Review: El Cartel Tequila

El Cartel tequilaThis new brand, the brainchild of Mike Hamod, was created to be “the Ciroc of tequila” as its goal — courtesy of celebrity sponsorship that includes Daddy Yankee, Jermaine Dupri, and Eddie Griffin. Made of 100% agave in the Highlands of Jalisco, it is initially available in two varieties, a silver expression and (wait for it) a silver tequila infused with gold flakes.

Thoughts follow. Both are 80 proof.

El Cartel Blanco – Twice distilled, this silver tequila offers fresh agave notes, some mint, touches of lemony sweetness, and a moderate, lightly sweet, and a fresh finish. While there’s not a ton of complexity to explore here, the tequila is brisk, flavorful, and warming, but not at all hot. Overall, this is a fine, premium spirit that any tequila nut will enjoy.  A- / $40

El Cartel Silver with Gold Flakes – Yes, it’s called “Silver.” The other is “Blanco.” And yes, the Silver has gold in it. Deal with it. This is the same tequila as the blanco, but distilled three times and crafted with sweetness in mind. The gold flake — suspended in, as Hamod told me, an “invisible spiderweb matrix” — does not settle to the bottom of the bottle. Through some insane chemistry, it remains suspended in mid-spirit, no matter how much you shake it up. Voodoo, for sure, but clearly designed for the club crowd, where spotlights will draw partygoers to the back bar like moths to the flame.

How does it taste? Well, if it matters, it is indeed considerably sweeter and much more viscous. This is not really a tequila for straight sipping, and the gel (whatever it is) used to suspend the gold flake gives the entire thing a gelatinous character that is closer to flan than you might want. Oddly, there’s also a distinct sharpness to this tequila in the back of throat, not a “burn” per se but a kind of prickling that isn’t entirely pleasant. Compared to the blanco, this is a somewhat hamfisted and simplified spirit, perfect for da club but a disaster for the connoisseur. Neat party trick, at least. C / $50

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