Category Archives: Tequila

Fall Tequila Cocktails

Cocktail recipes for fall courtesy Hornitos and Sauza. This first one had me at the chocolate bitters.

El Catrin 2 300x300 Fall Tequila CocktailsEl Catrin
Created by Steven Calabro, Head Mixologist, Red O, BartendingBootcamp.com, Los Angeles, CA

2 parts Hornitos Anejo Tequila
2 dashes Mexican Chocolate Bitters
1 part Sweet Vermouth
1/4 part fresh orange

Stirred and served up in Martini glass. Garnished with burnt orange peel disc flamed at presentation.

Pumpkin Spice  300x220 Fall Tequila CocktailsPumpkin Spice Tequila Margarita
Serves 2

1/4 cup Sauza Blue Silver Tequila
1/2 cup cream
2 tablespoons pumpkin spice syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 cups freshly brewed hot coffee
Whipped Cream

In a saucepan, combine cream with pumpkin syrup, sugar, vanilla and spice. Brew your coffee and divide it between two mugs. To each mug add half of the Sauza Blue Tequila and the cream mixture and stir. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

Tequila Revolucion Serves Up Drinks with Dinner

The closest I typically get to drinking a tequila cocktail with dinner is the occasional margarita with Mexican food, but the good folks at Tequila Revolucion set out to prove that tequila is more versatile than just that.

Revolucion PR rep Tim Yates and brand ambassador Summer-Jane Bell hosted a group of us to a lavish dinner at San Francisco’s Fifth Floor recently, where the meal was paired with four different cocktails made with the stuff, plus all the straight spirits — Revolucion has five expressions — you cared to sample.

My favorite of the night (and arguably the house fave, too): aged prime rib with porcinis, spring onions, and smoked potato, paired with a brooding cocktail (nameless) made from Revolucion Anejo, sherry, King’s Ginger liqueur, and amaro. I was also quite partial to the cocktail paired with a vegetable/fruit concoction called “Introduction to Summer,” made from Revolucion Reposado, Konbu infused dry vermouth, nettle cordial (house made by mixologist Brian Means), lemon, and elderflower. Loved drinking the Extra Anejo with dessert, too.

Lots of good stuff, and I’d undoubtedly consider serving a light tequila cocktail with a first course in lieu of white wine or Champagne. But, that said, as with all spirits-focused dinners, one does long for a glass of smoldering red wine with a big dinner like this by the time the second or third hour rolls along!

Thanks to everyone at Revolucion for hosting such a fun event.

tequila revolucion Tequila Revolucion Serves Up Drinks with Dinner

Review: Zignum Reposado Mezcal

A new product from Casa Armando Guillermo Prieto, Zignum Mezcal is made from green Espadin agave. Silver and reposado expressions are currently hitting the market. An anejo will arrive later this year.

We sampled the reposado, aged more than two months in oak barrels. Very lively and fresh, the medium gold color looks too good to be true for a mezcal with just a couple months of age on it. The nose offers marshmallow, cedar planks, and burnt coal embers — just a hint that this is smoky mezcal and not tequila. On the tongue, more of the same: Bracing sweetness, balanced with more smokiness than you get in the nose.

Creamy and rich, this is a lush mezcal that counters the many thin and limp agave products on the market. With good balance and a long, pleasing finish, it’s quite a winner. Great value, too. Looking forward to checking out the anejo down the line.

80 proof. Kosher.

A- / $30 / casaagp.com.mx

Zignum Reposado Mezcal Review: Zignum Reposado Mezcal

Review: Mezcals of Agave de Cortes

It’s not every day you meet a 6th generation palenquero (mezcal maker), but that’s exactly what Asis Cortes, pictured below in my kitchen, is. Cortes and his family make mezcal in the Oaxaca region of Mexico. Some of it is only available in the country, and in addition to its own the company also exports a variety of other producers’ mescals to the U.S.

Cortes walked me through four of his company’s products, each representing a fairly different style and approach to the spirit. Thoughts follow.

