Review: Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila 2016 Edition

cuervo RESERVA-2016 3 BOTELLA - lo_res

Jose Cuervo’s top-end bottling, Reserva de la Familia, is out for 2016. THis year’s box design was produced by Jorge Mèndez Blake, a Guadalajara native, who is “famous for merging different historical and geographical elements as he promotes Mexican art.”

This year’s expression immediately feels a bit spicier than the bottlings of the past, though not enough to change the character dramatically. The nose is clean and classic — clean agave, dark caramel, and some interesting lime zest and cayenne pepper notes. On the palate, again it comes across with well-matured caramel and vanilla notes, plus secondary notes of banana, orange peel, cloves, and oak-driven spices. The finish follows suit, racy with spices and a bit of heat.

Compared to all the prior expressions of Reserva de la Familia I have on hand (for reference, see 201520142012, 2010, and 2008), the 2016 is bolder and rounder, less sweet up front but with more peppery, savory notes on the finish. It’s not a massive departure, but it’s enough to raise an eyebrow or two, particularly given the consistency of this bottling year after year. That said, while you might miss the rush of brown sugar on the back end, what the 2016 replaces it with is equally compelling.

80 proof.

A / $150 / cuervo.com

Review: Milagro Tequila Select Barrel Reserve, Complete Lineup (2016)

milagro single barrel

Milagro is a run-of-the-mill tequila brand that nonetheless produces one of the most expensive product lines in Mexico, the Select Barrel Reserve line, which comes packaged in an elaborate bottle designed to look like an agave plant erupting from the interior of the decanter. It’s a neat trick that earns some premium coin for these three expressions.

We previously reviewed the silver Milagro SBR bottling back in 2010, but have never covered the rest of the lineup. Until now.

Here’s a fresh look at the 2016 silver bottling of the Select Barrel Reserve, plus the reposado and anejo versions.

All expressions are 80 proof.

Milagro Tequila Select Barrel Reserve Silver – Mellowed for 30 days in French oak before bottling (presumably after filtering back to clear). Strongly peppery and a bit vegetal on the nose, with no trace of sweetness. The body tells a much different story, offering cotton candy, marshmallows, and bubble gum notes, leading to a lingering vanilla-scented finish. A curious and often engaging sipping tequila, though one that doesn’t drink much like a silver at all. B+ / $50  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Milagro Tequila Select Barrel Reserve Reposado – Aged from three to six months in a combination of French and American oak. Similar aromas to the silver, though some baking spice aromas develop with time in glass. The body offers some wood notes, with notes of chocolate, coconut, and lemongrass. Some peppery agave bite endures on the finish, giving this more complexity than the silver shows off. A- / $56  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Milagro Tequila Select Barrel Reserve Anejo – Aged from 14 to 24 months in a combination of French and American oak. Here we see the SBR really showing its strengths. The nose melds sweet vanilla with peppery and herbal agave notes, all put together with inviting and enticing balance. On the palate, the yin-yang story continues — a more intense version of the reposado presenting itself. The sweetness is relatively restrained, its vanilla and spun sugar notes pulling back into a sort of sugar cookie character. The finish nods at herbaciousness, but this too is minimalistic in tone, adding a slightly savory balance to what is otherwise a sugar-forward spirit. All told it works very well, showing off many of anejo tequila’s more engaging characteristics at their best. A / $100  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

milagrotequila.com [BUY THEM ALL NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: Tequila Herradura, Complete Lineup (2016)

158084_Herradura_Family_Background_-_750_ml_preview

At Drinkhacker we have a habit of revisiting spirits every few years to see how things have changed. In the case of Tequila Herradura, this is our third time around with the brand (and the fourth for the silver expression). Our 2008 and 2012 reviews may serve as guidance and starting points for this re-re-review. Notably however this is our first encounter with Herradura’s luxe extra anejo, Seleccion Suprema.

The occasion for this new roundup was a San Francisco lunch with Ruben Aceves, International Director for Brand Development for Brown-Forman’s tequila operations (B-F has owned the brand since 2007). Aceves took me through the lineup while providing a deep history of Herradura. (All products were formally reviewed not during lunch but rather several weeks later.)

That said, while Aceves says that Herradura’s tradition-bound production process has not changed in years, climatic conditions impacting the agave harvest mean that Herradura, like all tequila, is evolving. How has this impacted the finished product? Let’s find out.

All expressions are 80 proof.

Tequila Herradura Silver – Racy and loaded with agave on the nose, sharp lemon notes leading to some sultry, earthy aromas. The body shows slight sweetness with ample agave character shining through, along with notes of citrus, some coconut, and a finish that leans slightly toward floral elements. The finish nods at brown sugar and honey, laces in some chocolate, and folds in a healthy slug of herbal agave notes. Definitely benefits from some air time, so give it up to an hour in glass before really digging in. B+ / $25

