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.