Sacacuento Silver Mezcal – One of Cortes’s import products, a light, fresh, and fruity mezcal loaded with lemon and citrus notes. The smoke is subtle and delicate on the finish. Arguably my favorite of the tasting. Made from agave espadin. 80 proof. A- / $43

El Jolgorio Silver Mezcal – Made in tiny batches and released 600 liters at a time, this mezcal is available only in Mexico, where it is one of the company’s rarest offerings. Made from white madrecuixe agave grown in the mountains of Oaxaca, this organic mezcal is as different as you can imagine from the Sacacuento. A huge flavor bomb, this is a gut punch, full of aloe, lime, sugar cane, and incense character. Again, not much smokiness, but there’s no delicacy here, just raw intensity and a wild expression of agave. 92 proof. A- / 900 Mexican pesos

Sacacuento Anejo Mezcal – Age Sacacuento Silver in American oak barrels for a year and you get this light brown spirit, intense with earth and menthol characters. There’s old wood on the nose, almost funky in the way it comes across. But the body is something else entirely, smooth cocoa, butterscotch, and caramel notes, all quite lasting. Quite a dichotomy between nose and palate. It opens up over time, much like a good anejo tequila. 80 proof. B+ / $70

Agave de Cortes Extra Anejo Mezcal – Aged three years in French oak barrels, this espadin agave offers a beautiful nose of old rum and a fair bit of wood. There’s a surprisingly lightness on the palate, fresh and young with herbal characteristics, with the agave remarkably still coming through after all that time in oak. What’s left behind is caramel and orange peel. 80 proof. B+ / $120

Review: Tequila Revolucion Silver

I don’t know if the revolucion will be televised, but it does seem to be arriving by way of Mexico.

Tequila Revolucion is a lowlands tequila from the El Arenal region of Jalisco. 100% agave, naturally, and bottled at 80 proof. While a full range of expressions is available, we sampled only the silver.

Revolucion has a very strong agave nose, and I was set up for an agave bomb in the palate department. Not the case. On the tongue, that agave melts into a tequila with creamy vanilla and creme brulee character. There’s herbal and fresh flower notes in the mid-palate, along with white pepper. Some lemon on the tongue, too, and a long finish that recalls agave, cinnamon, and more pepper.

As with many tequilas, Revolucion opens up as you let it aerate, which help some of its deeper nuances reveal themselves.

A- / $37 / tequilarevolucion.com

tequila revolucion silver Review: Tequila Revolucion Silver

Review: Z Tequila

The brainchild of Pepe Zevada, a spirits industry veteran, Z Tequila is a fairly new brand of 100% agave tequilas based on Zevada’s own recipes. These tequilas use seven-to-nine year old agave plants and age the reposado and anejo in new Canadian oak barrels.

We tasted each of the three expressions extensively. All are 80 proof. Universally we had trouble with the closures: Some wouldn’t seal tightly after opening, some wouldn’t pour well. The photo below doesn’t lie, either: The bottles are simply terribly ugly. Never mind all that though, it’s what’s inside that counts. Thoughts follow.

Also known as “Pepe Z Tequila.”

Z Blanco Tequila – An unaged silver tequila, this is a really beautiful spirit. Lovely caramel notes (always surprising in an unaged tequila), matched with touches of lemon, lightly smoked wood, leather, and of course a moderate slug of agave. Amazing balance, with modest sweetness to counter the agave’s vegetal notes. Absolutely solid. A / $30

Z Reposado Tequila – Aged nine months, this pale yellow reposado offers a very similar profile to the blanco. A touch more edge, a touch more creaminess in the body. Vanilla, again, is the primary character, and it comes together in wonderful harmony with the agave. The finish is more on the chocolate front, really lush and smolderingly sweet. Like the blanco, this is simply a beautiful tequila — but it’s bigger body and slightly bolder flavor push it just that much higher. Remarkable value, too. A+ / $33

Z Anejo Tequila – After 21 months in oak, Z’s anejo is a bit overcooked. The sweet dessert flavors of vanilla and chocolate have disappeared into a surplus of raw wood and smoke — and result in a surprisingly hotter tequila with considerably more bite. In a vacuum, this wouldn’t be a bad tequila by any definition — the whiskey-like finish is particularly appealing — but compared to the masterful blanco and reposado it just isn’t in the same league. B+ / $35

pepeztequila.com

z tequila Review: Z Tequila

Re-Review 2012: Herradura Tequila

This is my second full review of the Herradura line and my third of the blanco. My last review was 3 1/2 years ago, so another spin around the block certainly felt warranted.

