Review: Wahaka Mezcal Complete Lineup

WAH007 - Tobala

Mezcal is always fun, but it gets really fun when you can compare different styles and species of agave that are used to create this unique spirit.

Wahaka, based in the Tlacolula Central Valley region of Oaxaca, offers five different Mezcals — four joven (silver) varieties, and one reposado. We tasted them all. Thoughts follow.

Wahaka Mezcal Joven Espadin – Espadin is the most common strain of agave used for mezcal, and from the nose you would expect this to be a rather smokily pungent expression of the spirit. The body is quite another experience, though — quite gentle, with ample sweetness, notes of apples, and some green banana. Beyond the smoke-filled nose, it’s as gentle as mezcal gets, with its savory notes quickly fading as it leaves behind a mildly herbal but mostly fruit-filled finish. If ever there was a “starter mezcal,” this is it. 80 proof. B+ / $33

Wahaka Mezcal Joven Tobala – Tobala is a wild, small, high-altitude agave known for fruity notes. Here, the nose offers a distinctly sweeter note, one that is studded with notes of peaches but also herbal rosemary notes. The palate hits the tongue with dried tropical fruits and segues into notes of fresh pineapple and mango, filtered through a smoky lens. These notes go together surprisingly well, with an especially sweet and tropical finish. If the Espadin is starter mezcal, this is the perfect chaser — and quite a little delight that doesn’t just sip well on its own, it also mixes well. 84 proof. A- / $90

Wahaka Mezcal Joven Madre-Cuishe – Another wild agave strain, this mezcal presents with a more pungent and heavily peppered nose, offering ample sweetness but stuffing it with notes of smoked meats and a touch of molasses. On the palate, the sweeter house style endures, but considerable smoke and black pepper manage to dominate. Those looking for a burlier, meaty, and pungent mezcal will find it in this Madre-Cuishe expression That said, it is still accessible and quite engaging. 84 proof. A- / $90

Wahaka Mezcal Joven Ensamble – As the name implies, this is a blend — 50% Espadin, 25% Tobala, and 25% Madre-Cuishe. The nose is straightforward and mildly smoky, fairly in line with the Espadin. On the tongue, some citrus — oddly absent in the single-varietal expressions — leads the way, meandering into more of that green banana, brown sugar, and marshmallow notes. There’s plenty going on here, but balance is something of a concern, with Ensamble turning out to be a bit plain, something less than the sum of its parts. 80 proof. B+ / $90

Wahaka Mezcal Reposado con Gusano – A lightly aged reposado mezcal, origin unknown — worm (gusano) included. The nose offers more of a barbecue sauce character, with an orange juice kick. Much sweeter than the jovens, this reposado offers immediate notes of fresh mango and papaya, banana (again), and that barbecue character hitting hard on the finish. Smokiness takes a distinct back seat here, which is common in barrel-aged expressions. Fun as a diversion… plus you can ponder that worm staring at you. 80 proof. B+ / $47

wahakamezcal.com

Review: AsomBroso Ultrafino The Collaboration Barrel 1

asombroso

It’s been years (eight, actually) since we checked in with the exotically-bottled AsomBroso. These days you’ll find this high-end tequileria churning out luxe bottlings like this one — an 11-year-old French-oak-barrel-aged extra anejo that is finished in Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon casks, making it an awfully rare bottling in a world where 3-year-old spirits are considered ancient. And yet, as owner and master distiller Ricardo Gamarra tells me, “We are just a small family tequila company with my son Jarrett and myself running it.”

Gamarra sent along a small sample of The Collaboration for review, and it’s quite an exciting spirit. On the nose, a bouquet of almonds, cherries, and vanilla hit first — then a bouquet of milk chocolates fills the air. Lush caramel notes are followed by a lick of Christmas spices — ginger and cinnamon — and that’s all before taking a sip. On the palate, The Collaboration makes it clear at first that you’re sipping tequila. Agave, chewy and vegetal, strikes at the tongue, then the sweeter and more sultry elements make a reprise appearance. The finish layers on the marzipan, chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon notes, jumping among them for ages before finally settling into a cocoa-laden groove. The finish goes on and on, and it’s a tragedy when it finally fades away.

$1600 is a fortune to pay for a tequila, and it pains me to actually type this, but this is one time it might actually be worth it. It’s an incredible triumph.

80 proof.

A+ / $1600 / asombrosotequila.com

Review: Vida Tequila Reposado

vida reposado_newWe did the Blanco. We did the Anejo. Now it’s time for the final frontier, Vida Tequila’s Reposado bottling.

This tequila, aged a relatively lengthy six months in barrel before bottling, offers a quiet nose that is mostly sweeter notes. At first sip, it evokes gentle notes of caramel flan, melding burnt sugar with a dense creaminess. As it evolves on the palate, peppery agave comes to the fore, but it’s held in check by the sweetness, which turns toward notes of banana and a little milk chocolate.

