“The Scottish Tequila Company” — UWA — has as its avowed mission a question: “What would happen if we took elements from both [regions] and created a blend of both tequila and whisky in a single drink?”
Don’t be too alarmed. UWA isn’t a blend of tequila and scotch; it’s merely tequila that has been aged in single malt, Speyside-born Scotch whisky casks instead of the typical American bourbon casks. UWA is 100% Lowlands blue agave, triple distilled, then aged according to the rules of tequila. While the three standard varieties are available, today we look at only the Blanco and Reposado.
Both are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.
UWA Tequila Platinum Blanco – This is unaged tequila, so only a bit of a nod to Scotland. Heavy agave on the nose initially comes across as a bit rough, but some air gives it life, revealing notes of juicy lemon and pear. The palate is extremely peppery, but this too settles down a bit to reveal a softer side, including some citrus and applesauce notes. The finish is spicy but not overwhelming, particularly given some time in glass. B+ / $61
UWA Tequila Reposado – Aged for seven months in cask. The time in whisky casks gives this spirit an impressive depth. The nose is a mix of agave and vanilla, some red pepper, but the palate takes things down a new road. Here, Mexican chocolate, loaded with cinnamon and milky cocoa, provide a dessert-like balance that isn’t even hinted at in the blanco expression. Bold yet easily approachable, the finish meanders toward caramel sauce, dusted just so with chili powder. Beautiful stuff. The anejo must be a dazzler. A / $67
We should probably start with the bottle. That’s a human heart, pressed out of red-tinted glass. Inside is blanco tequila, the brand name Sangre de Vida, which previously made some of those cute Day of the Dead skull-themed decanters as well. Sangre de Vida was sued by KAH for copyright infringement and ultimately lost its case; the skulls went away, and in came the heart.
It’s unclear whether the juice in the bleeding heart is the same as that which was in the painted skull — though my tasting notes are quite a bit different, so I’m guessing there have been some changes under the hood as well as changes to the hood itself.
Let’s taste the new blood.
The nose has a lot going on, more than you typically see in a blanco tequila. It’s immeditely quite pungent, thick with agave and red pepper, alongside hints of lemongrass, which provides both citrus and herbal notes. A healthy amount of lime zest adds a bit more aromatic zing as it opens up in the glass.
A gentle whiff of smoke leads the way to a robust palate, bold with white pepper, cayenne, and gunpowder, though just a hint of sweetness manages to make its presence felt for a time. Just as the aromatic buildup would imply, the body is immensely long and intense, with a finish that really doesn’t quit. The peppery notes hang on to the tongue for what feels like minutes — which is ultimately perhaps more energizing than I might want in my glass of tequila. Sangre de vida, indeed.
B+ / $40 / sangredevida.com
We reviewed Los Amantes Mezcal Joven way back in 2013 when mezcal wasn’t nearly as popular as it has become today. We were impressed then, so we were excited to sample the reposado offering. Like the joven, this Oaxacan mezcal is made by hand with the most traditional of methods. It’s crafted from 100% Espadin agave, baked in traditional earthen pits, ground by a horse-powered stone mill, and double-distilled in copper stills. The mezcal is then aged for six to eight months in French oak barrels.
Unlike many mezcals that boast big barbecue notes, the nose on Los Amanates Mezcal Reposado is light and clean with sweet honey and soft mesquite wood smoke. If not for that trace of earthy smoke, I’d almost think this was tequila. The palate, however, creates no such illusions. There’s a nice heat and a smoldering campfire quality almost immediately that is mouthwatering and punctuated by notes of sea salt and white pepper. A subtle caramel and honey sweetness keeps the smoke from taking over completely, while the finish erodes with faint notes of lightly roasted coffee and green apple. Like the joven, Los Amantes Reposado showcases a surprising balance, and while it leaves me wanting just a little more complexity, the depth of flavor compensates for that shortcoming.
A- / $70 / losamantes.com
We last encountered Dulce Vida way back in 2010, when we looked at the core lineup of three standard tequila expressions. Today we take a fresh look at the blanco — rebranded but still organic and made from 100% Highlands agave, though now much less expensive — along with a new flavored expression, pineapple jalapeno. (A lime-flavored expression is also available.)