Why re-review anything? Because, after all, no spirit is made in a vacuum. (Well, OK, some spirits are made in vacuums, but that makes for a less exciting metaphor.) Harvests are variable, staff undergo changes, recipes are altered. For better or worse, here’s how Herradura comes across in 2012.

All expressions are 80 proof.

Herradura Silver - (third sample, original report here) – As blancos go, this silver tastes quite mild to me now. Have I become accustomed to or my tastebuds dulled by over-agaved tequilas? Nice sweetness, with natural vanilla character to offset a mild agave backbone. Big, buttery body. A touch of coffee bean on the back end. Very, very drinkable and a bit dangerous because of it. A- / $33

Herradura Reposado – Aged 11 months. Vanilla is pumped up, but oddly so is the agave. While the blanco has a nice balance to it, the reposado is off. The vanilla comes on too strong, with a butterscotch character that doesn’t play as well with the agave as it should. B / $34

Herradura Anejo – 25-plus months in oak. And somehow the anejo pulls it all back together. In balance, vanilla, caramel, chocolate, big ripe banana character, and a little agave at the back. Silky and rich, a banana cream pie from south of the border. A- / $43

herradura.com

herradura Re Review 2012: Herradura Tequila

Review: Milagro Tequila UNICO

Aiming to “redefine” the tequila world, Milagro is releasing a new joven tequila with an outrageous price tag. Just 1,200 bottles of UNICO have been made, starting with a “kitchen-distilled” base of white spirit produced with 13 kilos of agave per liter. This base is blended with aged stock (the details of which aren’t released), rested for 30 days, then filtered and oxygenated back to clear. (This, of course, isn’t a mixto-type joven — the other usage of that term — but rather a clarified mix of young and aged 100% agave tequila.)

Results: Curious. The color is not clear but rather a very, very pale yellow. The nose is intensely vegetal, with cooked mash, fuel, and astringent elements. On the palate, much more intrigue than the nose would indicate: Notes of sweet caramel, cooked vegetables, raw agave, licorice, and charcoal. Unusual to the point of oddity, this tequila is hardly the smooth blanco you might expect for 300 bones, but rather a complex monster of a spirit that is one of the most challenging I’ve encountered recently. Sadly, no matter what you think about the approach, the balance is lacking among these various flavors, and UNICO isn’t so much a cohesive tequila but rather a bit of a muddy encounter.

80 proof.

B / $300 / milagrotequila.com

milagro unico tequila Review: Milagro Tequila UNICO

Review: Malibu Red

On paper, Malibu Red is a terrible, terrible idea: Take standard Malibu (coconut-flavored rum), and add white tequila to it.

The brainchild of R&B artist Ne-Yo, I am here to tell you that, yes, Malibu Red is as bad as you think it will be.

Fundamentally these are two great tastes… that just don’t go together: Super-sweet coconut rum on the nose, muddled with sharp agave-heavy tequila. Like putting orange juice on your cereal, these flavors collide in an often angry, unsatisfying fashion, and it’s difficult to get a real handle on either one. The finish is cloying and muddy, leaving you desperate for one side to take hold. Neither does, and your mouth ends up coated in a syrupy, tangy, almost medicinal film.

70 proof.

D+ / $25 / malibu-rum.com

malibu red Review: Malibu Red

Review: Tequila Clase Azul

I’m never quite sure what to make of the ornate tequila bottles like this. They’re striking to look at, but I always feel like they’re trying to hide something behind a lot of glass, metal, and ceramic.

Perhaps my fears are founded in the case of Clase Azul, a very expensive and unique but ham-fisted tequila that stretched the boundaries of my tequila taste glossary. This brand is beloved by many a tequila fan, but the sweetness of the house style is just too overwhelming for me. This 100% agave Highlands tequila is made with 9 to 10 year old organic agave plants, double distilled in copper alembic stills.

We tasted both the Plata and Reposado. Both expressions are 80 proof.

