Wednesday, June 23, 2010

One Tequila, Two Tequila

by Rob Bralow, Wine Post Editor

Drinking tequila to excess is the quintessential American rite of passage. At bars across the country, 20-somethings are giving each other cheap shots of Jose Cuervo or Sauza. However, the super-premium category of tequila has grown by almost 33% since 2002, which means more people are thinking of tequila as a premium liquor and not just as a binge drink.

The base fruit used to make tequila is the blue agave, a spiky succulent (a plant that retains water. eg. a cactus) that is related to the yucca plant. The plant requires between eight and fifteen years of growing before it is ready to harvest. When you consider how much tequila is consumed at frat parties, there must be an extremely large area where the blue agave is grown (some people call it Mexico).

Tequila has several types that it comes in:

Blanco ("white") or plata ("silver"): clear spirit, aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels and then bottled
Joven ("young") or oro ("gold"): is the result of blending Silver Tequila with Reposado and either Añejo or extra Añejo Tequila
Reposado ("rested"): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels
Añejo ("aged" or "vintage"): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in oak barrels
Extra Añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged"): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels

Like Spanish wine regions, Mexico has a governing body that oversees the production of tequila called the Consejo Regulador del Tequila. The Consejo enforces the regulations regarding the aging and labeling of all tequila and allows the use of its mark, which is the letters CRT inside of a box, to show that the tequila has met the requirements for how it is labeled (Blanco, Reposado, etc.).

So how is tequila doing? Just fine I think. I sat down with two expert taste specialists with many years of tequila experience, Leah and Heather. That might be over stating the truth slightly, but regardless we had some interesting insights. For this tasting we did not have a very wide selection to taste from, but I thought you might be interested in our notes. Each of these tequilas we tasted by itself with a splash of water (<1 oz) to release flavors and aromas.


1800 Silver - Our first thought was, "yup, that smells like what I remember." Sweet tropical fruit on the nose, with the taste being very 'hot' from the alcohol. Similar to a sugared lime flavor.

Partida Blanco - A much lighter style, with a good deal of mineral aromas. It reminded me of the smell of rain. The flavor was earthy, with a smooth heat that added another enjoyable level to the flavor.

Dulce Vida Organic Blanco - Tropical fruit smells with a nice minerality in the background. The taste was rounder, with more mineral and grassy flavors than the other two.


Partida Reposado - The nose had great candied apple, rich with caramel and an overall floral background. The taste was smooth and light, confirming on the palate what was on the nose.

Dulce Vida Organic Reposado - Layered with caramel, cedar box, and lighter mineral aromas, carried by a smooth heat. The taste was a little hotter as the alcohol began to show through, but the caramel overture was well integrated.


Partida Añejo - Here the alcohol started to take over. The smell was all hot caramel and toasty aromas. The flavor was much sweeter, showing caramel, vanilla, and slightly singed sugar.

Dulce Vida Organic Añejo - Here the fruit came out. Passion-fruit and sweet melon, with more barrel toasty aromas. The palate confirmed the nose, giving up lots of melon and caramel.

Flavored - It was almost unfortunate, but I was sent several flavored tequilas, obviously to be used in mixed drinks.

Tanteo Jalepeño - Spot on the money, with a big whiff of jalepeño on the nose. The taste was a little sweeter than pure jalepeño spice, but there was just enough spiciness to make my mouth heat up.

Tanteo Tropical - Hello fruit! Not sure what fruit, but definitely tropical. The taste was a very muddled grouping of sweet fruitiness.

Tanteo Chocolate - The smell was dried chocolate, like the powered mixes from Hershey's or Nestle. The flavor was like a weak Nestle Quick.

Premixed Products Probably the worst group we tasted, the premixed margarita substitutes, for when you don't have time to put the ingredients in a blender and would rather pull it directly out of the fridge and into your mouth.

SkinnyGirl Margarita - What is skinny about alcohol? Not a whole lot, but evidently the SkinnyGirl Margarita wants to appeal to the Sex and the City wannabe demographic. I thought this was absolutely disgusting, but the two girls I tasted it thought there was nothing wrong with the drink. Maybe I forgot to rinse my mouth out from the last tequila I had tasted, but this was not a pleasant experience. Maybe I just prefer 'Fat Ass Margarita' instead.

El Jimador Margarita - First of all, this came out of a can. Now, I enjoy things that come out of cans just fine, but I was skeptical to begin with for this product. I poured it into a glass and took a smell. Nothing. Then I tasted it. Slightly sugared fizz. Seriously, this could be the most dangerous binge drinking product I have ever seen. Completely odorless and tasteless with 5% alcohol (roughly a beer).

El Jimador Paloma - Same as above, with a slight tendency towards egg cream soda. If you have never had an egg cream, you are definitely missing something, but perhaps you should try one not out of a can and not made with tequila.

El Jimador Spicy Mango Margarita - Seriously, same as the first margarita from El Jimador, with maybe a hint more citrus. In a blind setting I am not sure I could tell the difference.

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