Saturday, February 2, 2008

Tequila Tasting: Winchester

Every day, you can probably find a wine tasting somewhere. On some days, you can even go to three or more wine tastings. But tastings for spirits are rarer. So I was very interested when I learned that The Spirited Gourmet would be holding a tequila tasting.

They held the tasting at both their Belmont and Winchester stores. I stopped by at the Winchester tasting and they had twelve tequilas available, four different brands. Plenty of tequila to taste and compare.

I began my exploration with the Don Julio. A representative of Diageo was presenting the Don Julio and one Jose Cuervo. Don Julio Gonzalez Estrada launched his tequila in 1942 and it soon attained an excellent reputation. The company though was eventually bought by Jose Cuervo, though it still maintains its own identity. All of the tequilas in the Don Julio line are made from 100% blue agave and are twice distilled. There are five tequilas in their portfolio: Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, 1942 and Real.

Some of the Don Julio bottles are round, like a medium-sized ball. This was done for a specific reason. It is a common practice in Mexico for men to exchange gifts. The Don Julio bottle fits well in your hand and it can be given over as a gift, as like a handshake.

I began with the Don Julio Blanco ($55). It had a strong tequila aroma and on the palate was very smooth with a dominant tequila taste and a bit of citrus. A very nice tequila and it would be excellent in a Margarita or other cocktail.

The Reposado ($59) spends eight months in new American oak. Its tequila aroma is a bit milder than the Blanco. Its tequila taste was milder as well on the palate with some nutty flavors and a touch of caramel. Very smooth as well. This is certainly one of the top Reposados I have tasted.

The Anejo ($63) spends about eighteen months in new American oak. It has an even milder tequila aroma with a bit of nutty undertones. This is a very smooth, mild tequila with flavors of nuts and vanilla. It has a lingering finish and would be perfect just to sip and enjoy. There is nothing you need to mix to this tequila.

Though these were all excellent tequilas, I was blown away by the next one. The Don Julio 1942 ($139) was amazing! It was produced to commemorate the anniversary of Don Julio starting his tequila company. It has been aged for three years in American oak. Its tall bottle resembles a leaf from the agave plant. This was incredibly smooth, with a complex melange of flavors including a strong vanilla component. It had a very satisfying, lingering finish. This is something to savor, something that should please almost anyone. Yes, it is pricey but it is a superb product and I would pay the price for this tequila.

Finally, I got to taste the Don Julio Real ($314), their top of the line tequila. It comes in a stylish decanter, which you can keep once the tequila is gone. This tequila has been aged for four years in American oak. I felt like this was a higher end Anejo, a bit smoother, some more complex flavors including some citrus tastes. It has a very long finish and I enjoyed it. But it did not amaze me like the 1942. For me, the 1942 was far better than the Real. I think the Real is too expensive. For that much money, I want something superb, something far above the norm. And the Real just did not thrill me that much. Yes, it is an excellent tequila but just not that much better than their Anejo.

I also got to try the Jose Cuervo Platino ($56), which has only been on the market for about two months. This is a Blanco tequila but it comes from 10-12 year old blue agave plants as opposed to the usual 7 year old agave. You get a lot of citrus flavors in this tequila and it reminds me more of a Reposado than the usual Blancos. It is very smooth and its tequila flavors are milder than the regular Blanco.

Next, I moved on to the Cazadores and Corzo brands of tequila, both owned by Bacardi.

Cazadores is the Spanish word for "hunters", symbolizing the pursuit for a premium tequila. The label of their tequila bottles has a picture of a deer, which roam through the agave fields, eating the plants. Cazadores are made from 100% blue agave and are double-distilled. These tequilas are a bit less expensive than other tequilas.

I started tasting their Reposado ($39) which has spent 6-8 months in American oak. It was a good tequila, smooth and flavorful. I also tried their Anejo ($42) which spends 12-14 months in American oak. It was smoother than the Reposado with an interesting nutty flavor. Both are good buys.

The Corzo tequilas came next. They come in a tall, rectangular bottle with an intriguing pourer. These are considered ultra-premium tequilas as they are triple distilled. They also use only the heart of the hearts of the agave. It takes about 8 pounds of agave to make a bottle of Corzo, which is about twice as much agave as other tequilas.

They label their Blanco as a Silver tequila ($56). Its aroma is not as strong as the Don Julio Blanco. And neither is its taste. Which is likely due to the extra distillation. It is a smooth tequila with citrus notes as well as a touch of honey. An excellent tequila which would make very good cocktails.

The Corzo Reposado ($58) again had a milder tequila smell than the Don Julio Reposado. The Corzo Reposado was smooth with honey, caramel and nut flavors. It was also a touch sweeter than some of the other tequilas. An excellent tequila and I favored it more than the Don Julio. My preference is more just a matter of personal taste.

The Corzo Anejo ($63) was also excellent, with a bit more vanilla flavor mixing with the caramel and nut tastes. Very smooth, a long finish and a tinge of sweetness. Again, I think this tequila edged out the Don Julio Anejo by a little bit.

Generally, I preferred the Corzo tequilas though the Don Julio tequilas were excellent. You would not go wrong with either brand. The Cazadores were very good and a nice choice if you want something a bit less expensive. My overall favorite of the tasting though was the Don Julio 1942. That is a superb tequila for the true connoisseur. I will definitely buy a bottle of this tequila.

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