Tequila Clase Azul Plata is a striking blanco, unlike any other I’ve tried. On the nose: Agave and peppers, a mere hint at what’s in the glass. Take a sip and Clase Azul’s Plata goes nuts: There is so much going on here I scarcely know where to start. First off: It’s bracingly sweet, not sugary, but like Nutrasweet. Powerful and palate-jarring. If you can push past that, you get some of that agave character, plenty of nutty notes, a bit of spice, and a finish that tastes like a candy bar. It’s long and lasting, more like a liqueur than a tequila. If any 100% agave tequila could use lime and salt to balance it out — not because it’s alcoholically heavy in the slightest, mind you — this is it. C+ / $75

Tequila Clase Azul Reposado is mellowed in deep char oak for at least 8 months, which gives this tequila more character, but it retains that funky sweetness that the Plata is imbued with. Here the sweetness veers into a vanilla character, more like a creme brulee than the candy bar of the Plata. That offers more nuance to play with the slight pepper notes, but not much: The sugary notes remain overwhelming — and I am normally a huge fan of sweeter tequilas — again leaving you with a finish that coats the mouth, making you reach for the salty bar mix. B- / $90

claseazul.com

Review: Vida Tequila Blanco

vida tequila blanco 200x300 Review: Vida Tequila BlancoVida is a relatively new brand on the tequila scene, 100% blue agave and available in the usual expressions. We tasted the Blanco expression, which is a pure agave/unaged rendition.

This silver tequila is classic in structure. Some time in the glass is helpful at airing things out and letting some of the heavier agave notes out. Once they flitter away, Vida reveals itself to be a really fun and lively tequila, mildly sweet with fresh and granulated sugar character. Below that, plenty of apple and pear fruit, perhaps a touch of pineapple and banana. The finish: Very light caramel notes.

Nice balance, once that initial agave rush clears.

A- / $40 / vidatequila.com

Three Tequila + Sage Cocktails

jalisco daisy 300x199 Three Tequila + Sage CocktailsQuick, name a green herb popular in cocktails. If you said mint, sorry, you’re wrong. We’re talking about sage!

Our friends at Tequila Partida put together these oddball libations all revolving around that staple of turkey stuffing.

Partida Sagerac, by Jacques Bezuidenhout, Tequila Partida Bartender Ambassador

1.5 oz Partida Reposado
1.5 oz Partida Anejo
5 to 8 Sage leaves (depending on the strength of the leaves)
Herbsaint Pastis
3 bar spoons simple syrup
4 dashes Peychauds Bitters
1 dash of Angostura Bitters

Chill a cocktail glass with ice and coat ice with Pastis. Leave to chill. In a mixing glass, add Bitters, simple syrup and sage leaves. Lightly muddle to release the oils from the sage. Add ice and Tequila and stir. Discard the ice and Pastis from the cocktail glass. Strain cocktail into chilled Pastis-coated cocktail glass. Garnish with sage leaves.

Autumn Woods, by Mike Ryan, Sable Kitchen & Bar

2 oz Partida Reposado
1/8 oz Partida 100% Organic Agave Nectar
3 Sage leaves
3 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
Walnut Liqueur

In first glass, rinse with Walnut Liqueur, fill with crushed ice. In second glass, muddle sage leaves. Add all other ingredients. Stir with ice. Dump out ice in 1st glass and strain ingredients into it. Drop a sage leaf in.

Jalisco Daisy, by Mike Ryan, Sable Kitchen & Bar (pictured)

2 oz Partida Blanco
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
3/4 oz Partida 100% Organic Agave Nectar (cut with 1/4 oz water)
2 Sage leaves

Shake all ingredients. Fine strain. Serve up.

Review: t1 Tequilas

t1, aka Tequila Uno, is a new brand of Highlands-grown, 100% blue agave tequila brought to us by the master distiller of the well-regarded Chinaco Tequila line, German Gonzalez. Gonzalez’s twist on the spirit? For some of his varieties, instead of aging in Bourbon casks for his reposado and anejo, he uses ex-Scotch barrels (which were probably Bourbon barrels before that, of course). I don’t know that I’ve never heard of such a thing — but I was instantly intrigued.

