Category Archives: Tequila

Review: Mina Real Mezcal Silver

mezcal mina real bot high 141x300 Review: Mina Real Mezcal SilverOaxaca-based Mina Real is 100% agave mezcal that is made with a hybrid modern and historical technique. Per the company: it is “made from agave that has been steam-roasted in low pressure brick kilns in order to highlight the plants’ bright highland flavor and floral bouquet without the layers of smoke traditionally found with wood-roasted mezcal agave.”

And yet Mina Real is still smoky. The nose offers an aroma of barbeque pits, sweetened up with a touch of honey. On the tongue, this sweetness is even stronger than you’d expect, with a mouth-coating viscosity that layers your tongue and throat with jammy liquid. It’s got a deep flavor of blood oranges, strawberries, and some green pepper/green bean notes — all laced with lightly smoky touches. I’m not sure it comes together the way the distillery may have hoped, but it’s definitely a mezcal for newcomers who aren’t thrilled by smoke to try — though that uncharacteristic sugariness may be ultimately misleading.

A reposado bottling (pictured) also exists, but we have not seen it for review.

84 proof.

B- / $30 / haas-brothers.com

Review: Tapatio Blanco 110 Tequila

tapatio 110 proof 93x300 Review: Tapatio Blanco 110 TequilaDoes tequila need to be 110 proof? No, but does it hurt?

Such are the questions you might ponder while sipping Tapatio 110, aka Tapatio B110 (the B is for Blanco). It’s essentially the same as the 80-proof Tapatio Blanco, but bottled at a hot hot hot 110 proof. Highland tequila, 100% agave, spends 6 months resting in stainless steel before bottling.

From the nose I would have had no idea this was overproof tequila. It’s fresh, full of lemon/lime notes, solid but hardly overpowering agave, and hints of caramel sauce. Alcohol? It’s there, but not the mega-burn you’re probably expecting.

On the tongue, again, it’s not at all overwhelming, and it’s easy to sip straight, even without water or a mixer. Notes here include fresh lemongrass (with a slight vegetal note to counter the citrus), creme brulee, chewy agave, and a lengthy finish that dances in the flames between scorched vanilla notes and elemental fire. Here’s where the overproof body makes itself known — for a long, long while at that. The finish isn’t so much a mouth-scarring alco-burn but rather a warming, fireside experience that stays with you for the better part of two minutes after a single, tentative sip until it vanishes and leaves behind a cleansing glaze, almost like a mouthwash. Believe me: This is a pleasant and comforting sensation, not the excruciating trip to hell that you might associate with the words “tequila” and “burning.”

A gorgeous, lush, and totally unexpected experience, this is a tequila to seek out and savor as a sipper — yet would also make one hell of a margarita.

A / $42 per 1 liter bottle / charbay.com

Review: Aga Vie Esprit D’Agave

aga vie 143x300 Review: Aga Vie Esprit DAgaveWhat is it about the French and tequila? First Given blends tequila with lime juice and grape juice in Cognac, France, and now there’s Aga Vie, a commingling of blanco tequila and Cognac that have been (re-)distilled together into one oddball spirit. (This distillation removes whatever color is left behind, namely from the Cognac.)

Describing Aga Vie leads terms that are exactly as you’d expect: The nose is sweet like tequila, and the body offers an agave punch plus some of that brandied sweetness. To dig into the details, when you first get a whiff of Aga Vie, imagine not blanco but reposado tequila (there’s some wood in there), with a little honey thrown into the mix. On the palate, things get weird. The tequila’s there — though it’s not particularly definable beyond indistinct agave notes — but it’s considerably overpowered by the sweetness of the Cognac. Aga Vie doesn’t delineate the proportions of tequila to brandy in this spirit, and it’s hard to tell whether a little expensive Cognac goes a long way in a lot of cheaper tequila or whether it’s the other way around, but either way the mixture will be confusing to anyone who’s accustomed to drinking either of the two. The vanilla notes from the Cognac make you feel like you’re drinking an older tequila stock at first, but the impression soon fades as a hefty sweetness takes hold on your throat. The spirit ends with a mouth-coating candy-like character that is hard to shake and which, all things considered, is the only part of the experience that isn’t particularly satisfying.