All told, it’s got spice, it’s got sweetness, it’s got moments of brilliance, but mixes well while also drinking well on its own. A very well made reposado.

80 proof.

A- / $58 / vidatequila.com

Review: 1800 Coconut Tequila

1800 coconutFlavored tequila can be a mixed bag, and straight out of the bottle, 1800’s coconut-flavored expression smells exactly like Malibu — at least until you stick your nose into the glass, when sharp agave notes come to the fore.

On the palate, it’s a combination of the two, as the spirit bounces between notes of sweet coconut flakes and brash, green, and peppery blanco tequila (100% agave is used here, though), with very little else happening in between. A touch of pineapple hits the finish, but otherwise this is sugary coconut and punchy agave notes, trying to live side by side.

My mind struggles trying to figure out the appropriate use for the spirit, though. As a sipper the two styles never quite get together in a friendly enough way. As a mixer, the same issue applies — the tequila clashes with cola or another standard add-in.

That really leaves one option: Coconut margaritas, anyone?

70 proof.

C+ / $24 / 1800tequila.com

Review: Grand Mayan Silver Tequila

grand_mayan_3dsilver_r1_c2Commonly known as Grand Mayan 3D Silver Tequila, the name doesn’t have to do with special glasses you need to wear in order to drink the stuff. Rather, Grand Mayan’s fancily-bottled blanco is triple distilled, a rare occurrence in the tequila world because it’s thought to strip too much flavor from the spirit (which is normally just double distilled).

Grand Mayan Silver — “Very Special Tequila,” per the bottle — is a 100% agave Lowlands tequila that is one of the more gentle blancos on the market — a likely by-product (and intentionally so) of that triple distilling. The nose is modest, with some citrus, a bit of caramel, and peppery notes behind that. Nice start, but on the palate, it’s so quiet and restrained that you just might miss it. Light vanilla, lemon, and some allspice eventually come across as enduring notes that pair well with the moderately herbal underbelly. Given the quiet buildup, the short finish is not unexpected, and the mild tequila goes out without much fanfare.

If you’re the kind of person who loves to drink — and describe — their tequila as “smooth,” crawl, don’t walk, to Grand Mayan.

80 proof.

B+ / $48 / gmtequila.com

Review: t1 Tequila Extra Anejo Sensacional

Four years ago, the t1 Tequila (aka Tequila Uno) line hit the scene, a Highlands bottling with the standard three expressions on tap. Now t1 is back with a rarer expression: an extra anejo with 3 1/2 years of age on it. As with the other aged t1 tequilas, there’s a twist: Those years are spent not in the usual bourbon barrels but rather in Scotch casks.

Let’s give it a spin, shall we?

The nose kicks off with big agave and bright citrus notes — lemon and grapefruit — with a kind of smoky underpinning, giving it a hint of a mezcal character. On the palate, the tequila bursts with flavor — again, there’s far more agave than most extra anejos offer, with the intense vegetal character you usually only see in a blanco. As this fades, the tequila offers notes of black pepper, grapefruit peel, and barrel char. This lattermost note endures on the finish, giving Sensacional a distinctly whiskeylike character to it, with wood transporting it to another world.

Sensacional is certainly unique, but with that said, I’m not entirely sure that it works as well as it should. The use of Scotch casks really takes this into a different direction than any other XA I’ve encountered to date, with a heavy, almost overpowering barrel influence making itself known. What remains on the tongue when it’s said and done is something like a watery version of an Islay-heavy blend. Nothing exactly wrong with that, but not really what I wanted in my tequila.

84 proof.

B / $140 / t1tequila.com

Review: Tequila Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Directo de Alambique Silver Tequila, Reserva 2015

herradura

For the previous three years, Herradura has produced a limited edition tequila, each with a different twist. Those twists have all involved reposados with special barrel finishing — Port, Cognac, and Scotch casks, to be specific.

This year Herradura is doing something different. Not only is the tequila not finished, it’s not aged at all. It’s a silver tequila, “Directo de Alambique,” and it’s designed to showcase distilled agave at its purest. Fermented with natural yeasts instead of being inoculated, it is bottled directly from the still at 110 proof, no resting time provided.

What Herradura has here is a powerful and quite delightful exemplar of blanco tequila. The nose is sharp and peppery, with distinct lemon overtones. Clear agave character pervades, with nothing adulterating it. On the palate, a rush of flavor hits quickly — more citrus, laced with spicy notes including cinnamon, gingerbread, and light sandalwood notes. While quite warming, it is surprisingly balanced and easy-drinking, a very pleasant sipper with a lacy, just-right body. My only issue here is the finish, which eventually turns vegetal as it fades away. Agave… but a bit too much of it and a poor counter to the initial rush of citrus.

110 proof.

A- / $85 / herradura.com