The company dropped off all three varieties — including the just-launched anejo — for us to sample. All are 80 proof. Thought follow.

t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino - Straight, unaged white tequila. This exhibits the classic sweet and fruity character common to Highland tequilas, amazingly bright with pear and apple notes, a bit of lemon, and a little cinnamon on the finish — almost apple pie-like. The agave is heavy on the nose, at least initially. With air, this fades pretty quickly, leaving behind these wonderful fruit flavors and a soothing, mint-like agave lacing. Beautiful, one of the most subtle blancos I’ve experienced in a long while. A / $40

t1 Tequila Reposado Excepcional – t1 makes a standard reposado (we didn’t try it); this is the one aged in Scotch casks, where it spends 6 to 9 months soaking up goodness from that island up north. This is a really intriguing spirit. For starters, it’s quite sweet, much more so than I expected, but who knows what Scotch barrels are used here? Really bright citrus flavors here, lots of pineapple notes. It’s tough to pick out malt whisky character on this one, that sugariness is overwhelming. It even drowns out the agave notes for the most part, leaving behind something that approaches — as near as I can describe it — a lightly aged rum. As tequila goes, this is, put simply, something else. Frighteningly easy-drinking. B+ / $50

t1 Tequila Anejo Estelar – Intense coffee and burnt sugar dominates this anejo, which spends up to 24 months in Scotch barrels. I lively bronze in color, the body recalls the sweetness of the Excepcional, but is tempered with more candy bar notes, dark chocolate (again), plus coconut, almonds, and a cappuccino finish. Again, intensely drinkable, but not entirely challenging. A- / $55

t1tequila.com

 Review: t1 Tequilas

Review: Trader Joe’s Silver Tequila

trader joses tequila 168x300 Review: Trader Joes Silver TequilaExcuse us… Trader Jose’s Premium Silver Tequila is a natural private label spirits extension from the upscale grocers at TJ’s, and this bottling is a 100% agave, unaged spirit. Other than that info and a NOM (1558), there’s no other data about this tequila’s provenance. But you’re only paying 17 bucks a bottle, and that’s a deal you’re just not going to get from any other 100% agave tequila, so maybe you should shut up with all the questions and start drinking the stuff instead. Sir.

This is straightforward stuff, with big big agave character the predominant character of the nose. The body however reveals more nuance: Lots of vanilla, surprising in a blanco, plus plenty of more traditional tequila character — agave, pepper, lemongrass, and hay.  The finish is long and lasting, and while the sweetness of the vanilla fades, a bitterness slowly rises. It’s not a deal breaker, but it mars a bit what is otherwise a pretty classy silver.

80 proof.

B / $17 / facebook page

Review: Casa de Reynoso Reposado Tequila

The companion tequila of Rancho Nuevo, Casa de Reynoso has a fun story behind it, as related to me by it’s importer.

“After being scorned by a beautiful women, Reynoso’s friend went to see him at this house (casa in Spanish) and took a bottle of tequila to enjoy and forget about what happened. Reynoso was taken by the elixir and being an entrepreneur, decided to investigate further! That’s how the tequila came to be — at Reynoso’s house (Casa De Reynoso). By the way, after realizing what a mistake the beautiful woman made she approached him only to hear that he had a new love — his tequila! Needless to say, he was no longer interested in her… to her regret!”

So there you go, a tequila born of a man scorned and named for his buddy. Aged 8 1/2 months in oak, we reviewed the reposado expression. It appears that a blanco and anejo are on the way.

The color is quite light, like a light pilsner beer, and the nose speaks of big agave character. It’s quite similar to its Rancho Nuevo sibling, pungent and a bit peppery. A sip smooths things out, with lots of warm caramel notes, lemon, and tea leaf. Some cinnamon in there, too. But the agave pervades it all. The finish is long, lasting, and sweet.

Ultimately it’s a very pleasant reposado that improves further with glass time. Sounds like Casa de Reynoso’s creator made the right choice when it came to selecting his muse.

80 proof.

A- / $30 / ocoimportaciones.com

casa de reynoso tequila Review: Casa de Reynoso Reposado Tequila

Review: Rancho Nuevo Tequila Reposado

This new tequila is only available in a reposado expression (time in barrel is 10 months, very lengthy for a reposado). 100 percent agave, of course, the nose is pungent and big, loaded with agave and pepper character, plus a touch of wood. The body reveals more nuance: Lots of sweet caramel and honey, maple syrup, and a dusting of citrus. The sweet sticks to your ribs, and your teeth: Nougat, chewy and rich, with a creamy, lasting denouement.