The natural question you might ask next is: But why? Why would you take perfectly good tequila and Cognac and blend them together? The official story on the Aga Vie website evokes the French occupation of Mexico (a brief period in the country’s history), but I doubt anyone was mixing up tequila and Cognac during those years. Whether we should be doing that now is left as an exercise for the reader.

B- / $45 / agavie.com

Review: Apocalypto Reposado Tequila

apocalypto tequila 300x197 Review: Apocalypto Reposado TequilaStunt bottlings are increasingly common, but a ceramic half-man/half-jaguar (with tongue sticking out) that contains reposado tequila, well, that’s a new one even for me.

Apocalypto is 100% agave tequila, sourced from the Jalisco lowlands and aged for more than six months in ex-Bourbon barrels before getting the half-jaguar treatment.

Never mind the decanter. Here’s how the stuff inside measures up.

Very, very sweet, particularly for a reposado. There’s tons of caramel, marshmallow, and butterscotch on the nose. This carries over in spades to the body, which is slightly chocolate-driven, too. The finish is curious: Clear red pepper notes that pop as the tequila fades. Terrible in a margarita — unless you like overpowering caramel — but more fun on its own.

80 proof.

B+ / $39 / apocalyptotequila.com

Review: Sombra Mezcal

sombra mezcal 175x300 Review: Sombra MezcalSombra is Oaxaca-area mezcal (from the village of San Juan Del Rio, specifically), made from organic espadin agave grown at 8000 feet.

An unaged mezcal, Sombra offers immediate and heavy smoke on the nose, more barbecue than forest fire. There’s a strong undercurrent of sweetness as well — almost a tangy apple, or perhaps applewood smoke, at least.

At 90 proof, the extra alcohol is immediately evident on the body, creating an instant level of fire that goes along with the smoke. There’s ample fruit: Again, apples, but also cherries and some banana, particularly on the finish, which offers very ripe banana, caramel, and popcorn notes. These are some interesting flavors in a mezcal, but it doesn’t all come together perfectly, never quite melding the savory and the sweet in a way that truly great mezcals manage to do.

Still, a quite drinkable little potion.

B / $34 / sombraoaxaca.com

Review: Qui Platinum Extra Anejo Tequila

qui tequila 225x300 Review: Qui Platinum Extra Anejo TequilaFollowing in the footsteps of Maestro Dobel and Don Julio 70 comes Qui, a clear-as-a-bell tequila that has nonetheless been well-aged in oak barrels.

Qui markets itself as the world’s first extra anejo tequila, distinguished from Don Julio (anejo) and Dobel (a blend of various age tequilas). It also distinguishes itself by being pretty darn good.

Qui is 100% Highlands double-distilled agave which is aged for 3 1/2 years in ex-Bourbon and Bordeaux barrels before being filtered to white. Lots of agave on the nose, plus hefty caramel notes. The body is complex and rich, speaking both to the plant and the aging regimen. Here, the caramel takes on more of a butterscotch note, with a pleasant and complex vegetal note beneath it. This isn’t unpleasant but rather adds a savory character to the otherwise fairly sweet spirit, bringing it into balance.

Not at all racy or peppery, the tequila is a smooth sipper with almost no bite and a finish that recalls bittersweet chocolate.

I really love this tequila. While I can’t claim to understand what the need is to take all the color out of very old tequila — which should be gloriously amber — I commend Qui for doing such a good job at it.

80 proof.

A / $60 / quitequila.com

Review: 123 Diablito Organic Extra Anejo Tequila

123 diabolito 178x300 Review: 123 Diablito Organic Extra Anejo TequilaWe enjoyed the standard trio of bottlings from 123 Tequila when we reviewed them two years ago. Now the company is coming out with an extremely limited edition Extra Anejo to complement the group. It’s not called 4, but rather Diablito, an organic EA from this artisanal company.

A small parcel of organic agave grown at 6,000 feet of altitude is used to produce this tequila. It’s cooked for 38 hours in stone ovens and aged in 114 liter new American oak barrels (not ex-Bourbon barrels) for 40 months.

The nose is initially quite salty and briny, ripe with vegetal notes from the agave. In time this mellows out, revealing deep vanilla notes, along with plenty of fresh black pepper. The body is textbook extra anejo, a seductive melange of deep vanilla, racy spices, and chewy agave — all in harmony. The body is rich and creamy, and the finish surprisingly long lasting, offering citrus-focused tartness and plenty of bite. Inviting and dangerously easy to drink.

