Michael here again. After a lengthy delay, I’ve returned with the second installment of our 101 Achievements Tequila Tour 2013. (To catch yourself up on our quest, you can review some tequila basics by reading our tequila tasting primer, and by checking out Act I of this spirit-soaked tale.)
Before I dig in here, some legal housekeeping: while Verde‘s massive wall of tequila inspired and made this suite of achievements possible, we are not being paid by Verde to write about said wall, and we buy the vast majority of our drinks ourselves. However, from time to time the awesome staff or the restaurant’s owner, Jeff, will buy us a taste, and in those cases, we’ll note it prominently.
And now for the sexy stuff: tequila!
Let’s start the party with, appropriately, El Gran Jubileo.
This tasty flight had a lot going on from expression to expression. The blanco was smooth, with vegetal flavors and a clean, mineral finish. The reposado was even better, with butterscotch on the nose, and a finish that reminded me of having S’mores at a campfire with its delicious cinnamon and creaminess. But the añejo is where things got really interesting. See, El Gran Jubileo doesn’t do a regular añejo — they age their stuff five years and jump right up to the extra-añejo designation. I don’t necessarily believe that older is always better — reposado is probably my overall favorite expression — but the honey and apricot on this one blew both of us away.
Now that we’ve begun with something special, we’ll circle back to a tequila that’s a little more…pedestrian.
Now, I’m not saying Hornitos is a bad tequila. It’s fine. (The website, on the other hand, is truly bad. It’s like a 50-year-old’s idea of Bro Heaven. I provided the link, but don’t click it unless you’re into masochism. Really. Don’t click here.)
Sorry. The tequila! We both got melon and cucumber to varying degrees on each expression of the flight. The repo and the añejo got progressively creamier and more desserty, as you often see. Like I said…it’s fine. That said, I chose the next three tequilas I’m going to present just to demonstrate that there’s a bunch of stuff that’s better, and increasingly available. Such as…
Corralejo! (Yes, another noisy website — sorry.) This tequila has an interesting tartness to it throughout. It starts off with a vegetal character in the blanco, moving toward something more bittersweet in the reposado. The añejo added a layer of creaminess, which made me think of pomegranate seeds in whole milk. Of the three, I’d most strongly recommend the repo, which you should be able to find at any place that has more than three or four tequilas on the shelf. If you see the distinctive bottle peeking out from behind the first row, ask for it by name.
Another fun and affordable tequila that’s making the rounds (at least in Pittsburgh) is Avión.
The blanco expression (they call it Silver) has a vegetal but sweet quality, like corn. (Making it a perfect candidate to mix into a corn margarita!) You can really taste the agave. The repo has a more floral character, balanced with vanilla from the oaking process. It’s darn tasty. The añejo had more intense oakiness, with maple on top. It’s rich and would be great as you finish a meal.
The next tequila we’ll share is a great bargain buy. In fact, we keep the repo and añejo on hand at home for guests (…but mainly for us!). That tequila is El Jimador.
This is a solid, no-nonsense tequila. Really drinkable, even the blanco. The reposado is the one I’d write home about, though. If I were to in fact do so, it would go something like this:
My Dearest Fox,
My long travails through the dusty state of Jalisco have left me forlorn, and filled with longing.
…But worry not and harken to my words: go with haste and fetch yourself a bottle of El Jimador Reposado. It’s freaking delicious with smoky caramel flavors, like those found at yon candy shoppe near our marital home.
– Your beloved, Michael
Ahem. But seriously. It’s really good stuff, and won’t break your bank.
A little pricier, but reasonable and delicious, is El Tesoro. The blanco expression is bottled within one day of distillation — it has a cool snap peas/winter vegetables thing going on. The reposado has a sweet oakiness, with some cedar thrown in (“very woodsy,” as my wife put it), and the añejo has vanilla, honey, and a hint of peppercorn, which doesn’t sound like it should work, but totally does. To be fair, I liked it more than Fox did, though the añejo grew on her between the first sip and the last.
El Mayor is a real “meat and potatoes” kind of tequila. The blanco has an enjoyable saltiness, where the repo is smoother with a warm finish — sort of like a mid-level vodka. The añejo was kind of like the El Tesoro with that blend of creamy and spicy. My wife described the experience of drinking it as being “like using your ski lodge in summertime.” …Make of that what you will.
