Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Partida Tequila: A Winner

While growing up, tequila was a popular drink. The standard tequila shot with a lemon and salt. The lemon and salt helped mellow out the usual rough tequila taste. And if someone got sick from drinking too much tequila, they often swore off the drink. It made such a negative impression on them. Lucky for me, I never got sick on tequila.

Times have changed. Fortunately, the types of tequila available have increased and their quality is much better. There are now some incredibly smooth tequilas, ones that need no lemon or salt to mellow them. They are already as mellow as any drink needs to be. They also have far more complex flavors. Patron Tequila has been one of my favorite tequilas, especially their Anejo.

Just a couple quick facts. All tequila must be distilled from blue agave grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco. A tequila must legally contain at least 51% blue agave. But the best tequilas are made from 100% blue agave.

I recently received some samples of a relatively new tequila, Partida Tequila. Partida Tequila was created through a partnership of Gary Shansby, a San Francisco-based marketer and brand builder, and the Partida family, who own a leading blue agave estate in Amatitan, Jalisco. The Partida estate lies near a dormant volcano and has been in their family for about 100 years.

Partida Tequila is created with a blend of traditional Tequila making and cutting edge technology. First, they only use blue agave from the Partida estate, unlike some other distillers who use agave from numerous growers. So it is like an estate wine in that respect. This allows them to better control the cultivation of the agave. They only use agave that has been cultivated for 7-10 years, until the piñas are large, ripe and contain concentrated sugars. They are then harvested by hand.

Next, rather than cooking the agave in the old-fashioned way, in stone ovens, Partida Tequila uses state-of-the-art stainless steel ovens to bake their agave over a period of 20 hours. This helps to ensure the freshness of the agave.

After the agave has been baked and then shredded, the fermentation process begins. The agave juices ferment slowly for 36-40 hours creating the raw spirit which is then ready for distillation. It is then twice distilled.

Once the distillation is complete, some of the unaged tequila is bottled as Partida Blanco. The rest of it will then be aged for their other tequila products. These tequilas will be aged in one-pass Jack Daniels American oak barrels. They do not use any additives or coloring agents.

The Partida Blanco (suggested retail of $50) is noted as: "Boasting a soft floral aroma and blended perfectly with hints of citrus, fresh herbs and tropical fruit, this crisp tasting Tequila lingers on your palate, leaving it feeling clean and fresh."

I found this tequila to be fairly smooth with a mellow taste. There are hints of citrus notes and it has a clean taste. This would certainly be an excellent tequila to use in cocktails. You could even drink this straight up if you wished. Definitely no need for lemon or salt. And with the excellent quality of this tequila, I had high expectations for their other tequilas.

The Partida Reposado (suggested retail of $58) is noted as: "This aged Tequila delivers subtle flavors that Tequila drinkers may have not thought possible. Free of the overbearing smoky flavor common to most Reposados, this Tequila is in a class by itself. Its enticing light amber color with splashes of golden tones gives this premium Tequila its brilliant appearance. A rich finish topped off with scents of vanilla, hazelnut and almond."

During my recent poker night, I brought my Partida Reposado along with some Patron Reposado. I was very impressed with the Partida. It was smooth and had a definite tequila taste, some smokiness and a bit of a nutty undertone. A few of my friends also tried the Partida and they enjoyed it very much as well. No one had any complaints at all about it. I also have to say that I actually preferred the Partida to the Patron, as it seemed a bit smoother.

The Partida Anejo (suggested retail of $67) is noted as: "With its rich golden color - a mix of ochre and copper tones - the Partida Anejo is packed with zest. Its fruity aroma comes from a light blend of cherry, almond, dried fruit and spices. As for its captivating taste…soft honey fruited tones blended with flavors of banana, chocolate and sweet pear."

On a different night, I tried the Partida Anejo. This was also a very smooth tequila, even smoother than their Reposado. It leaves a warm feeling in your chest without any burn or bitterness. I did get some subtle notes of honey and dried fruits. This is an interesting sipping tequila, with subtle complexity. This Anejo is certainly comparable to the Patron Anejo and other premium Anejos I have tasted.

They also have Partida Elegante, an extra anejo tequila which was aged in oak for three years. This is a limited edition tequila costing about $350 a bottle. This tequila comes in a gift box and the bottle has a crystal top. The bottle can actually be used as a decanter once the tequila is gone. The bottle also comes with a silver Spirit bird on a black leather strap which you can wear as a necklace. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to try the Elegante.

Overall, the Partida Tequilas very much impressed me. They are smooth, fine tasting tequilas with complex flavors. They certainly are at least comparable, if not better, than other premium tequilas on the market. If you enjoy high-end tequila, then I strongly recommend you give Partida a try. It won't disappoint.

You can check out the Partida Tequila website for more information, as well as many different cocktail recipes.

Unfortunately, Partida Tequila is not currently available in Massachusetts. Let us hope that it arrives soon so we can enjoy these fine tequilas.

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