Review: Kimo Sabe Mezcal – Joven and Reposado

Kimo Sabe got started as a brand in 2014, and this affordable mezcal line is finally hitting the U.S. in stride. The company produces three mezcals, two of which are barrel aged in line with standard tequila styles, at present.

We sampled the younger two in the lineup, a joven (aka albedo) and reposado (aka rubedo).

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Joven : Albedo – A classically unaged expression. Quite sweet and lightly smoky on the nose, this is a lighter style of mezcal punctuated with notes of salted caramel, fresh hay, and oily lemon and orange. The palate keeps things largely in line with the nose, though it’s a bit fruitier than expected, with more lemon/lemongrass notes, a slightly malty note to the chipotle-laden smoke as the palate develops, leading to a gently caramel-laced finish. Very easygoing, suitable for any mezcal novice. 86 proof. B+ / $28

Kimo Sabe Mezcal Reposado : Rubedo – Lightly yellow-hued, though no aging information is provided. Quite a different experience, with a comparably closed nose, the focus here is on wood-driven vanilla, butterscotch, and a very light touch of smoke underneath it. The palate is reminiscent of reposado tequila, with virtually no smokiness at all, loaded instead with notes of toasted marshmallow, roasted agaves, and a vanilla-caramel-chocolate note that lingers as the finish quickly develops. Said finish lingers with a dessert-like sweetness, washing away any semblance of smoke, and fading out with a character reminiscent of Christmas, with a vague ginger spice character. 83 proof. A- / $33

kimosabemezcal.com

Review: El Tesoro Tequila Reposado

Carlos Camarena is an icon of the tequila world, and of the several brands he shepherds, El Tesoro is his baby. A few months back I had the pleasure of dining with Camarena and hearing all about how this tequila is made, from harvest to bottling, and today we finally take a formal look at one of El Tesoro’s bottlings, its well-regarded reposado, which spends a lengthy 11 months in barrel before bottling.

The tequila offers a classic nose of vanilla well-mixed with pungent agave, with a healthy subtext of orange peel. On the palate, it’s aggressive for a reposado, with loads of peppery agave, notes of sage and thyme, and — finally — a cool vanilla layer that washes over as the finish starts to take hold. Warming but balanced, the drinker is left with notes of milk chocolate, some coconut, and a grate of nutmeg to reward his efforts.

Quality stuff.

80 proof.

A- / $45 / eltesorotequila.com

Review: Fabriquero Sotol

Perhaps you’ve heard of this “cousin of tequila”? But OK, what is sotol?

Sotol is a distillate of an agave-like plant called sotol — scientifically named as Dasylirion Wheeleri. It’s not agave, but a different plant that creates a finished product with a different flavor. This wild plant grows in three northern Mexico states, “100% wild,” and at maturity they are about half the size of agave plants. Fabriquero’s sotol — just now being released in the U.S. for the first time — is found on the Don Héctor Jiménez ranch of Ventanas.

When ripe, Fabriquero is harvested and cooked for five days in lava rock-lined pits using acacia and mesquite as fuel. They are then crushed by hand before being fermented in open air.

What’s it taste like?

Fabriquero Sotol (this is an unaged, “blanco” expression) is a strange and unique spirit, landing somewhere between tequila and mezcal and lemonade. The nose is smoky, but not as intense as most mezcal, with notes of lemon peel, honeydew, and some layers of evergreen. The palate is much stranger than that would indicate, a semi-sweet, semi-sour experience that kicks off with light smoke before folding in notes of ripe banana, menthol, more melon, and a simplistic sweetness that washes over the experience and leaves behind a sense of cheap lemon candy, the kind of budget fruit candy you might find in a big vat at your local taqueria.

Do I like it better than mezcal or tequila? Not at all, but I can appreciate its uniqueness, and look forward to trying other expressions of sotol as they make their way to the U.S.

90 proof.

B / $65 / fabriquero.mx

Review: Rock N Roll Tequila – Platinum and Mango

Tequila has no shortage of novelty bottlings. In a world of tequila bottled in decanters shaped like human skulls and machine guns, why, a series of tequilas in bottles that look like electric guitars is almost boring.

Rock N Roll is a new line of triple-distilled tequila that hails from the Jalisco Highlands, made from 100% blue agave. Three versions are sold, but not what you’d expect: These include a standard silver (Platinum) expression, a mango-flavored expression, and Cristalino, an anejo tequila filtered back to clear. Our Cristalino bottle broke in shipping, and we never received a replacement. The Platinum and Mango expressions are reviewed here.