80 proof. 1000 bottles made.

A / $130 / 123tequila.com

Review: Suerte Reposado Tequila

Suerte Reposado 200x300 Review: Suerte Reposado TequilaSuerte is the tequila with the rabbit on the label. The name means fate or luck — as in rabbit’s foot — but inside the bottle you’ll find 100% agave tequila from the Jalisco Highlands. This reposado (the only expression we’re reviewing) is aged for 7 to 11 months in oak barrels before bottling at 80 proof.

I love the nose. Agave-focused with caramel underpinnings, the aroma is balanced but up-front with its sweetness. Some orange notes lie beneath if you breathe deep. The body is surprisingly peppery, an interesting balance to the relatively sweet nose. Some light smoke, more citrus (including lime notes), and a somewhat fiery — yet pleasant — finish round out a fine little reposado.

A- / $40 / drinksuerte.com

Review: Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1079, 1414, and 1146

artenom 1079 75x300 Review: Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1079, 1414, and 1146If you haven’t heard of what ArteNOM is doing, you’re not a tequila lover. NOMs are four-digit numbers assigned by the Mexican government to each tequila distillery. Want to know where any given bottle of tequila is made? It’s easy: Just look up the NOM, which is printed on every bottle of tequila sold. (Numerous brands are invariably made at the same distillery.)

What ArteNOM does is it eschews its own branding and simply seeks out really great products — selling them at generally reasonable prices. These are issued in limited release as “ArteNOM Seleccion de XXXX,” where the X’s roll from one NOM to the next — wherever the very best tequila is being made.

That’s the theory anyway. A three of the expressions below come from highland distilleries. Oddly, the reposado and anejo expressions don’t indicate the amount of aging they undergo — and I haven’t found this information online. All are of course 100% agave and all are 80 proof. Here’s how they shake out.

Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1079 Blanco – Made at the highest-altitude distillery that makes tequila. I’ve had good blanco tequilas before, but this is something else. Immediately peppery on the nose, it features true agave character plus some sea salt/marine notes. The body brings on layer after layer of complexity. It starts with a rush of agave, then turns to a rich dessert — caramel, Mexican chocolate, burnt marshmallow. The finish is hazelnuts, long and soothing. All of this: In perfect balance. Really exquisite. Love tequila? Think you don’t like tequila? Try this blanco and see what you think. (This bottling seems to have been retired but there’s plenty of it left on the market.) A+ / $40

Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1414 Reposado – Another racy tequila, rich with space and ample agave notes. Wood has mellowed things out a bit, though it’s clearly still hanging on to its agave roots. More of a butterscotch character in the mid-palate here, along with modest wood notes. The finish is a bit vegetal, not in a bad way. Good stuff, but not nearly the masterwork that the blanco is. A- / $45

Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion de 1146 Anejo – Ample agave on the nose leads to a lush and well-rounded body. Deeply complex, this anejo offers immediate caramel sweetness but also cinnamon, coffee beans, toasty oak, and a long, long finish where the agave makes a lightly spicy return. Not overdone, with agave the clear and continued focus of the spirit. Amazing balance here, it’s difficult to follow the blanco no matter what, but this anejo just about does the job. A / $50

deltequila.com

Review: Tequila Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Port Cask Finished Reposado, Reserva 2012

Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Bottle and Packaging 2012 port finish 300x200 Review: Tequila Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Port Cask Finished Reposado, Reserva 2012Much in the vein of Corazon’s Expresion de Corazon tequilas, which are finished in special whiskey barrels, Herradura is experimenting with exotic finishes to its tequilas. Coleccion de la Casa is a new line of limited edition tequilas which will be released annually, each a unique experience.

First out the gate is Reserva 2012, a reposado which is aged in medium-char American oak for 11 months, then finished in vintage Port casks for another two months of aging.

Some thoughts. Lovely, moderate amber color. Quite a peppery nose, with plenty of agave on it. Some almond notes, too. The body is very lush. Rounded, with a flood of citrus notes, caramel, vanilla, and a long finish that brings forward raisins, plum pudding, and some bittersweet chocolate character — all clearly driven by the Port. Engaging and fun, this is altogether a great combination (of course, I’m a well known sucker for Port-finished whiskeys, so why wouldn’t I be one for Port-finished tequilas, too?).

