If you’re going to truly get into imported spirits, you will have to learn a smidgen of the language of the land it comes from. Tequila is a good example, although there are plenty of others. With Tequila, you will have to know the difference between a Blanco and a Reposado and an Anejo; and if you really want to show off, you’ll also need to know what pinas are.
Tequila comes from the blue agave plant and the heart of this plant is called the pina; that’s the part that gets oven baked, shredded or mashed, fermented and finally distilled. And let me tell you, hauling these hearts around can be a daunting task as they can weigh anywhere from 150 lb to 240 lb. If the tequila is bottled immediately, after the distillation, it is called a blanco or silver tequila. If the tequila is rested in oak barrels for just a few months, it is called a Reposado, and if it is left in the barrel for a year or more, it is called an Anejo. This barrel aging isn’t as simple as it sounds. Some barrels are new oak, while others are charred and still others are former bourbon or whiskey or wine barrels, all of which impart certain flavors to the tequila. Now that you’re an expert on tequila, let’s get down to the best part of tequila, the drinking.
Both of these tequilas come in squat bottles that look like they might have been crafted from hand blown glass. The blanco is clear as water and the nose is filled with the aroma of agave followed by citrus. I swear that smelling this silver tequila is like taking a walk through a garden in the heat of mid-summer after a light rain; it’s just that pleasant. On the palate, the taste of agave rules supreme, with light citrus notes following close behind. There is the slightest hint of pepper and a touch of spice but not enough to distract from the agave. The finish is smooth; actually, this entire experience from start to finish is quite smooth. There’s just enough spiciness in the finish to make it interesting, and the taste lingers in the throat for quite a while. This is precisely what really good tequila is all about. Add an ice cube if you must, and you have a delightful sipper. If you appreciate the unadulterated taste of pure agave then, this is your tequila.
The Don Julio Reposado comes in a dark amber bottle that at first makes you believe that the contents is actually that color, but when you go to pour, it becomes obvious that this tequila is a very pale straw color and not a deep dark brown. On the nose, that beautiful agave flavor I experienced in the blanco has softened way down but is still there and prominent, just not as dominant. This is a more delicate smelling tequila and interestingly enough also features muted oak and citrus notes. Curiously, on the palate, all the flavors are mellower and muted but still quite tasty. All those months in oak barrels seem to have had their desired effect. I get the agave front and center but muted, and right behind that are the oak and spice and citrus. The finish is warm and smooth and spicy and oaky, with the agave coming in a distant third. The finish lasts a medium amount of time leaving a warm and spicy aftertaste. The barrel aging has mellowed this tequila quite a bit while adding a few mildly interesting layers. I guess I’m just a prejudiced purist who really enjoys the taste of agave, but I do believe I prefer the Blanco over this Reposado. If I’m going to drink tequila, I really want to taste the agave. Now, don’t get me wrong; on the other hand, I love a really good Anejo with its many layers and flavors, especially if it’s been aged in some really interesting former bourbon or wine barrels, as long as the agave doesn’t get lost. This tequila is nice and mellow and perfect for sipping straight up without that ice cube and would mix nicely in light bodied mixed drinks.
Both the Blanco and Reposado come in 750ML bottles and weigh in at 40% ABV. The Blanco can be found for between $40.00 and $50.00 while the Reposado can be found for between $50.00 and $60.00.
By George Brozowski