Fun fact: Dan Marino is one of the brand partners!

Rock N Roll Platinum Tequila – A clean blanco, the nose is peppery and rich, with racy agave notes and hints of cinnamon. On the palate, more of that cinnamon comes to the fore, melding nicely with a rather buttery body that leads to notes of fresh-baked pastries, lemon pepper, and mixed baking spices. The finish is short but expressive — far more interesting and enlightening than you’d expect from something bottled in a giant “Flying V” guitar. 80 proof. A- / $37

Rock N Roll Mango Licor de Tequila – The press release says this is made with natural mango flavoring, but the bottle says that “artificial flavor” is used. Either way, the mango is out of place here, coming across as phony and off-putting in the way that cherry flavoring is used in cough syrup. This melds unsatisfyingly with notes of thyme, bitter lemon, and milk chocolate. None of this ever comes together in a meaningful way, but it’s not completely offensive in the end, at least. 64 proof. C- / $33

rocknrolltequila.com

Review: Viva XXXII Tequila – Joven and Reposado

Viva XXXII — or Viva 32, if you’re not Roman — is a new tequila brand with some interesting goals. Created by Yvonne Niami, the tequila claims to be “disrupting the tradition of charging more for a bottle than the tequila inside it. Crafted so you can savor, priced so you can indulge, the brand’s motto is transparency in a bottle. It is luxury that is accessible – more than just liquid in a glass.” Aside from that, 10 percent of net proceeds donated to animal abuse prevention (SPCALA, ASPCA, and START).

Two expressions of Viva XXXII are available, a joven and a reposado. Straight blanco and anejo expressions are not available, at least not yet.

Both are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.

Viva XXXII Tequila Joven – This is a blend of blanco tequila with three-year-old anejo tequila (proportions are not disclosed), filtered to clear. There’s tons of pepper on the nose — both black and cayenne — but also some sweetness, lots of lime, and a bit of baking spice, to boot. The palate pumps of the sweet fruit with exotic notes of pineapple, cinnamon, fresh rosemary, and a bit of butterscotch coming up the rear — but with lots of pepper throughout. The fruit can be a bit much, though — as it tends to dull the agave to some extent. That said, the body is rounded and supple, an appropriate carrier for the sweet-and-heat experience. The heat is what lingers most on the finish, lip-searing red pepper with a subtle undercurrent of crispy bacon. It’s less weird than that sounds. B+ / $40

Viva XXXII Tequila Reposado – Rested six months in new American oak barrels. This is very light in color — through the triangle pattern etched on the bottle, it’s hard to see the color of the tequila at all. The nose is peppery like the Joven, though here the sweeter notes are more traditional vanilla and caramel, with herbal agave underpinning it all. The palate follows suit, impregnating the vanilla with clear lime notes and a hint of coconut. A gentle, sugar-forward reposado, it finds tart citrus notes on the finish that elevate it beyond the typical. A- / $45

viva32.com

Review: Santo Mezquila

Why would someone want to blend mezcal and tequila into the same spirit? I’m not entirely sure what the motivation was, but Sammy Hagar (Van Halen) and Adam Levine (Maroon 5) decided this might be the next big thing, and Santo — aka Santo Puro — has now arrived.

The tequila used is 100% blue agave, and the mezcal is from espadin agave. The two are blended 50-50 to make the final product, so the “you got your tequila in my mezcal” debate can continue unabated, forever.

Let’s give it a whirl!

The nose has the smoke and sweet citrus notes that immediately scream mezcal. Blend or no, on the nose it’s the mezcal that comes through the most clearly — peppery and full of spicy character. The palate tones things down a notch. Santo is sweet and gentle, and while the smoky and pepper are present, they’re dialed back to where even a mezcal novice could enjoy them. This isn’t a bad thing, as it allows notes of apple, caramel corn, and some ruddy carrot notes to come to the fore, which give it a savory bent. The finish is on the short side, but with lingering smokiness and hints of that vegetal character.

80 proof.

B+ / $40 / santomezquila.com

Review: Nine Single Barrel Tequilas from the New Hampshire Liquor Commission – Patron, Herradura, and Casa Noble

In case you missed our previous reviews, New Hampshire — the Granite State — is one of the most enthusiastic consumers of private label, single barrel spirits in the world. Recently the state’s liquor commission loaded up on 15 barrels of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, the biggest single barrel purchase of JD ever made.

