Review: 15 Single Barrel Tequilas from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission
Drinkhacker and the state of New Hampshire go way back. That’s because the Granite State is a control state, and it also buys a ton of liquor — rarities, single barrels, and the like — to sell at its state-run stores. The Hampshirites then send us samples of these spirits for us to taste and review (see here and here) for samples.
Lately, NH has been buying more and more goodies, and its latest foray is in single barrel tequilas. Says the NW Liquor Commission, “Recently, NHLC worked with Mexican trade and investment officials at ProMéxico and tequila distillers from the Mexican province of Jalisco to identify rare, ultra-premium craft tequila with limited to no U.S. distribution. As part of what’s become a first-of-its-kind partnership, NHLC recently introduced 23 rare tequilas exclusively at NH Liquor & Wine Outlets, giving our 11 million customers an incredible opportunity. NHLC recently hand-selected 20 individual barrels of ultra-premium, barrel-aged tequila from the Patrón, Herradura, and Casa Noble distilleries in Mexico. Each of the barrels – nine from Patrón – Anejo, Reposado, Roca Añejo; seven from Herradura – Double Barrel Reposado & Double Barrel Añejo; and four from Casa Noble – Joven, Reposado & Extra Añejo – vary greatly in flavor profile, aging process and proof.”
We received 15 samples from this buying binge, including all of those big names and a few we weren’t previously familiar with. So without further ado, let’s taste these releases, roughly from youngest (blancos) to oldest (extra anejos).
Proof information is unavailable. Barrel identifiers for each release are largely also not available.
Cobalto Tequila Blanco – An organic blanco. Ample spice on the nose, with quite a bit of black pepper and jalapeno character. The palate offers much of the same, all folded into a brown butter body, with a cleansing evergreen character emerging on the finish. It’s a racy, in-your-face blanco, though it maintains a clear focus on pepper and spice, showcasing a refined viewpoint throughout. B+
Don Valente Blanco Tequila – Much more depth here than on the clean Cobalto. The boldly meaty, chocolatey nose is atypical for blanco tequila — quite dense and herbal and, though not at all smoky, reminiscent of the unctuousness of mezcal. The dense body grips the palate and doesn’t let go, an oily spirit that’s almost chewy with notes of tobacco, almonds, and a finish that returns to dark chocolate. One of the more bizarre blancos I’ve experienced; while I didn’t really gravitate to its heaviness, you may absolutely love this one and I would totally respect that opinion. B
Adictivo Plata Tequila – Very spicy, but very sweet as well, both on the nose and the palate. Pepper and maple syrup, cloves and cotton candy — it all makes for a very strange experience, particularly in an unaged spirit, but which should make for a hell of a margarita. B
Casa Noble Joven Tequila – Overproof, lightly aged, this is bold and racy, intensely peppery on the nose, but cut with vanilla custard, lemon, and creme brulee notes. Powerful but velvety, with a warming, lengthy, and complex finish, this is a connoisseur’s sipper. A
Cobalto Tequila Reposado – Tons of butterscotch on this sweet little number, which folds baking spices and Bit-O-Honey into a gently buttery, almost summery experience. The intense herbaceousness of the blanco is absent here, tempered well by the barrel to the point where notes of coconut and salted caramel emerge on the modest but approachable finish. B+
Don Valente Reposado Tequila – The meaty funk of Don Valente’s blanco endures here, though it takes on a sweeter note of sugar cookie dough, candied bacon, and saltwater taffy. Again, it’s really weird, weird stuff, sweet and savory with a peppery backbone that recalls a touch of smoky bacon. Wild, in every sense of the word. B+
Patron Reposado Tequila – Patron fans will find this immediately familiar, and delightful: Slightly earthy, moderately peppery, and lush with notes of tropical fruit, citrus, and baking spices all wrapped up in a vanilla-scented bow. Patron is immensely popular because it’s so devilishly easy to drink and enjoy. This single barrel proves the case. A
Casa Noble Reposado Tequila Barrel #878 – No idea why we have barrel information for this one, but hey. Pepper up front gives way to sultry, almost charred caramel and vanilla notes. Milk chocolate notes give the finish a sweet, luscious conclusion. Straightforward, but enchanting. A-
Herradura Double Barrel Reposado Tequila – This reposado spends time in two barrels, the second one a new oak barrel where it rests for a short month. The sharpness of the barrel is clear on the nose, which has a charred, bourbon quality to it. Heavy caramel, coconut, and flambeed banana notes emerge on the bold, aggressive palate, while the finish is sharp with red pepper and cloves. Lots to like. A-
Tierra Azteca Tequila Anejo – Notes of German chocolate cake and tiramisu give this an exotic dessert-like aroma with coconut and cocoa notes prominent. Some heat on the palate balances out the sugar, but the overall impact is silky and soothing, with lingering fruit on the lasting, lush finish. A
Patron Anejo Tequila – A little on the pungent side, there’s an ample mint note to this barrel, unusual for Patron. Notes of graphite and savory spices give this a bit more grip and a heavier degree of earthiness, with a peppery and somewhat vegetal finish. Fine, but a fairly lackluster expression of Patron. B+
Herradura Double Barrel Anejo Tequila – Same concept as the Double Reposado, but the Double Anejo is far more difficult to come by. Unfortunately it’s not a particularly better tequila. The nose is sharp and one-dimensional with agave and pungent citrus notes, while the palate keeps things very herbal, the agave pushy with its dominance. The lush body and vanilla-driven sweetness of the typical anejo are shockingly absent here, pushed out, one assumes, by the new oak treatment and a particularly aggressive agave profile. A rare miss for Herradura. B-
Adictivo Extra Anejo Cristalino Tequila – This is an extra anejo filtered to remove the color, which always makes for a jarring experience. Extremely fruity, this tequila is a blast of tropical fruit, citrus, and apple slices, almost sangria-like in its approach. The heavy spice component, reminscent of a cinnamon-heavy horchata, is the main connection to tequila, though a bit of herbal heat on the finish at least reinforces a tenuous point. B
Adictivo Extra Anejo Tequila – Presumably the same tequila as the above, but unfiltered. It’s also the darkest in color in this lineup. Notes of cinnamon and cola are impactful on the nose, while the palate is dense with myriad flavors — meaty bacon, sweet tea, cloves, and a lacing a red pepper that runs through it. A bit scattered. B
Casa Noble Extra Anejo Tequila – To conclude, a tequila that has just about everything going for it. This well aged extra anejo hits the nose with agave herbaceousness and heat, then throws a warm blanket over everything with notes of red fruit, cinnamon sugar, and caramel. Dark chocolate and barrel char notes emerge quickly, playing nicely with the well-rounded finish. A
all prices NA (go to the NH Liquor Commission!) / liquorandwineoutlets.com
Being in NH I went right out today and picked up a bottle of the Casa Noble Joven – wow! Never had a tequila like this, definitely a sipper. I love that NH does this.