The label may not be the most sophisticated we’ve seen here, but what’s inside is solid.

80 proof.

A- / $35 / tequilasanlorenzo.com

rancho nuevo tequila reposado Review: Rancho Nuevo Tequila Reposado

Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

Happy Thanksgiving! While you’re enjoying your turkey, stuffing, and pie, many a thanksgiver’s thoughts turn to booze. Specifically, what one might buy for a favored loved one come holiday time. I’ve collected all my favorite spirits from 2011 here for you, but this is just a small sampling of what’s worthy on the market right now. Scan through the category of your choice for other ideas, and chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

big bottom two years old 212x300 Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Big Bottom Whiskey 2 Years Old Port Cask Finish ($40) – Technically not a Bourbon, but close enough. I gave only two A+ grades (outside of event coverage) all year, and this was one of them. Finding this now will be tough (we’ll have a review of the 3 Years Old version shortly), so if this doesn’t pan out try Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished 10 Years Old ($80) or Col. E.H. Taylor Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon ($70). You can also try Angel’s Envy ($45), technically a 2010 release but also Port-finished and about as good as Big Bottom.

Scotch – The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve ($375) – This is my “go-to” whisky right now, though it’s rapidly depleting, and the price may make it a big much for anyone short of a spouse. If you can find  Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix ($95) or Laphroaig Cairdeas ($60), both make outstanding gifts. And MacKinlay’s “Shackleton” ($150) is worth the price alone for the conversation value.

GinBloom Gin ($29) – No question on this one. The floral but not perfumy Bloom is one of my favorite gins today. It may be made for a woman, but it’s powerful enough for a man.

russian standard gold vodka 185x300 Drinkhacker’s 2011 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasVodka – Russian Standard Gold Vodka – At $45, it’s pushing the boundaries of what anyone should pay for a neutral spirit, but it’s good and the package is striking enough to require no wrapping paper, saving you a few bucks. For your more avant-garde friends, check out Sub Rosa’s Flavored Vodkas ($30) or a bottle of Skyy Blood Orange ($18).

Rum – Montanya Platino Rum ($30) – So much good rum came out this year, but Montanya’s simple, pure, and bracing white rum is my winner for what you should give a loved one. Bottled in Colorado, not Latin America, they’ll immediately want to know more. For more traditional gifts, I also loved Berrys’ Own Panama Rum 10 Years Old ($80) and Brugal Extra Viejo ($27).

Brandy – “Original Gangster” XO Brandy ($25) – This gift works on a couple of levels. First, the packaging and name are so ridiculous that your hipster friends will get a solid, 25 dollar laugh out of it. Second, the brandy is actually pretty good, so you can actually drink it when you’re done giggling.

TequilaCasa Dragones ($275) – The other A+ I gave this year, but considering the price of this. Tequila is still on the rise, and lots of good stuff is on the market, including Gran Dovejo Blanco ($47), El Gran Jubileo Extra Anejo ($65), and Excellia Blanco ($50), among many others.

Liqueur – Tatratea (up to $60) - A collection of five tea-flavored liqueurs, each increasing in proof level. Exotic and bizarre, and totally worthwhile for the liquor snob who has everything. Home cocktail enthusiasts would also love a little Pimento Dram ($28) or the all-new Drambuie 15 ($56).

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Review: Don Julio 70 Tequila Anejo Claro

Take an anejo tequila and filter out the color, and what do you have? Don Julio 70, a new — clear — tequila with the character of an anejo.

Don Julio claims that 70 is the world’s first anejo claro, and depending on how you look at it, that’s true: Maestro Dobel does the exact same thing, but it is a blend of reposado, anejo, and extra anejo tequilas, filtered back to white. Technically it would only be considered a reposado if bottled unfiltered. But really this is an old trick that the rum industry mastered long ago. That it is now coming to the tequila world is only a mild surprise.

