Review: Dulce Vida Tequila Blanco (2017) and Pineapple Jalapeno

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

dulcevidaspirits.com

Review: Ghost Tequila

Have we reached the era of peak ghost pepper? The unavoidable “hottest pepper on earth” is used to flavor — a term used loosely here — Ghost Tequila, which actually begins with a 100% agave base spirit. Designed for consumption as a shot (perhaps the punishment the loser of a bar bet is stricken with), the spirit was actually invented by a Boston bartender as a homegrown infusion before it went commercial.

The nose leads with agave, but also with notes of orange and lemon — masking some hints of pepper underneath. This is probably intentional; without the fruit, the aroma might be too off-putting for most to even take a sip of it.

The heat is there, of course, and it hits the palate with a lot of that citrus-driven sweetness, something like biting into a mandarin orange that’s been studded with cinnamon red hots and dosed with cayenne pepper. The pepper is fortunately manageable — hot, but not overwhelming, and not pungent and sour in the way that pepper can come across in other pepper-infused spirits. Here you definitely taste more than the pepper, a classic “sweet heat” experience that offers a finish of both sides of the coin in roughly equal measures.

Drinkers looking for a “dare” bottle to keep on the back bar may enjoy this the most, but I can also see how it would work in a spicy margarita or paloma (at least in moderation).

80 proof.

B / $26 / ghosttequila.com

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: Dos Almas 55 Tequila Plata and Cinnamon Liqueur

Dos Almas is a new brand of tequila (a silver) and liqueur, made in the Highlands region of Jalisco. These are wildly different products, so let’s hop to it. Details (and thoughts) follow.

Both bottles reviewed are from production #1, which comprised 1300 and 1600 bottles, respectively.

Dos Almas 55 Tequila Plata – This is a double-distilled silver tequila, 100% blue agave, bottled overproof, “straight off the still.” You can find in-depth production information on the company’s website below. There’s a slight smokiness and dusty charcoal character on the nose here, along with notes of grilled lemon and rosemary. Some of the aromas tend to clash a bit, but the palate finds more balance between the roasted agave notes, sharp citrus, and ample black pepper character. Orange oil percolates on the tip of the tongue, while spice and heat linger on the back end. What starts off a bit rocky on the nose ultimately comes together in quite a compelling way. While hot, I’d never have guessed this was 55% abv. Note that it is wildly expensive for a plata. 110 proof. B+ / $79

Dos Almas Cinnamon Liqueur – This is a cinnamon liqueur made from 100% blue agave reposado tequila that is infused with organic Indonesian Ceylon cinnamon sticks and organic agave nectar. This is quite a lively and compelling little liqueur. (Actually, whether this is a liqueur or a flavored tequila is a matter of debate; I’d suggest the latter.) The nose is sweet but not overly so, with plenty of red hot candies amidst the notes of racy, herbal tequila. It’s an engaging start to a spirit that keeps firing on all cylinders; the palate is bold with notes of sweet and sour sauce, cinnamon jelly, and a lingering herbal character driven by the reposado. There’s ample caramel here, vanilla-scented sugar, and notes of maple-glazed donuts. Bold but approachable, it’s Fireball for the thinking (and wealthy) man. 70 proof. A- / $55

dosalmastequila.com

Review: Blue Nectar Tequila Complete Lineup (2016)

We first encountered Blue Nectar in 2014. The Lowlands tequila producer had an avant garde approach to production, which included a reposado-anejo blend and a flavored reposado in the mix. Since then, the company has done some rebranding (while keeping the perfume bottle profile), shuffled some labels and product names, and added a full anejo to the mix, while sticking with its “agave forward” flavor profile.

Here’s a fresh look at the full (and now complete) lineup of tequilas. All are 80 proof.