Looking forward to seeing what Herradura does with the next edition.

80 proof.

A / $90 / herradura.com

Review: Expresiones de Corazon Barrel-Aged Tequila (Sazerac 18, George Stagg, & Van Winkle)

What if you were to take bourbon barrels that have held some of the most coveted and highly awarded whiskies in the world – George T. Stagg, Old Rip Van Winkle, Sazerac 18 Year Old and Buffalo Trace, and age tequila in them?  Even better, what if the Master Distiller who created these fine whiskies hand selected these barrels based on his knowledge and expertise of terroir and barrel aging?

corazon stagg expresiones de corazon 59x300 Review: Expresiones de Corazon Barrel Aged Tequila (Sazerac 18, George Stagg, & Van Winkle)That’s the come-on for this bold experiment in tequila-making, the first ever (to my knowledge) attempt to take high-end tequila (Corazon) and put it in barrels used to make high-end Bourbon (a variety of highly coveted bottlings). (Tequila is typically aged in ex-Bourbon barrels but no one ever says what Bourbon, likely because it’s the cheap stuff.)

Crazy idea, right? Well, here’s how it turned out. We sampled all five bottlings. All are 80 proof except the Sazerac expression.

Expresiones de Corazon Blanco – The baseline, unaged and just for fun, really. Racy, peppery agave on the nose. Smells like it’s going to be harsh. It’s not. The blanco goes down super smoothly, exhibiting notes of lemon, mint, and lightly bitter herbs — almost a bit like an absinthe. One of the least-sweet tequilas on the market, this dry spirit is crisp and clean yet more suited to mixing. B+ / $60

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Blind Review: SkinnyGirl Margarita vs. SmarteRita

skinnygirl magarita 123x300 Blind Review: SkinnyGirl Margarita vs. SmarteRita If you’re unfamiliar with the SkinnyGirl phenomenon, either you don’t go down the booze aisle at your grocery store or you’re a dude. SkinnyGirl is one of the fastest-growing brands in the spirits (and wine) world, and its vast array of “low-cal” alcoholic beverages have ladies’ night positively abuzz.

It was only a matter of time before SkinnyGirl hit the margarita world, and this pre-mixed margie is already drawing competition. One of those competitors is called SmarteRita. It may not roll off the tongue, but really we’re more concerned about how it fares going the other way.

We put the two cocktails head to head to see how they shaped up. Both were tasted blind. Notes follow.

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Review: Wild Shot Mezcal Silver

wild shot silver mezcal 238x300 Review: Wild Shot Mezcal SilverA beverage with a name like Wild Shot doesn’t exactly wear subtlety on its sleeve, and this unaged mezcal — complete with, or rather extremely proud of, the worm at the bottom of the bottle — doesn’t really hold back. Country musician Toby Keith is the man behind this celebrezcal, and you can click the official link below if you’d like to see the man with a gusano between his teeth.

Made from 100% green agave, Wild Shot pours clean and offers a rich and straightforward smokiness on the nose, far more savory than sweet. On the body it’s more of the same — mesquite fire smoke, with a sweeter finish that offers some caramel and just a hint of citrus fruit. Very simple and straightforward, it’s a fine mezcal that novices will undoubtedly enjoy, but which lacks the depth that true mezcal fans will want.

But hey, at least you get to eat the worm.

86.8 proof.

B / $43 / wildshot.com

Review: Hotel California Tequila

hotel california reposado 199x300 Review: Hotel California TequilaNever mind the goofy name and goofier bottles. This is good, 100% agave, Highlands tequila that has partnered with the famous Baja hotel for its name and branding.

These are unusual bottles, to say the least. Mind the intriguing-looking yet wholly dysfunctional stoppers. The only thing harder than getting them out of the bottle (that tapered top makes gripping them impossible) is getting them back in.

All three expressions are reviewed below. All expressions are 80 proof.

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Review: Tequila Tapatio Reposado and Anejo

tapatio anejo tequila 199x300 Review: Tequila Tapatio Reposado and AnejoLate last year, so-called “cult tequila” Tapatio finally arrived in the U.S. after 75 years of Mexico-only availability. But only the blanco was being sold.

