I got a comment from Fred yesterday wondering which tequilas are worth sampling (actually, I think Fred wanted to know how many tequilas worth sampling are out there and the answer to that is, god only knows–but I’m trying to find out). First of all, let me talk about tequila in general.
Any tequila that blends 51% agave with simple sugar alcohols is known as a “mixto.” Two of the best selling tequilas in the world, Jose Cuervo Especial and Sauza Conmemorativo, are mixtos and, as such, are just fine when you’re mixing up big batches of margaritas or drowning the alcohol in sweet fruit juices (in other words, when you’re not interested in actually tasting the agave spirit). If, however, you’d like to sample the supple notes of more sophisticated tequilas, which can have as many as 600 different aromatics compared to 300 for wine and 30 for cognac, then the first thing you should look for on a bottle are the words “100% agave.” This means that, as regulated by Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT), the bottle contains only tequila made from agave. This is important because agave, like grapes, gets much of its herbaceous flavors from the soil—what the French call “terroire.”
The next distinction is the age of the tequila. Plata or silver is not aged. Reposado is aged from two months to a year in large wooden vats or barrels where it gets its amber color and picks up subtle tones of butterscotch and apple. Anejo is aged from one to five years in sealed oak barrels where the flavors mellow, like single-malt whiskeys, picking up hints of vanilla, mocha, smoke, and dried fruit, depending on whether they were aged in new French white oak or charred bourbon barrels. Your favorite will depend on whether you like the clean, herbaceous essence of a silver tequila, the smoky richness of an anejo, or something in between. Some of my favorites:
White or silver: Chinaco Blanco ($40)—complex for a white tequila with hints of citrus.
Don Julio Silver ($40)—sweet agave flavor with a touch of vanilla.
Reposado: El Tesoro de Don Felipe Reposado ($40)—delicate floral flavors with a hint of eucalyptus in the nose.
Corzo Reposado ($55)—sweet, honey flavor.
Anejo: Gran Centenario Anejo ($60)—clove and orange aromas with spicy, nutty tones.
Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia ($90)—dark amber with figs and nutmeg; drinks like a cognac.
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