Dulce Vida Tequila Blanco (2017) – Very restrained on the nose, with a bit of lemon, some light white pepper, and hints of celery salt. On the palate, there’s an initial rush of citrusy sweetness that is quickly followed by a modest simple sugar character, restrained agave notes, and a finish that hints at bitter chocolate and tree bark. Curious. 80 proof. Reviewed: Batch 76. B+ / $25
Dulce Vida Tequila Pineapple Jalapeno – “Made with real fruit,” the bottle says. “Shake well.” Cloudy like fresh lemonade, the nose is almost exclusively candied pineapple, punctuated by a not insignificant sugary sweetness underneath. The palate finds the jalapeno making its impact, a modest but lingering heat — definitely chili-driven — that plays the part of a nice foil to the pineapple. A bit lost in the shuffle is the tequila, as the jalapeno tends to drown out the more delicate agave-driven notes. That said, for a unique, tropical-meets-spicy margarita, I could see this filling the bill. 70 proof. Reviewed: Batch 87. B- / $20
It’s hard to believe but we haven’t reviewed a release of Tequila Ocho since this 2010 release. But our inadequacy get in the way of progress. Tequila Ocho has steadily been putting out vintage-dated single-village tequilas since 2008, with what must be dozens of expressions hitting the market since. (They’re all limited editions, so if you see one you like, snap it up.)
Anyway, at last we’re back, baby, with a look at the 2016 vintage from Puerta del Aire, a Highland field where 7 year old agave was harvested to make this unaged blanco tequila (100% agave, of course).
As Tequila Ocho’s releases go, this plata isn’t my favorite. The nose finds lots of pepper and a heavy vegetal note — though one more of canned green beans than fresh agave. Some mushroom funk and graphite notes are also evident on the nose. The palate falls much in line with the tequila’s aromatic profile, with a pungency that matches the nose, offering notes of green pepper, cracked black peppercorns, and more of that earthy mushroom character. There’s a sweetness here, however, and it comes on surprisingly strong after the initial earthy/vegetable rush fades, a light brown sugar note that gives some much-needed balance to a tequila that is otherwise on the primal side.
B+ / $50 / tequilaocho.com
El Tesoro is a beautiful tequila from an ancient brand, and for its 80th anniversary it’s pulling out all the stops, offering this extreme extra anejo at the whopping age of 8 years old. As with all of its expressions, this is a 100% agave tequila sourced from the Jalisco Highlands. Aging is completed in ex-bourbon barrels.
For an extra anejo, the spirit is surprisingly full of life, and youth. The nose is extremely peppery, with lots of herbal agave, but also notes of brown butter and sweet salted caramel. The palate is again quite racy, an initial rush of spice, pepper, and heat giving way to seductive caramel, milk chocolate, cinnamon, butterscotch, and subtle notes of lemon and orange. The sweet and fruity notes hang around on the finish for quite awhile, ending this exquisite tequila not on a note of cloying sweetness, but on one of fresh fruit.
Definitely one of the best and most complex tequilas I’ve seen in a long while.
A / $200 / eltesorotequila.com
You may have heard over the summer that George Clooney sold his start-up tequila company, Casamigos, to spirits industry titan Diageo for an amount approaching a billion dollars. That’s right. A cool billion. While that price seems high, it’s reportedly the fastest growing super-premium tequila brand in America. We’ve already reviewed Casamigos Blanco and Reposado, and we liked those tequilas well enough — but we wanted to evaluate all of what Diageo is getting for its money, so we finally cracked our bottle of Casamigos Anejo.
This tequila is the same seven-year-old highland agave found in the other two expressions, with the only difference being that it was aged in used American whiskey barrels for over a year. It has a great pinkish, gold color. The nose is full of buttery vanilla, confectioner’s sugar, citrus, and sandalwood. On the palate, notes of cinnamon sugar, pineapple, and sweet corn cakes are balanced nicely with subtle oak, mild pepper, and a lingering smokiness. The finish is decently long, with fading sugary cinnamon and tobacco notes. It’s not as creamy as the nose suggests, and it’s a bit sweet for my taste, but overall, Casamigos Anejo is a great sipping tequila and probably the best of the range.
A- / $55 / casamigostequila.com
The latest expression from Hornitos — it’s been on a tear lately — is Cristalino, an anejo tequila that is filtered back to clear.
Let’s dig into this 100% agave offering.
Whole most tequilas of this style are predominantly anejo-esque in style, Cristalino drinks less like an anejo and more like a “best of both worlds” tequila. The nose is fairly pungent with green, blanco-like agave notes, including some powerful herbal hints of sage and black pepper. On the palate, more anejo-like notes take hold, including caramel-laden sweetness, though this is cut with more of that pepper and spice, both of which begin to dominate as that sweetness quickly fades. The finish is surprisingly biting, a bit punchy with some uncharacteristic raw alcohol notes.
Filtered anejo is becoming an increasingly popular style for tequila, and while Hornitos’ expression is credible enough, you’ll find more interesting bottlings available elsewhere.