Blue Nectar Tequila Silver – A triple-distilled blanco, this tequila noses with notes of green pepper, some cinnamon, and ample, herbal agave. On the palate, the flavor of roasted agave dominates, with black pepper notes clinging to the back of the throat. Sweetness is present, but elusive, as hot vegetal notes tend to dominate. B / $43

Blue Nectar Tequila Reposado Extra Blend – Double-distilled. Aged six to eight months in charred North American oak barrels and blended with three-year extra añejo. This effectively corresponds to the 2014 Reposado bottling. Though the nose is restrained and agave-heavy, it drinks with more oomph, offering notes of vanilla, nutmeg, and ample orange peel. The finish is lingering with notes of cola and barrel char — almost whiskey-like at times with a dusty, coal-fired finish. B+ / $48

Blue Nectar Tequila Reposado Special Craft – Double-distilled. Aged six to eight months in charred North American oak barrels and infused with essential oils and a hint of agave nectar. This is the equivalent of the 2014 Special Reserve. This surprisingly noses more like a traditional reposado, with clear cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla aromas. The body is all kinds of crazy, though, very sweet, with notes of marzipan, banana, whipping cream, and saltwater taffy. The finish is gummy and lingering, impossibly sugar-rich. C+ / $53

Blue Nectar Tequila Anejo Founder’s Blend – A new addition. Double-distilled, and aged for one to two years in charred American oak barrels and blended with extra añejo, including a limited production five year old extra añejo. It offers a relatively traditional, old tequila nose, with deep vanilla, dusky barrel char, and sweet caramel notes at the fore. The palate is equally well-formed, offering more dark caramel, some chocolate, a touch of maple, and cinnamon. The agave hangs in there, showing its face on the finish as an afterimage of what’s come before. Nicely made. A- / $67

bluenectartequila.com

Review: Soltado Picante Tequila

Soltado_Tequila-whitebg

Why would you take a perfectly good tequila and dope it up with a bunch of cinnamon and hot peppers? I can’t speak to the logic, although it’s hardly the first time anyone has tried to impregnate tequila with added flavoring agents. That said, flavored tequilas rarely have any serious pedigree. Not so with Soltado, which starts with 100% agave anejo tequila, aged 28 long months in American oak. It’s then flavored with cinnamon and local, organic serrano peppers. (No sugar is added to this mix, by the way.)

The results are, somewhat surprisingly, exactly what you’d expect. The nose has all the hallmarks of a good anejo — dense vanilla, creme brulee, and a bit of agave… plus an undercurrent of spicy peppers. On the palate, the tequila kicks off with the same elements, in the same sequence: First, gentle sweetness, then a touch of herbal agave, then the heat. This builds slowly but powerfully — those with chapped lips will suffer greatly at the hands of Soltado — an authentic and all-encompassing spiciness that feels like you’ve downed a solid slug of Tabasco. (The cinnamon doesn’t come through at all, however.) As it fades, the caramel of the tequila comes back to the fore, though it remains tempered by racy serrano notes that linger for several minutes.

Soltado is clearly designed for mixing, but nonetheless it remains a bit of an oddity.

80 proof.

B / $33 / soltadotequila.com

Review: 1800 Coconut Tequila

1800 coconutFlavored tequila can be a mixed bag, and straight out of the bottle, 1800’s coconut-flavored expression smells exactly like Malibu — at least until you stick your nose into the glass, when sharp agave notes come to the fore.

On the palate, it’s a combination of the two, as the spirit bounces between notes of sweet coconut flakes and brash, green, and peppery blanco tequila (100% agave is used here, though), with very little else happening in between. A touch of pineapple hits the finish, but otherwise this is sugary coconut and punchy agave notes, trying to live side by side.

My mind struggles trying to figure out the appropriate use for the spirit, though. As a sipper the two styles never quite get together in a friendly enough way. As a mixer, the same issue applies — the tequila clashes with cola or another standard add-in.

That really leaves one option: Coconut margaritas, anyone?

70 proof.

C+ / $24 / 1800tequila.com

Review: Hornitos Spiced Honey Tequila

Hornitos Spiced Honey Bottle ImageThe flavored tequila world isn’t necessarily the most successful one out there. Most offerings in this space are tolerable at best.

