by Andrew Chalk
It was a sea of people last night at Komali in Uptown where owner Abraham Salum put on his largest Tequila tasting since Komali opened two and half years ago. The fêted brand was Casa Noble, a premium Tequila produced since the 1700s near Tequila in the state of Jalisco. Perhaps the high turnout (you could hardly move) was not a surprise, as Casa Noble CEO Jose Hermosillo had flown into Dallas to personally make the presentation as part of a promotional tour of the important Texas market. Alongside the tequilas, Komali chef Anastacia Quiñones served ‘botanas’ to suit each one.
As I talked to Jose what got my attention was the phrase “new French oak”. I thought maybe Jose had a wine business on the side. But no, the Casa Noble aged tequilas begin and end their aging in a French oak barrel and at the start of the process that barrel is a brand new Taransaud or François Frères barrique. The significance of the use of this oak is that each barrel costs around $1200, versus $70 for the used bourbon barrels widely used in the tequila trade. The measure is no vanity step. As the tasting notes below show, it gives the end product a unique bouquet and flavor profile.
Other aspects of the Casa Noble process also remind one of the fine wine making process. For example, the blue agave that is the fermented organic base of tequila is entirely estate grown. It is allowed to grow for a dozen years before harvest (most agave plants are harvested after only seven years) and the hearts of the plant are slow roasted in traditional slow cookers for 38 hours (newer techniques are quicker, but compromise sugar extraction).
The tasting got under way and there was another revelation. Jose would take us through a tasting process as structured as that usually given to wine. The first tequila, Casa Noble Crystal (white) sees no oak. White (sometimes called silver) tequila is always the style most like an untamed spirit. It can be harshly vineous. Casa Noble’s, by contrast, has notes of honey and smokiness in the nose and hints of cut grass and vegetal facets in the taste. Then I tasted the tequila with the mango and snapper ceviche (cleverly arranged on a cucumber slice that labored under the generous load). The two worked together, interestingly enough.
The reposado tequila that we tasted next is aged the legal maximum of one day under a year in new French oak barrels. It had a flaxen straw color and a nose of prominent vanilla but also orange peel, cooking spices and lime. In the mouth, the vanilla comes through again but is accompanied by chocolate, spices and a sweetness like caramelized sugar. This beverage won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition and it is not hard to see why when you experience its subtle complexity. I enjoyed the combination of the tequila with the albondiga with tomato-chipotle salsa.
The añejo tasting was next and this was the one that I had the most anticipation about. Añejo is, to my mind, the measure of a tequila house. This is where the distiller is expected to do the most to age its spirit, and where it can make the most effort to produce a drink on a par with the best spirits in the world. Casa Noble ages its añejo for three years in new French oak. The result is a bright, golden liquid with moderate to high viscosity. It has a nose of vanilla, butterscotch, hazelnuts, almonds, orange peel, honey, and dried fruit and flower notes. The taste mirrors these components in the flavors but the age softens the spirit, making añejo an easier drinking tequila than the other types.
Check out the grilled chicken skewer, Oaxacan mole, sesame seed, queso fresco in the picture below. The sharpness in the Oaxacan mole made it a good compliment to the añejo.
Casa Noble is widely available at retail stores in the Dallas area and is served at Komali.