aged, it’s called “plata” or “blanco”(silver or white). Aged for a short period of time, at least two months, it is “reposado”(rested). If aged for a longer period of time, at least 1 year, it’s “anjeo”(aged). Recently, the term “Extra Anejo” has been introduced for tequila aged a minimum of 3 years. Tequila may be aged longer, but in hot temperatures typically found in Mexico, the alcohol evaporates quickly, and the economic loss due to evaporation can be significant. So, you are less likely to find very old tequilas like you would scotch or bourbons. When you do find older tequilas, they may be labeled “Reserva”.

    Like any liquor, the distiller has certain goals in mind for their products. As a result, there is quite a bit of difference in tequilas, just as there is any type of liquor you find on the market. Smokey, earthy, light, fruity, dry, sweet, tart, pungently sour. It all comes down to the master distiller and their sense of aroma and taste and the goals of the distillery.

    Here are some of my choices to get you started on the road to Mexican Tequila heaven. I’ve included a few easy to find and a few hard to find tequilas. None of these tequilas should be gulped as shots. They can be mixed although I discourage that strongly in most cases, and make note of where I do think it’s a good mixer. These can be taken with salt and lime but it’s best to sip them alone or with some water to sip and cleanse the palate. Then, if you insist, try it with salt and lime.

    As a nice variation, you can try good quality tequilas with sangrita on the side. If you don’t know what sangrita is, here is a basic recipe.

    4-5 medium size very ripe tomatoes, seeds removed, skinned and mashed into a paste
    Juice of 3 oranges- bottled OJ is OK, but avoid “made from concentrate”.
    Juice of 1-2 medium limes
    1 small white onion very finely chopped or pureed
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    1 finely diced ancho chile pepper or 1 finely diced small chipotle pepper- optional
    Tabasco or Chipoltle sauce to taste- optional
    Combine ingredients well, by hand if you like a more chunky texture, in a blender if you like smooth and no chunks. Add more lime or orange juice, seasonings to taste. I like it very tart. Let sit to develop the flavors well. Serve well chilled in a glass separate from the tequila.
    --
    Wasting away again in Margaritaville…
    Time for tasting!

    Cazadores Anejo
    Color: Pale straw
    Nose: Light, crisp agave fruit, some light vanilla, oak, hint of smoke
    Mouth: Oily, medium bodied
    Taste: Very clean, fruit, vanilla, flavors linger
    Finish: Smooth, long
    Note: A very nice light sipping tequila with good balance of flavors.

    Cazadores Reposado
    Color: Pale straw
    Nose: Light, clean, fruit, oak
    Mouth: Light to medium body
    Taste: Agave fruit, some earthiness, light vanilla, hint of smoke, a hint too much of an earthy musty taste.
    Finish: Smooth, light warmth at the very end
    Note: Almost as good as the anejo version, a bit of mustiness keeps this from being as good as the anejo.

    Centenario Anejo
    Color: Pale gold
    Nose: Light fruit, some oak, a hint of spice
    Mouth: Medium to full body
    Taste: Light, crisp, agave and a bit of spice and oak.
    Finish: Long and warm, clean and crisp fruit re-appear.
    Note: Guess what distillery this came from? This is the same distillery that makes the 1800 range. The parent company that now owns the Cuervo label also owns the Skky Vodka brand. The quality of this tequila and the 1800 Anejo really shows there is something good happening at the distillery in quality.

    Corralejo Reposado
    Color: Very light, almost clear
    Nose: Fruity, herbal, mint, smoke
    Mouth: Medium bodied
    Taste: Herbal first, then smoke, somewhat dry, and minty.
    Finish: Medium, warm, smooth
    Note: This tequila is almost not a tequila to my taste buds. It’s very good, but has very less tequila aroma or flavor than expected. It’s best sipped neat, don’t mix this one at all. I like this as an apertif, try it from the freezer like good quality vodka.

    Corralejo Anejo
    Color: Light, clear gold
    Nose: Fruity, smoky
    Mouth: Medium bodied
    Taste: Agave, salty, smoky, herbal
    Finish: Long, warm, smooth
    Note: More tequila character to taste than the Reposado, smoother, but very close to the reposado. A really good tequila to enjoy after a meal.

