by Steven Doyle
I think most of us are now educated enough in the ways of tequila, the refinement, the unexpected pleasure of the beautiful liquid. We know the difference between a tequila we might sip like a superior whiskey, and those which we would slam at a college frat party. Today we examine a few in the former category.
Here are a few of our favorites you might try this week as we approach Cinco de Mayo.
Don Julio 1942
Don Julio 1942 Tequila is part of the tequila lineup that also includes a Blanco, Reposado, Anejo and “Real” expression. The 1942 is double distilled, using a pot still for the second round of distillation, and then aged in used bourbon barrels. It’s aged for 2.5 years, a full year longer than the Anejo and about a year less than the Real.
On the nose, Don Julio 1942 Tequila is bursting with vanilla, caramel and cherries, plus some buttery oak. Take a sip and taste more of the same, plus toffee, chocolate and agave. It’s silky on the palate with just the right amount of peppery bite. It finishes long, with notes of vanilla, brown sugar and oak.
Don Julio 1942 is a tequila best sipped neat, in part because of its steep price tag, but also because it’s remarkably smooth. The sweet vanilla melds nicely with the background of red fruits, and the agave and oak provide a little bite to temper the sweetness. All in all, this is great tequila worth seeking out.
This tequila is produced on the Highlands of Jalisco, the heart of tequila country. This is the youngest expression of this particular line – of which there are quite a few ranging in age and grades of distinction.
Milagro “Miracle” uses agave that are a an average of eight to twelve years old for their Tequila (others use agave as young as three years old). A more mature agave develops a better flavor of terroir (taste and sense of place) due to the longer growing period according to a number of experts. Milagro also uses a number of more traditional steps to make their tequila than many others – again slower more expensive processes but they pay off in the slow extraction and distillations.
First, they use hornos, the old style brick and stone ovens rather than the stainless steel autoclaves (that look a lot like wood drying kilns) After that the resulting juice is fermented to become mosto (fermented juice). It is then first fermented into ordinario (the English term would be low wine) it is then redistilled into tequila. In Milagros case they distill it 3 times rather than the more usual 2 times.
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. El Tesoro is a 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, you are left with notes of milk chocolate, some coconut, and a grate of nutmeg to reward his efforts.
Tapatio is produced at La Alteña distillery in Jalisco, where generations of the Camarena family have been making tequila, mostly for local consumption. This a joint project between Carlos Camarena and Marko Karakasevic of Charbay winery and distillery in Napa. The 100% estate-grown blue agave is roasted for 4 days and fermented with a proprietary yeast culture that dates back 75 years. It’s double-distilled in copper pot stills, aged 18 months in ex-bourbon barrels and undiluted to retain natural flavors.
The extra months in oak make this mature tequila far more creamy and rich than its younger siblings. However, the true vegetal flavors of the agave are not overpowered by cocoa, vanilla, cinnamon and clove from the additional contact with oak. Finishes with a subtle peppery spice. An amazing value.
Cimarrón Reposado Tequila
Cimarrón Reposado Tequila is produced at Tequileña Distillery by Master Distiller Enrique Fonseca using 100% estate-grown blue weber agave. It’s a blend of 80% tequila distilled from a double column-still and 20% tequila distilled from pot-stills. This rested tequila is bottled after aging 3 to 6 months in American white oak.
You will detect a light aroma of cinnamon and other baking spices hit the nose with this flavor continuing on the palate. There’s some dark chocolate as well and the tequila feels soft on your palate. It’s just a touch sweet with a cinnamon red hot finish. Overall, there’s a rustic quality to the tequila and at this price point, it’s a good value for mixing or shooting.