Tired of whiskey? Maybe not, but the NHLC is at least extending its horizons to another hot spirit category: Tequila. Its latest purchase? Nine single barrels of tequila sourced from Patron, Herradura, and Casa Noble. The total haul is about 2,862 bottles — and we got to sample all of them.

Thoughts on the full collection, all 80 proof except the one Casa Noble as noted, follow.

Patron Reposado – Barrel #219 – Aged 8 months in new French oak. It kicks off as one of the most straightforward tequilas in this roundup, a toasty, vanilla-forward spirit with a sweet but agave-sharp nose and a palate that blends nicely its flavors of caramel and vanilla with ample notes of black pepper. Ultimately complex, with notes of banana and green olive emerging, it manages to remain balanced, a study in agave and wood finding harmony at just the right time. A / $57

Patron Anejo – Barrel #140 –  Aged 26 months in new American & new French oak. The first of three studies on different wood types used to age tequila — in this case, Patron. Quite citrus-forward on the nose, with big lemon peel notes and a hint of smoke. The body folds in more of that smokiness, plus some notes of apricot, lemongrass, and some mint. On the whole, a straightforward reposado. B+ / $62

Patron Anejo – Barrel #134 –  Aged 26 months in new (French) Limousin oak. The nose of this one offers notes of green banana, soft smoke, and lightly vegetal agave notes. The palate is more peppery, but balanced with a modest caramel and vanilla. Drinks more like a reposado. B / $62

Patron Anejo – Barrel #114 –  Aged 31 months in used American oak. Billed as a monster, and yeah, there’s plenty of wood on the nose, but it’s well filtered through butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel, with hints of fresh fruit. The palate is spicy, with red pepper and cloves, some notes of molasses, and a finish that again echoes toasty wood. Drinks more like an extra anejo, perhaps, with a more savory edge to it. B+ / $62

Herradura Double Reposado – Barrel #1224 – Aged 11 months in used American white oak, then spends an additional 30 days in new American white oak. The first of two identically aged barrels. There’s straightforward agave on the nose along with some buttery pastry notes, with a relatively soft approach on the palate’s attack. The finish is creamy and sweet, with mild herbal overtones, altogether drinking a lot like a typical, dialed-back reposado. B+ / $50

Herradura Double Reposado – Barrel #1225 – As above, aged 11 months in used American white oak, then spends an additional 30 days in new American white oak. While it has some of the same sweetness, this tequila is immediately much more peppery on the nose and the palate, with a more classically agave-forward profile. The finish finds a balance of sweet and spice, with notes of cloves and lemon peel — but the finish is all dusky pepper and a bit of smoky bacon that lingers on the finish. A somewhat more interesting expression of reposado, though it was just one barrel over. A- / $50

Casa Noble Joven – Barrel #808 – Aged 6 weeks in new French Oak from the sought-after Taransaud region — new oak of any sort being an unusual move for tequila. A clean tequila with a bold nose of green agave and lime peel, the sharp palate leading to some light notes of almond, toasted marshmallow, and blonde wood. Quite pungent on the finish, with a spritz of citrus, ample black pepper, and lingering alcohol overtones. 102 proof. B+ / $45

Casa Noble Reposado – Barrel #691 – Aged 364 days in new Taransaud French Oak, just under the reposado limit. A very supple and surprisingly gentle tequila, aromas of soft brown sugar, vanilla, and gentle wood lead to a soft but highly drinkable palate that mixes up notes of lemongrass, honey buns, peppery agave, and butterscotch. Lithe and mellow on a finish that turns almost decadent, particularly for a reposado. A / $58

Casa Noble Extra Anejo – Barrel #556 – Aged 5 years in new Taransaud French Oak. “The Director’s Pick.” There’s a surprising amount of agave left here considering the advanced age of this extra anejo. Grassy and almost green, it’s a tequila that comes across at first like a reposado both on the nose and the palate… at least until the barrel influence becomes more evident as notes of cinnamon, mixed baking spices, raisins, and some notes of raw sugar cookie dough, which linger on the finish. This is a fun tequila but it seems at times a bit scattered, perhaps even lost. B+ / $130

liquorandwineoutlets.com

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