    Corazon Blanco
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Fruity, light grassiness
    Mouth: Light to medium bodied
    Taste: Clean, fresh agave and citrus
    Finish: Smooth, medium length
    Note: This is wonderful tequila, very easy to sip and enjoy, but with enough character to keep your taste buds busy. To be stocked in my cabinet when room appears.

    Corzo Blanco
    Color: Clear
    Nose: Light agave, oak, fruit
    Mouth: Light bodied
    Taste: Light agave, sweet, crisp fruit, oak
    Finish: Medium finish, lingering flavors
    Note: This is a very good tequila, lots of agave in the finish but not in the taste. I like this one with a few cubes of ice, just enough to chill it slightly.

    Corzo Anejo
    Color: Light brown gold
    Nose: Agave, then some smoke, citrus overtones
    Mouth: Medium to full bodied
    Taste: Very well balance, fruit, citrus, smoke, agave mingle nicely
    Finish: Long, warm, smooth, lingers
    Note: This is another wonderful tequila, the bottle is very neat and makes a nice display for the booze. Both of these Corzo bottlings need to somehow appear in my cabinet.

    El Jimador
    Color: light pale gold
    Nose: Lightly fruity, some oak, herbal
    Mouth: Light bodied
    Taste: Light fruit, oil, earthy overtones
    Finish: Short
    Note: This is a very easy to drink tequila, I included this since it’s versatile tequila. Just good enough to drink neat, but at it’s best mixed. Not a lot of aroma or depth of flavor but easy to drink and smooth.

    Herradura Reposado
    Color: Gold, yellowish
    Nose: Very pungent agave, some citrus and vanilla
    Mouth: Medium body
    Taste: Spicy, some herbal overtones, then the agave fruit stands out
    Finish: Smooth, long finish, more spice and agave
    Note: Pretty versatile Tequila, enough flavor and bite to make a good mixer, but also good enough to be served neat.

    1800 Anejo
    Color: Brown
    Nose: Agave, Oak, smoke, brown sugar
    Mouth: Medium to Full bodied
    Taste: Sweet, good balance of agave, smokiness and oak
    Finish: Long, smooth
    Note: Surprisingly, I include another two Cuervo products. Cuervo does not use the Cuervo name on this bottling. The standard 1800 you see in bars is not what I’m talking about here. Look closely at the labels and make sure you get the 1800 Anejo. In a blind tasting, this came out very well with not only me for depth of flavor, balance, and nose, but for a friend of mine who helped me on this tasting and stocks high end tequila for his restaurant.

    Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado
    Color: Light gold
    Nose: Fruity flowery, a hint of bite in the nose
    Mouth: Very light at first, then it develops to medium bodied.
    Taste: Agave fruit, vanilla, and an earthy oily texture appears
    Finish: Short, but smooth, mild heat
    Note: A pretty darn good smooth tequila, but not very complex except for the way it gets heavier in body as you sip. This one seems to be best mixed or just on the rocks with ice and a wedge of lime to my taste buds.

    Sauza Tres Generaciones Anejo
    Color: Light gold clear
    Nose: Fragrant agave fruity, brown sugar overtones
    Mouth: Light to medium bodied
    Taste: Very crisp, agave stands out, some hints of lemon, smoke, oak
    Finish: Warm, lingering flavors, some spice, hint of bite.
    Note: This was one of my first encounters with higher end tequila years ago. I still like it but it has dropped down on my list of high end booze due to the influx of other very well produced tequilas like Corralejo, Corazon and Corzo.


    Salud!
    Last edited by Neil Yamamoto; 21st November 2008 at 19:34.

  2. #2
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    Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the review. Definitely picked up some good information.

    Where does Silver Patron fit into here?

    Jeff
    There are rules for learning the art:

    1. Think of what is right and true.
    2. Practice and cultivate the science.
    3. Become acquainted with the arts.
    4. Know the principles of the crafts.
    5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything.
    6. Learn to see everything accurately.
    7. Become aware of what is not obvious.
    8. Be careful even in small matters.
    9. Do not do anything useless.
    Miyamoto Musashi


    My Wakizashi Project

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    Patron Silver is a very good tequila, just not one I chose to review. No particular reason, but I wanted to include a few hard to find tequilas and Patron is pretty much found everywhere, so I just didn't include it.