And so back to Don Julio 70. Composed of 18-month-old anejo tequila, filtered back to silver, I tried it side by side with both Don Julio Blanco (tasting tough and a bit green) and Don Julio Anejo (rich, caramel, cocoa-finished, quite lovely). Don Julio 70 is, surprisingly, a whole different beast. I was expecting something close to the Anejo, but that’s not the case. The nose is distinctly redolent of bananas and light wood, a weird combination of flavors that are not harmonious in the nostrils. The palate is another thing altogether. Here a butterscotch sweetness takes hold, attempted to wrestle with the wood. It fails, and the wood overwhelms everything. It’s quite jarring compared to the smooth richness of the (unaltered) Anejo, yet none of the brash agave notes that the Blanco provides.

I tried it against Dobel just for kicks, and the spirits could not be more different. Dobel adhere’s closely to its agave roots, while punching things up with a bit of sweetness yet keeping it all in balance. DJ70 is like walking into a Pier One store, full of potpourri and more wicker baskets than you can count.

80 proof.

C / $70 / donjulio.com

Don Julio 70 Review: Don Julio 70 Tequila Anejo Claro

Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2011

WhiskyFest remains the whiskey enthusiast’s festival to beat. With hundreds of whiskeys, it is a mad dash for all sorts of great stuff — if only you can find it in the scattered auditorium and muscle your way to the front of the line. Don’t worry, you can do it, and even though the 2011 installment of this awesome event had more than its share of no-shows from the advance whisky list — Isle of Jura Shackleton, Tomatin 30 Year Old, Pierre Ferrand Ancestrale Cognac, the entire Usqueabach table — there were so many amazing whiskeys here it is hard to complain.

Favorites were unilaterally from the private bottling companies, including Duncan Taylor’s killer 36 Year Old Lonach Blend, Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 21 Years Old — all that time in ex-sherry butts — and maybe by new favorite whisky ever, Samaroli Evolution 2011. Notes on all of these follow, plus comments (however brief) on everything else I sampled during the evening.

Thanks again to Whisky Advocate (nee Malt Advocate) for putting on such a terrific show (and inviting me).

Scotland

Samaroli Evolution 2011 / A+ / this Rome-based private whisky bottler was a fave at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, and this bottling was a revelation; a vatting of whisky stocks dating back to 1957, it is incredibly supple, complex, and impossible to put down

Samaroli Glenlivet Top Class 1977 / A- / amazing elegance

Samaroli Linkwood Top Class 1983 / B+ / bit tougher

Samaroli Glenburgie 1989 / B+ / rich and chewy

Samaroli Highland Park 1989 / B+ / has an edge to it

Samaroli Bunnahabhain 1990 / B+ / surprising sweetness

Auchentoshan Valinch / B / hard finish

Auchentoshan Bordeaux 1999 / B+ / sweetness up front leads to a rough finish

Auchentoshan 21 Year Old / B+ / my fave of the Auch line, better balance

Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve / B

Glen Garioch 1994 Vintage / B / big nougat notes lead to a strange, funky finish

Tomatin Highland Single Malt 25 Year Old / B+ / almost American in styling, sweet finish

Tomatin Highland Single Malt Decades / A- / a vatting of 5 decades’ worth of whisky; complex and lots of fun

Isle of Jura Superstition / A- / nice balance with the peat here

Isle of Jura 16 Year Old / B / big grain notes, exotic

Laphroaig Triple Wood / B+ / finished in sherry, which adds just a touch of citrus to standard Laphroaig’s peat and iodine; interesting but could go farther

Gordon & MacPhail Benromach 10 Year Old / B / young but charming

Gordon & MacPhail Caol Ila Port Finish 10 Year Old / B+ / nice mix of smoke and sweet, needs more aging

Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood 15 Year Old / A-

Gordon & MacPhail Glen Grant 21 Years Old / A / spends all 21 years in sherry casks, an amazing whisky, deep and rich (by far the darkest Scotch I saw all night)

Gordon & MacPhail Tamdhu 30 Years Old / B+ / a bit over the hill, wood-wise

Compass Box Great King Street / A- / a masterful blended whisky

Springbank 14 Year Old Manzanilla Cask / B+ / big olive notes

Springbank 18 Year Old / B+ / not feeling it tonight; too much of a coal character

Kilkerran WIP 3rd Release / B+ / like Kilbeggan, Kilkerran is doing releases as its whisky ages; at 3 years old it is young but exciting, lots of promise ahead