Hornitos Spiced Honey is a more ambitious product than the Hornitos Lime Shot that came before it — lime-flavored tequila isn’t much of a stretch — adding honey and a blend of spices to standard blanco Hornitos.

The nose offers a slightly sweet take on dense agave, vegetal notes balanced by what at first seems more like apple cider than honey. On the palate, it’s quite sweet, with notes of pineapple, ripe pear, and indistinct spices — gingerbread character, with a backing of toasted marshmallow.

The palate is as sweet as expected, with notes not just of honey but of milk chocolate and a bit of cinnamon. Some coffee notes emerge with time, and the herbal agave character shows its face as things open up. Not so much pungent as it is mildly sultry, the agave meshes fairly well with the honey and the spice notes — though these don’t really add much aside from a layer of sweetness atop an otherwise straightforward blanco.

70 proof.

B- / $18 / hornitostequila.com

Review: Blue Nectar Tequila Complete Lineup (2014)

blue nectar special reserve

Blue Nectar is a new brand producing three varieties of tequila from the Lowlands of Mexico. The three expressions are not the traditional trio you might be familiar with in the tequilaverse, but let’s not spoil the surprise.

All expressions are 80 proof. Thoughts follow.

Blue Nectar Tequila Silver – Intense bell pepper, jalapeno, and red chilis on the nose lead to a racy and spicy initial rush. This manages to settle down quickly to reveal some surprising layers of sweetness — light butterscotch and a bit of vanilla. You can’t keep that vegetal/pepper character down for long. It makes an overwhelming encore on this enigmatic — and slightly off-putting — spirit. B / $37

Blue Nectar Tequila Reposado – Claimed to be “a unique blend of reposado and limited production extra anejo” tequilas, which puts this into a category of bizarre tequila recursion. Is Blue Nectar Reposado somehow blended with itself? No matter. The addition of some three-year anejo aside, this is a well-made reposado, offering a pleasing mix of rich agave, silky caramel, and gummy vanilla notes. Both the savory and sweet sides of this spirit are in balance here, giving it a punchy, peppery counterbalance to its sweeter side. Lots to like. A- / $40

Blue Nectar Tequila Special Reserve – You might presume this is a fancy name for Blue Nectar’s Anejo. You’d be wrong. It is actually reposado “tequila infused with natural spice flavor.” Said spices are not revealed, but they do include “vanilla, nutmeg, and orange peel, plus a hint of agave nectar.” The overall impact is a bit weird and hard to pin down. It’s a very light, almost fruity spirit, with notes of orange juice, banana, vanilla ice cream, and a dusting of agave spice on the back. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad product. In fact, it’s pleasant enough, but it’s harmless to the point of being nearly inconsequential. I’m not sure what Blue Nectar did to this spirit, but it ultimately did a bit of a disservice to the raw material. B- / $45

bluenectartequila.com

Review: Peligroso Cinnamon Tequila Liqueur

peligroso cinnamon tequila

Bottled at the same 84 proof as its standard tequila lineup, Peligroso curiously markets this cinnamon-flavored variety as a “liqueur.” But what’s in the bottle is 100% agave blanco tequila infused with “100% pure cinnamon and a blend of secret ingredients, creating a distinct juice with a kick that leaves some sweet heat on the palate.”

The effect is surprisingly mild.

The color bestowed on this silver tequila by the spice infusion brings it into the world of anejo, and those spices push it that direction on the nose and body, too. The nose is a curiosity — earthy agave takes the front seat, with sultry cinnamon notes underneath. There are hints of red berries and a distinct floral character there too, something you wouldn’t expect to find in either unflavored tequila or a cinnamon spirit.

The body is a bit more straightforward. The cinnamon and baking spice notes are easily evident, with a strong, vegetal agave underpinning. The overall effect is something like caramel corn meets jalapeno peppers meets Cinnabon (sans the cloying sweetness). The finish is surprisingly easygoing and palatable, not nearly the bite you’d expect.