Tequila Herradura Reposado – Aged 11 months, forever in the tequilaverse. Soft and pretty, with clearer floral notes than the silver. The nose is engaging, offering ample vanilla and caramel, with, again, a hint of coconut. The palate is again soft, gentle, and slightly fruity with notes of mandarin oranges, vanilla custard, and just a twist of cracked black pepper. So easygoing it comes across as if it’s almost watered down, which makes it borderline dangerous. By way of comparison to the 2008 release which I still have on hand, it is clearly lighter in color, with less of an herbal component on the nose and the palate. The finish of the 2008 is quite a bit fruitier, too, giving it a bolder profile and a stronger conclusion. That said, I like the overall direction the expression has taken in recent years. A- / $34

Tequila Herradura Anejo – Aged 2 years. Heavy dessert notes attack the nose — chocolate, caramel, toasted coconut, and graham cracker. Sweet but not overblown, it’s immediately engaging, with a slap in the face of banana cream pie drizzled with caramel sauce. The finish is lightly peppery, edged with fresh herbs, notes of green apple, and a touch of barrel char. This expression seems to have changed the least over the years (which makes sense, because used bourbon barrels have not likely gotten much different), which suits it just fine. A- / $40

55122_Seleccion_Suprema_-_US_with_Closed_Gift_Box_previewTequila Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Anejo – Aged 49 months. Rich, gorgeous, and opulent — it’s a knockout from start to finish, kicking things off with a nose of dense caramel, chocolate, and an underbelly of herbal agave, the lattermost which is stronger here than in either the reposado or anejo. The palate is a showcase of candy shop delights, beginning with slightly salty caramel, and moving on to gobs of milk chocolate, ample coconut, almond brittle, and flambeed banana. Exotic raspberry notes emerge from absolutely nowhere late on the finish, which lasts for ages thanks to the bold and rounded power of the body (and yet, it’s just 40% abv). Everything fires on all cylinders, working together in near-perfect balance. Bottom line: This is a tequila that’s impossible not to like — nay, impossible not to love. 80 proof. A+ / $340

herradura.com

Review: Sangre de Vida Tequila and Mezcal, Complete Lineup

sdv tequila-anjeo-and-reposado

So here’s the story. I hope I have all the facts correct.

In 2009, Grace Kim Brandi founded of L.A.-based Elements Spirits, which makes KAH Tequila and packages it in unmistakable skull decanters, hand painted to honor the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. Elements was sued by the people that make Crystal Head Vodka, which comes is in a (clear) skull, which culminated in a business deal that resulted in the acquiring company taking over Elements’ legal defense. As of earlier this year, this case is still ongoing. At trial, a jury sided with Elements, but various appeals have given the Crystal Head owner the right to a new trial, citing misstatements in Elements’ original closing arguments.

Brandi left Elements in 2011 in a massive (and confusing) corporate and legal shuffle and did what any good entrepreneur does: In 2012 she founded Iconic Brands, which is now selling the Sangre de Vida tequila and mezcal product line, packaged in unmistakable skull decanters, also hand painted to honor the Mexican Dia de los Muertos.

Naturally, Elements sued Iconic over trademark infringement, citing that the decanters Sangre de Vida is using are confusing when compared to KAH’s. Iconic’s position is that Brandi herself owns the design rights, not Elements, and that Elements is supposed to pay Brandi a royalty for using the bottle design. The courts so far have sided with Brandi — though, as with the other litigation — this is still ongoing.

So while the courts settle all of this brouhaha over packaging, we actually remembered that there are spirits inside these little bottles and can see if they’re any good. With that in mind, let’s drop the legal briefs for a day and sample the three tequilas and one mezcal that SdV is marketing.

Thoughts follow.

Sangre de Vida Tequila Blanco – A fresh but somewhat flabby blanco, with a curious but appealing nose of fresh cream, milk chocolate, and restrained sweet agave. The palate showcases all of the above, in even heavier concentrations, with an almost milky body that layers in hints of almonds and cinnamon. There’s plenty to like here, but it doesn’t drink particularly like a blanco — and the finish is on the thin side. 80 proof. B / $40

Sangre de Vida Tequila Reposado – Overproof reposado, aged at least three months. A vastly different experience than the blanco, the SdV reposado is racy on the nose, punctuated with black and cayenne pepper, dense herbs, and overtones of ripe citrus. That sweetness that prevails so clearly on the blanco is also present here, though it becomes clearer after time in glass lets some of the alcohol vapors to resolve. The finish is spicy and warming, heavy on vanilla and banana notes over a relatively long fade-out. 110 proof. A- / $45

Sangre de Vida Tequila Anejo – Aged at least 12 months. Supple caramel and coconut aromas hit the nose, with herbal agave just a gentle hint. On the palate the tequila is quite sweet, with notes of toasted marshmallow, caramel, and butterscotch. Vanilla endures well into the finish, which only nods gently at pepper and earthy agave notes. I love a good anejo, but the sweetness here is a bit overpowering, dampening any residual agave character. B+ / $50

Sangre de Vida Mezcal – 100% espadin agave from Oaxaca, aged 60 days in oak. Warmly smoky, with winey and fruity notes on the nose.It starts off as rather plain for a mezcal, offering a garden-variety winey character, barbecue smoke, and notes of honey and fruit preserves. The finish is epic and not entirely in a good way, its cloying sweetness lingering for days, leaving the palate significantly out of balance and with any real sense of agave. 90 proof. B- / $50

sangredevida.com

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