    My take on Patron Blanco

    Color: Clear
    Nose: Heavy, a wet cement earthiness
    Mouth: Medium to full body
    Taste: Lots of agave, but a musty earthiness, oil cuts the fruit of the agave.
    Finish: Medium to long, clean at first, with a hint of bite, some more agave and a hint of dirt in the end.
    Notes: A very good tequila if you like a heavier blanco tequila in nose and taste. This one to my taste anyway is well suited to mixing. Instead of serving it neat I think a bit of ice actually smoothes it out nicely

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    Hi Neil,

    Thanks for the information. If I was going to host a tequila party and have like 3 or 4 for people to taste/drink, which ones would you recommend?

    Thanks,

    Jeff
    There are rules for learning the art:

    1. Think of what is right and true.
    2. Practice and cultivate the science.
    3. Become acquainted with the arts.
    4. Know the principles of the crafts.
    5. Understand the harm and benefit in everything.
    6. Learn to see everything accurately.
    7. Become aware of what is not obvious.
    8. Be careful even in small matters.
    9. Do not do anything useless.
    Miyamoto Musashi


    My Wakizashi Project

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    Corzo Anejo
    Corazon Blanco
    1800 Anejo
    Gran Centenario

    Clase Azul if you can find it, is one I left out of the review since I can't find my notes on it. If you can find it, is one of the finest tequilas I've ever had. It's now available in the US and is expensive, but I've not seen it on shelf in WA state yet. I don't know about the blanco, but the reposado and anejo are worth buying and hiding away as a special treat for yourself.

    This ain't cheap to do, any of those bottle I mention are anywhere from about $35 on the low end for the 1800 Anejo to about $90 for the Clase Azul Anejo.

    Have a great tasting!

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    Neil:

    What do you think about Lapiz Anejo?
    Robert Cronin

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    Unfortunately, Lapiz - Lapis is one tequila I've not tried. I've read about it, but never had a chance to taste it. When I was in CA, I saw it on the shelf but skipped the chance to pick any up or taste it.

    From what I've read, I'd say it's one to keep an eye out for trying. This is from La Tequilena distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, and is regarded as a well run operation from what I've read. They turn out artisanal tequilas, which are of high quality in all the reviews I've seen.

    Sticks in my mind, since Lapiz means pencil, and the company really meant Lapis, as in the gemstone. Older bottlings were released with lapiz on the bottle. Struck me as funny, "Old pencil" tequila.

    If you try it or have tried it, please share your opinion.

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    I really like the Lapiz Anejo. I picked up a bottle of it a few years ago when I was in Guadalajara. The hotel where I stayed had an incredible tequila bar, and I was able to sample some truly amazing tequilas. I picked the Lapiz because it was one of my favorites of the trip, and was a little less expensive than some of the other fine tequilas. Plus, it has a very cool blue pyramid-shaped bottle.

    My wife actually didn't believe me when I told her that this tequila was not to be consumed in mixed drinks. It was only after numerous lecturing and whining that she agreed to not make margaritas with it. That, and the price I finally had to confess paying for it.

    Strangely enough, when I was down in Mexico a few months ago visiting some family in the Lake Chapala area (in Jalisco not far from Guadalajara), I wasn't able to find any Lapiz or some of the other high-end tequilas in the local liquor store. I had hoped to buy a bottle for my hosts, as they had just moved down there and had not had the opportunity to sample a nice tequila. I will just have to look harder when I go back down there next time or make a trip into Guadalajara.
    Robert Cronin

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    Lake Chapala has got a great reputation among retired LEO and military personnel as the place to retire, since it has good climate, good housing and good medical close by, and is very reasonable in costs too.

    We were trying to get Bernie Lau to retire there, since we could go visit him and have a place to stay, but it looks like he's going to go to retire in Chile eventually.

    Robert, if you still have the bottle, use the format I have used for my tastings and do a review of your own. Or if you want, send me the bottle and I'll do it for you, it might take most of the bottle to make sure I get it right, but... I'll return what's left, really!

  10. #10
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    Ha!

    I'll do a review when I get back from vacation in a week or so.

    Lake Chapala is very nice. My family members that retired there continue to be more and more pleased with their decision to move there from Florida. The climate is ideal, the people are incredibly friendly, cost of living is low, healthcare is excellent, and it is easy to get to and from for travelling. The only negative was that they got into a car accident after they moved there, and it is taking close to 9 months to get their vehicle repaired.
    Robert Cronin

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