I’m still unsure what the point of flavored tequila is — a shot of tequila with a little cinnamon liqueur would let you mix things up to your own tastes — but I think what Peligroso is trying to do here is at least an intriguing and worthy experiment.

B+ / $36 / peligrosotequila.com

Review: Hornitos Lime Shot Tequila

I was surprisehornitos lime shotd to see Hornitos — one of the most respected names in mainstream tequila — releasing a flavored product like this, clearly aimed at the party-crowd shot market. At the same time, I was intrigued. If anyone was going to do a good job with a “lime shot” tequila, it ought to be Hornitos.

The tequila, a very pale green/gold in color, doesn’t require a whole lot of explanation. It’s a 100% agave tequila, kicked with a touch of natural lime flavor. (The website says there’s salt added too, completing the trifecta.)

The nose offers quite a bit of lime, with a modest agave underpinning. More Meyer lemon than lime, at first blush, but close enough. The agave notes build over time as you let it settle in the glass, the overall effect becoming more “tequila-like.”

The body offers more of the above, but with more sweetness than sourness in the mix. Lime is abundant, something like a lime candy, but I don’t get any salt. What I also don’t get: Much tequila. What’s there is mild, a simple plata with just a touch of vanilla to give the sugary character some interest. Other than that, you won’t be able to pick out much more given all the lime flavoring.

If the idea was to recreate a bar shot, where you really don’t taste anything but lime juice, mission accomplished. But honestly, I’m still scratching my head just trying to figure out what the point of this is. Are limes that hard to cut up?

70 proof.

B- / $18 / hornitostequila.com

Review: Tanteo Flavored Tequilas

tanteo tequila

Thanks to new Mexican legislation, flavored tequilas continue to arrive, and Tanteo has two of the most intriguing concoctions we’ve seen yet (plus one already-familiar infusion). All 100% agave, these three tequilas add natural flavors to an 80 proof base, with curious results. All appear to use unaged blanco tequila as the starting point: Though the final tequila in this tasting has a yellowish tint to it (not going to spoil the secret just yet), I presume that’s from the additional ingredients, not barrel aging.

Tanteo Tropical purports to be flavored with mango, pineapple, and guanabana, and “gently kissed with the essence of jalapeno.” In reality, this one’s pineapple all the way — the nose is filled with the spiny fruit’s signature flavor, and it’s strong on the body, too. Mango plays a distant second fiddle, but it’s there, alongside traditional, herbal agave notes. It’s like a pineapple vodka, but with more nuance. This is interesting when consumed solo (drink it cold or on the rocks), but it’s clearly destined for greater things as part of a unique margarita or, as the name suggests, as a replacement for rum in tropical drinks. A-

Tanteo Jalapeno doesn’t mince words: Its only infused additive is jalapeno peppers. A real bruiser, I was immediately reminded of Agave Loco‘s powerful concoction, though Tanteo’s version has considerably less peppery heat to it. As with Agave Loco, it’s not typical jalapeno that presents itself but more of a vinegary sport-pepper character. The burn is more akin to a strong black pepper or cayenne, particularly on the nose. Not bad at all, but as with all pepper-infused tequilas I’ve reviewed, it’s not for everyone. B+

Tanteo Chocolate – We save the most interesting for last. Because, seriously, who doesn’t like chocolate? A staple in Mexican cooking, it’s a natural addition to tequila, but also a really surprising one. In keeping with the theme, Tanteo adds not just chocolate extract to the tequila but also jalapeno again, too. The results are intriguing: Chocolate, not too dark or bittersweet, is the prevalent character, but the jalapeno creeps up on you in the finish (unlike in the Tropical, where it’s not really noticeable at all). The result is sweet followed by heat, and a long agave-like finish. Again I like this one served cold, and again it’s got tons of promise in cocktails, primarily in the dessert drink milieu. A-  [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

$55 each / tanteotequila.com

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