Now, the rest of the lineup arrives on our shores, rounding out the Tapatio family with a reposado and an anejo.

We sampled the two new expressions, imported courtesy of Charbay. Both are great bargains, packaged in liter bottles. Both are 80 proof.

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Review: Tequila Cuestion

tequila cuestion 300x199 Review: Tequila CuestionIf tequila is the cuestion is mezcal the antser?

Bad jokes aside, but when faced with a tequila that’s bottled in an upside-down question mark, the wordplay comes fast and furious.

This Highlands tequila is, of course, 100% blue agave and all expressions are bottled at 80 proof.

Tequila Cuestion Blanco – Old school silver, with lots of agave on the nose. Lemon and lime notes follow. Moving to the palate you’ll find touches of lemon on the body, with lots of fresh agave and a variety of citrus notes on the back end. This tequila starts out with a lot of burn but give it some time in the glass to open up and the citrus starts to develop nicely. A nice alternative to some of the ultra-sweet tequilas out there, even if it is on the simple side in the end. A- / $38

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Review: Cruz Tequila

cruz tequila 300x198 Review: Cruz TequilaThis new tequila brand hails from Los Altos, in the Jalisco Highlands. Packaged in squat, antique glass bottles, it’s as eye-catching as it is easy to drink. Thoughts on the two expressions — an unaged blanco and a reposado — follow. Both are 80 proof.

Cruz Silver Tequila - I hate it when spirits are described as “smooth,” but that’s the most perfect descriptor for Cruz’s blanco that I can think of. Very subtle and restrained, this is a tequila for those among you that aren’t looking for an agave bomb. Don’t even think about lime and salt, this is a pure, silky sipping tequila that goes down easy as is. Lemony and grassy, it’s moderately sweet with a big, creamy body, with just a mild agave herbal character on the back end. Some creamy flan notes finish out the tequila. Altogether a really standout blanco, provided you’re not looking for a big agave rush. A / $35

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Review: Casamigos Tequila

casamigos reposado tequila 200x300 Review: Casamigos TequilaGeorge Clooney seems to like his tequila like he likes his women: Sweet.

This much talked-about celebrity project doesn’t hide its backer on the back label like some vanity spirits: The Cloon’s signature is right on the front. (It looks like “Geogo Cloy” but that’s close enough, I think.)

Available in blanco and reposado expressions, this 100% Highlands agave tequila is currently an exclusive at BevMo retailers. Both are 80 proof.

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Review: Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila 2012 Edition

jose cuervo reserva de la familia 2012 carton 273x300 Review: Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Tequila 2012 EditionCheck the very bottom of your favorite upscale Mexican restaurant’s tequila menu and you’ll likely see a very expensive Jose Cuervo on the list: Reserva de la Familia.

This annual release (introduced in 1995 to celebrate Cuervo’s 200th anniversary) is an exotic blend of tequilas with an average age of 3 years old. Some of the spirits are up to 30 years old, according to Cuervo. This is our third vintage to review, having previously covered the Reserva in 2008 and 2010. Each year, the 17,000 bottles made are packed in special-edition wooden crates painted by a Mexican artist. For this 17th edition, Ricardo Pinto created the design.

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Review: Agave Underground Anejo Tequila

agave underground anejo 94x300 Review: Agave Underground Anejo TequilaWith a coffin-shaped bottle and a stopper that looks like a flaming skull, to say that Agave Underground is going for the punk tequila drinker with this fairly new brand (established 2009) may be stating the obvious. These tequilas — the three typical expressions are made — hail from seven-year-old agave plants in the Jalisco Highlands and is double-distilled before aging. The anejo, reviewed below, is aged for 18 months in former Jack Daniels barrels. (We did not check out the silver and reposado expressions.)

This tequila exudes sweetness but is more butterscotch in character than vanilla. The body offers similar notes, but backs them up with more spicy agave than you typically get in an anejo. The finish gets almost hot, with red pepper and some burnt ember character. The body is a little thin, though, and these various flavors don’t really meld the way I’d like. The tequila’s components are all worthwhile, but they just don’t worth perfectly together.

80 proof.

B / $55 / agaveunderground.com