Michael here. As promised, today I bring to you the first act of our Verde Tequila Tour. (To review some tequila basics, check out the little tequila tasting primer we posted previously.)
I know we already posted this incomplete picture of Verde’s tequila wall in the Overture post, but c’mon, it’s pretty damn majestic. Besides, if you follow our lead, you’ll be seeing it many, many more times.
Oh, and a quick legal disclaimer: this über-achievement was our idea, we’re not associates of Verde, we’re not being paid by Verde to write about their tequila wall, and about 95% of the drinks we review are ones we paid for ourselves. If something we write about was bought for us by the bartenders or the owner, we’ll disclose it.
Now that the FTC can’t drag us to blogger prison in FML Bay, we can begin! This post covers the first few dozen tequilas we had at Verde, which we sampled over the course of about 10 weeks. There is no particular rhyme or reason to how we chose our first grouping —
As I type this, the peanut gallery in the back (a.k.a. my wife) is shouting, “That’s not true! I chose my first tequila, Corazón, because that’s what the boy chihuahua called Drew Barrymore chihuahua in Beverly Hills Chihuahua! I chose it in honor of that.” And I am so, so ashamed to note that I know exactly what she meant. I’ll be turning in my Dude Card tomorrow morning. (There’s a three-strikes rule for how many times you can type chihuahua in a single sentence.)
Anyhow, there was almost no rhyme or reason to how we chose our first grouping. Basically, here’s the process: we go in, peruse the menu, check out the Flight of the Week, conference with the bartenders (each has his or her own favorites, and they’re always candid about what they prefer), make our order, and then dive right in to taste and jot notes in our little notebook.
That’s our Tequila Tasting notebook. Or if you’re being technical, that’s our Tequila Tasting / Sasquatch Sighting notebook. Perhaps if we drink enough tequila, we’ll eventually see a Sasquatch…but so far, I guess we’ve been too moderate.
If you don’t have a Tequila Tasting notebook, or if you’re like us and you misplace it a lot, that’s okay. It’s perfectly fine to take notes on whatever is nearby, like scratch paper that you’ve left in your purse from a round of 1986 Pictionary that you played at the Squirrel Cage.
I heard Robert Parker takes all his wine notes that way.
So the first round: I had a flight of Gran Centenario. Why? Because I liked the bottle design and the name sounded snazzy. This is a perfectly valid reason to try a tequila.
Fox had, as you no doubt remember….Corazón! For reasons I will not re-explain.
The thing that struck me when taking my first few sips of the Gran Centenario flight was how distinct each expression was. I didn’t expect the difference to be so pronounced, honestly. The blanco had a mild spiciness with a kind of dark sweetness, while the reposado brought in a smooth smokiness – and the añejo? It was silky and creamy — just like with a nice buttery chardonnay, you could really taste the presence of the oak. Before I started down this path, I’d never have guessed that I’d use the word “creamy” to describe a tequila. But there you have it.
My wife’s Corazón notes are a bit different from mine. She noted that the blanco was surprisingly smooth, but she mostly just made star ratings: blanco – 3 stars; repo – 3 stars; añejo – 3 stars. Of course, knowing what I know now, perhaps those stars are actually stick-chihuahuas, yipping their approval.
On a later date, we switched, with Fox trying the Gran Centenario and me trying the Corazón…no doubt in honor of something very masculine. Um…in honor of that guy from Temple of Doom who got his corazón ripped out?
If I could change anything about our methods, I’d have had us do more side-by-side tastings, because the best part of tasting tequila with a partner is when you get to compare notes. For example — my Gran Centenario notes were pretty simple, since I hadn’t done a lot of tequila tasting and had a hard time nailing specific flavors. Here’s what Fox found when she tried it a little down the road: blanco – chocolate-covered cherry; repo – butterscotch; – añejo – subtle pineapple(?).
And when I tried the Corazón? I found the blanco to be vegetal and zesty, the repo to have “a smooth minerality, but a finish bitter like a romaine heart,” and the añejo again had that creamy character, but with sweet vegetal undertones.
We did mostly flights, but since not every tequila at Verde comes in a whole flight, sometimes we tried single expressions together.
These were shots of Karma Silver and Apocalypto Reposado. We found the Karma to sting the tongue a bit upon the first sip, but it finished very smoothly; the Apocalypto, though, was truly scrumptious. It tasted like butterscotch with a bit of allspice — and we highly, highly recommend.
Moving forward, I could give you a rundown of what we tasted in every tequila, but honestly, so much of the fun in tasting comes from the discovery that I don’t want to hijack the experience for you. Instead, I’ll share the expressions we preferred and why, and perhaps some tequila tasting knowledge we came by during any particular session.
Above, you see a Tequila Fortaleza flight. I loved all three and was really impressed with the uniformly high quality across the expressions — but to me and Fox both, the reposado is something special. It’s soft, with a hint of baking spices, and a finish that’s like swallowing a perfectly melted piece of caramel. Some people tend to think of reposados almost as throwaways, not being “pure” like a blanco or “distinguished” like an añejo — but to them I would say, “Try the Fortaleza.” It’s elegance in a glass.
Here is another good all-around brand of tequila, a great combination of flavor + cool design + excellent name. We both enjoyed all three expressions, but what really blew us away here was their Plata (blanco). It had an unexpected smoothness that just said, “Hey, we really know what we’re doing when it comes to the harvest.” I don’t know how they got that perfect vanilla body without any oak aging, but it’s pretty special.
Sometimes, like with the Dos Armadillos, it’s easy to put what you experience into words. But other times, as that wide range of flavors hits your tongue, your brain might go to a bizarre place. Like with this Tres Agaves flight, where one of us described the reposado as having “a touch of whipped caramel and a rounded, cool flavor”…and the other described it as “very creamy, like a Dorito with whipped cream.”
Ah, Tierras — the vodka drinker’s delight. That’s how I described the blanco, anyway. If you’re new to tequila, but enjoy vodka, we would recommend that you start with a flight of this. The blanco is clean and surprisingly smooth, and in the Añejo we both found a refreshing cucumber flavor that is perfect for the sipping in the shade. (And since it’s in the picture, I should note that the reposado’s got a nifty honey thing going on.)
Partida is another where the reposado came out on top for us; it reminded me of the Tierras with its hint of honey, but there was this bit of saltiness that made me think of smoked almonds.
Sometimes, you’ll run across a flavor profile which, when you try to describe it, just doesn’t seem like it should work. That was definitely the case with Chinaco, which probably marks the first time I ever described something as tasting like “copper” and meant it as a compliment. That was what I came up with when assessing the blanco; the añejo, on the other hand, is something I’d recommend to a bourbon drinker. Fox found a honey character, where I noticed sweet tobacco. Either way, you can definitely taste the effects of the barrels that aged it.
It’s about time to wrap Act I up, so I thought I’d close with a tequila that’s easy to find and keep on your home liquor shelf. That tequila is Herradura. I like Herradura for the bitter greens flavor of its blanco and the salted creme of its añejo, which reminded me upon tasting it of a saltwater taffy I enjoyed while on stroll on the Atlantic City boardwalk last summer with my wife. And my wife? She likes Herradura because it reminds her of the word “Hrududu.”
Ok, ok, there’s more to it. Of the blanco, she wrote in her notes: “Could imagine this being a good mixer for a night of bad decisions at your uncle’s log cabin.”
I don’t know about you, but I’d be sold. Happy tasting!