When I think of El Mayor, I’m also reminded of Camarena, which has a similar pleasant saltiness in the blanco. (Disclosure: while we bought our own reposado, bartender Cory purchased a shot of the blanco for us at the tail end of a long tasting evening. This might be the reason that our only surviving appraisal of the Camarena blanco consists of the word “oceanside”.)
Next on tonight’s docket is Mr. Classy himself, Don Eduardo. While not mind-blowing (in our opinion), if you like minerality, you’ll love this. The añejo was kind of surprising in that I got this hint of creme de menthe while drinking it; totally unexpected.
Keeping with the “Don” theme, next up is Don Julio. This brand makes some amazing ultra-premium stuff that we’ll get into in a future post, but their standard flight is nothing to scoff at. The blanco had a spicy, cabbage-y taste, while the reposado smoothed out and had more body, almost like it had been churned. As for the añejo, it was honestly our least favorite. I could tell you what I tasted in it, but I’ll let my wife’s note tell the tale: “nope nope nope nope MORE REPO INSTEAD.”
The next stop on our journey is at the truly notable Casa Noble. The blanco has this nifty rural vibe to it — I got a kind of gravelly flavor, while Fox tasted hay and corn. The reposado was much sweeter, with butterscotch and salted caramel. The añejo took the reposado character and went a little darker, bringing sticky toffee into the mix. I love tequilas that present a range across the expressions, and Casa Noble certainly brings a fun spectrum.
It’s always interesting to compare two lines of tequila that are produced by the same company. We had that opportunity with Milagro, when we tasted both their standard tequila, pictured above…and their astounding Select Barrel Reserve.
Don’t get me wrong, the regular Milagro is a damn good tequila. The blanco’s citrusy and peppery; the reposado is like toasted caramel; the añejo has a ton of personality, with “dessert” written all over it. But that Select Barrel Reserve spoiled us. It was just on another level, with even the blanco carrying soft vanilla, like angelfood cake. The reposado was, as my wife put it, “like a warm hug,” while the reserve añejo was like a visit to the best bakery ever.
Now that I’ve waxed embarrassingly poetic, it’s time to wrap up by writing about some tequilas that we like, in part, because of their strange bottles.
What is this, vodka at the tequila bar? Don’t let the bottle design fool you — El Siembra Azul is a real-deal tequila, with all the accents you might expect (plus a few you might not). The blanco has a very vegetal quality — almost like it’s saying, “I know I look like vodka, but I’ll Show You!” The repo had vanilla and salted almonds, while the añejo had a rubbery quality that I might have expected from a mezcal, but not in this particular situation. It also had a hint of barbecue, though, which mitigated the “Am I an añejo or am I a shoe?” quality. We don’t know if we’d keep this one at home, but it does seem like it could be the engine for a fun prank.
Our penultimate beverage for this round, Kah, is one of those tequilas that you’ll always be able to spot if it’s on the shelf. Beyond its look, the reposado has the distinction of being the highest-proof tequila available, at 110 proof (compared with the usual 80-90). Funny enough, we both found that the extra kick made the repo the least distinguished of the three expressions. It overpowered, making the repo taste more than anything like sea salt. The blanco and añejo, though, both had a pleasing creaminess. The smoothness and flavor of the blanco made it rise to the top of the trio for us.
Now, last but certainly not least, we bring to you our final tequila of Act II. This would be a fun one to whip out at a party. We present to you…
AsomBroso, a tequila that’s unique because it is aged in Bordeaux wine barrels, rather than the typical whiskey barrel.
Also, it’s unique because THE BOTTLES ARE SHAPED LIKE DONGS.
They’re not even phallic symbols. They’re actual phalluses.
But don’t be afraid or intimidated. The tequila’s actually quite good on its own merits. Try to be serious about this. The añejo had a creamy finish (stop giggling), while the reposado tasted like a sweet cherry (pipe down, I mean it). Even the blanco brought something of substance to the table, tasting like a smooth, silky anise (really, so immature).
So that’s the second act of our epic exploration of tequila. Tune in for Act III in the next couple weeks!