B / $30 / hornitostequila.com
Tequila Ciudad is a new, ultrapremium tequila brand, launching in 27 states this year.
A Highlands-sourced, 100% agave tequila, Ciudad is offered in all three major expressions, though we’re only reviewing the blanco for the time being. Let’s dig in.
A slight smokiness on the nose is intriguing, though it slightly masks some lemon peel and fresh sage aromas. The palate is more cohesive, a semi-sweet mix of moderate to strong pure agave notes, a squeeze of citrus, and a curious note of fresh nutmeg. The finish is a black pepper bomb that goes off with a bang, leaving the tequila not so much with a spicy kick but with a musky, dusky sensation that coats the back of the throat. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the sweeter rush up front, and one that invites additional exploration, though ultimately it’s not as satisfying a conclusion to a blanco as I’d like. Where one expects a crisp and clean finish, Ciudad winds up the slightest bit murky.
B / $53 / tequilaciudad.com
We’ve written about the Tahona Society Cocktail Competition in the past, where tequila is the name of the game and where bartenders from all over the world compete to create a unique cocktail. The most recent installment concluded with this winner from Jeppe Nothlev of Helium bar in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It’s a sweet little number with lots of complexity — though the rhubarb syrup may be a bit tricky to obtain. (Olmeca Altos — now often going by just Altos — provided us a pre-mixed sample, making this a bit easier.)
50ml Altos Plata tequila
10ml Pedro Ximénez sherry
30ml rhubarb syrup
30ml lime juice
dash of egg white
Mix the Altos Plata, Pedro Ximénez Sherry, rhubarb syrup, lime juice and egg white, shake and pour into a highball glass and top with grapefruit soda.
Way back in 2013 we positively reviewed Suerte Reposado Tequila, a 100% agave Highlands bottling. Finally we’re filling out the line with a look at the blanco and the anejo. (We still haven’t tasted the extra anejo.) Thoughts on the pair of tequilas follow.
Both are 80 proof.
Suerte Blanco Tequila – Initially a bit restrained, with time in glass Suerte’s blanco opens up to reveal a moderately peppery note that punctuates pungent, green agave aromas. There’s fruit in the nose, but it’s a bit cooked, and the saltiness comes off as a bit sweaty. On the palate, Suerte is more aggressive, salty and peppery, with emerging fruit notes — apple and tangerine — that eventually give way to a racy, spicy finish. This is a solid blanco with ample complexity — though it comes across as just a bit scattered in the end. B+ / $30
Suerte Anejo Tequila – Aged in oak for 24 months, quite a lengthy amount of time for an anejo. Lots of toasty oak and vanilla on the nose, but the spice of the agave endures. There’s plenty more on the palate, too — and here you’ll also find notes of coconut, roasted banana, some baking spice, and a little tobacco, too. It’s sweet like a good anejo should be, but never overblown, with ample agave backing up the gentle sugars. A- / $50
Patron has added its first new addition to the core tequila lineup in 25 years: at long last, an extra anejo bottling.
This isn’t Patron’s first dance with extra anejo. Patron Extra Anejo 7 Anos hit as a limited edition in 2015, and the infamous Guillermo del Toro Extra Anejo dropped earlier this year. The catch: Both of those were very limited editions. This is a permanent extension to the lineup.
Aged for more than three years, Patrón Extra Añejo is the first new addition to Patrón’s core range of tequilas in 25 years, expanding an iconic line that includes Patrón Silver, Patrón Reposado (aged at least two months), and Patrón Añejo (aged for more than 12 months). Extra añejo tequila, a classification that the Consejo Regulador de Tequila (Mexico’s governing body for tequila) created in 2006, represents the fastest-growing category in aged tequila today.
Patrón Extra Añejo tequila is crafted from the highest-quality 100 percent Weber Blue Agave and distilled using the ancient tahona process and the more modern roller mill method. It is then aged for more than three years in a combination of new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels…. Patrón Extra Añejo is packaged in the same iconic bottle as Patrón’s other core tequilas, hand-numbered and hand-labeled.
Say what you will about the recent, wacky Guillermo del Toro bottling, this is a classic extra anejo tequila, with a nose of deep vanilla and caramel, backed by a very gentle herbal character driven by the agave. The creamy palate gives the immediate impression of vanilla ice cream, drizzled perhaps with a bit of chocolate syrup and plenty of caramel sauce. The sweeter components find foils in the form of cinnamon and nutmeg notes and, over time, the emergence of some hints of black cherry, rhubarb, and lemon peel. Amazing from start to finish, it’s a balanced tequila that doesn’t reinvent the extra anejo formula, but which guides it oh so subtly with a careful hand to someplace excelente.
A / $90 / patrontequila.com