Duncan Taylor Banff 35 Year Rich and Rare / A / amazing fruit and wood here, lovely finish

Duncan Taylor Lonach Blend 36 Year / A / cinnamon and apple pie, all sorts of fun

GlenDronach 21 Year Old Parliament / B+ / curious wood and spice notes

GlenDronach 15 Year Old 1995 Pedro Ximenez Cask #2045 / B

Macallan 18 Year Old / A-

Highland Park 25 Year Old / A- / musky finish

Bruichladdich Black Art 2 / B+ / finish delves deep into grain character

Bruichladdich Octomore 3/152 / A- / the new “most peated” whisky in the world, actually quite pleasant and not the bowl-you-over dram I was expecting; more like a barbecue than a smoke bomb

Ardbeg Corryvreckan / A

Ardbeg Alligator / A- / Ardbeg’s latest, aged in ultra-charred oak barrels; the wood really does battle with the peat here, giving it a curious but less enthralling character, I think

Ireland

Redbreast 12 Years Old / B+ / really woody kick; the reputation exceeds the whisky

Redbreast 15 Years Old / B+ / not terribly different

United States

Bardstown Riverboat Rye Whiskey / B / a younger version of Redemption Rye

Bardstown Temptation Bourbon / A- / good sweetness, balance

Bardstown Barrel Proof High Rye Bourbon / A / intensely rye-focused, and intensely alcoholic; not released (the company is hoping for 2012)

Koval Lion’s Pride Spelt Whiskey / B+ / aged 2 years; not bad, lots of grain character

Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve 10 Years Old / A- / love the rye kick; probably better since it was poured by Jimmy Russell himself (picture below!)

George Dickel Barrel Select / A- / nice rye going on here

Not Whiskey

Frapin Cognac VS / A- / 4 years old; surprisingly clean for a $49 Cognac

Frapin Cognaac Chateau de Fontpinot XO / A- / big nose on it, great citrus and sherry finish

Frapin Cognac  VIP XO / A- / quite similar to the Fontpinot

Frapin Cognac Extra / A / 75 years old, extremely complex, mellow, and lingering

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Selection des Anges / A- / beautiful, smooth

Pierre Ferrand Cognac Cigare / A / not smoky, and in fact not as big a body as you’d expect with a name like that; very well crafted and lush; drink with or without a cigar

Tequila Corrido Extra Anejo Barrel #2 / A / a killer, and the only tequila here; lovely chocolate finish

chris null and jimmy russell Tasting Report: WhiskyFest San Francisco 2011

Review: Tequila Gran Dovejo

This new highland tequila is a single-estate spirit, double-distilled in copper alembic stills. It is, of course, from 100% blue agave… the pinas of which are “fermented with the use of champagne yeast while the harmonious sounds of music play in the background as this is found to optimize the sugar conversion.” Hmmm.

We tasted all three of the traditional expressions. All are 80 proof.

Tequila Gran Dovejo Blanco - Unaged and unrested. A really delightful and unique blanco. Very smooth for a silver, it offers surprising sweetness, almost butterscotch in its character. Long, smooth, and lightly herbal finish — it fades into rosemary and bay leaf character in the end. A great sipping tequila for those who like the punch of herbs but don’t like the harshness that often comes along with them. A / $47

Tequila Gran Dovejo Reposado -Aged 6 to 9 months. A touch of wood changes this tequila quite dramatically, pumping it up with cinnamon and allspice notes, further increasing the sweetness, and giving it a bit of a Mexican chocolate character on the finish. This is quite a departure from the relatively delicate Blanco, bold, punchy, and aggressive. Enjoyable but striking in its own way — and perhaps a bit on the brutish side. A- / $53

Tequila Gran Dovejo Anejo - Aged 1 to 3 years (quite a range!). Here, the caramel and vanilla take over — often the case with anejo tequilas — and the herbs (both the Blanco’s green ones and the Reposado’s brown ones) are drowned out with the flavors of flan. Nothing wrong with that, and this is a gorgeous dessert drink. Nuanced? Not really, but sweet tooth tequila fans won’t care. A- / $55

tequilagrandovejo.com

gran dovejo tequila lineup Review: Tequila Gran Dovejo