Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“Freedom of Choice!”

Living in California, I get to have the greatest selection of tequila in the United States!  And since I live so close to Tijuana, I can walk across the border and have an even better selection!  Yes, living here in SoCal is a beautiful thing.  But, I know I am very lucky and fortunate luck to not live in an Alcohol Beverage Controled state!  To have someone tell me or you that only brands X, Y, and Z are available is way beyond not cool.  It borders on being communist. If I can choose what jeans I want to wear, I can choose what brand of spirit I want to drink! Just because a certain brand doesn’t have the cash to grease your greedy pockets, does not give you the right to pick the brands that I can choose from.  And then to say that it is illegal to have someone ship spirits into said ABC state?  We are in the 21st century, not the 19th.  Prohibition is dead, the internet rules and your laws are as old and useless as a 8 track tape player!

And since I am on this subject, border states can kiss my ass too!  Saying I’m only allowed one liter of tequila from across the border every 30 days?  It’s tequila - not guns, not drugs.  If you want your want your tax money, I’ll give you your whopping $1.65 for each bottle.  In fact, I’ll make it an even $2!  Just let me fill out the paper work before I get in line and we’re all good.  And yes, it is that easy!

Mercado del Mar in Rosarito, Baja

This is Blas, he is the owner of Mercado del Mar and a really good guy!

One day, I hope to be able to shop at his, and the many other killer liquor stores in Mexico with out being hassled by the out dated liquor laws of the United states of America!

“I don’t want to pay too much, I’ll just get a cheap bottle of tequila”.

A lot of time I hear that phrase when someone wants something for mixed drinks or shooters.  And while I understand not wanting to spend $50 on a bottle of tequila, especially if it’s not for sipping, there are lots of good, pure, 100% agave tequilas for less than $20.  A few brands that are currently on the market that make a good product for a great price are Espolon, Pueblo Viejo, 30-30, El Ultimo Agave, and Camarena.  If you can’t find them, ask your local liquor store, and if it’s not there, you can always check with HiTime Wines or Shoppers Vineyard (and sometimes these guys have really great deals on some really good tequilas!!!).  The other thing about getting “cheap” mixto tequila - which is NOT real tequila! It is basically a blend of tequila and rum, and we all know that we are not supposed to mix our liquors! Brands such as Jose Cuervo Especial, Sauza, Montezuma, and the such are the ones that you may end up paying for it later that night or the next day praying to the porcelain god and or laying in bed with a gnarly hangover.  You will pay for your tequila one way or another-either physically or thru the wallet.  Me?  I’d rather have a lighter wallet than hangover.  Besides, the 100% agave tequila will taste a lot better than that bottle of mixto Gold.


Often, people will ask me, “What is the smoothest tequila”.  And for that, I say, there is no correct answer.  The reason for that is, we all have different ideas and expectations for what “smooth” is.   Some people may say that smooth is anything that doesn’t feel like your throat is being ripped out.  Others may say that smooth, should have a soft feel and texture with a simple finish. How a tequila, mezcal, sotol, etc reacts with your palate has a lot to do with other factors such as previous experiences with spirits (or lack there of), the weather,  what you have eaten or drank, or just your mood.  These are many of the factors change from day to day.  One of the biggest misconceptions about agave spirits is that the longer it is aged, the better or “smoother” is.  Well, for some people, that can be true.  But the amazing thing about an agave distillate, is that there is so much flavor, depth, and complexity to what comes fresh from the stills, that the aging process doesn’t necessarily make it better, just different.

Before I recommend a brand or style (blanco, reposado, or añejo), I will first ask them what other spirits they like to drink, as well as what tequilas they’ve had that they liked and do not like.
If the person prefers whiskey, cognac, aged rum, and /or red wine, I will recommend an añejo or maybe a reposado.  If the person likes vodka, white rum, gin or sauvignon blanc I will suggest a blanco.

Now, within the aged products, the type of barrel used and how long it aged for, is a HUGE factor in determining its flavors, texture, and “smoothness“.  While some people love the vanilla, caramel, and nutty elements in a product that has been aged in a new American oak barrel, the person next to them ,might notice only the heat that comes from the charring of the barrel and feel like their mouth has been set on fire.  One person likes it and the other doesn’t think that it is “smooth“, but it’s the same product.  So really it does come down to personal preference and what you like.  But, what you like now, may not be the same 2 years from now.

I was at a tequila party recently and had 3 people (2 guys, 1 girl) taste Milagro reposado and Milagro Select Barrel reposado - blind.  I chose these 2 tequilas because they both have the same production process the only difference is that the regular reposado is aged in used American whiskey barrels and the Barrel Select is aged in used French oak barrels.  While 2 people liked the Barrel select more, and thought it was “smoother“, the other preferred the regular reposado.  Myself?  Well, the Barrel Select has light and sweet elements, while the regular reposado is a bit bigger and a touch earthier.  So for me, I preferred the taste when I blended them together as they seemed to develop more depth and complexity.

In my next rants and raves, we'll be  "Going Beyond Smooth"

7 Leguas distillery Tour

In 1999 I tasted a blanco tequila made by 7 Leguas, and it was amazing!  It was fresh, crisp, sweet, and earthy, and it changed my life.

7 Leguas was founded in 1952 by Ignacio Gonzalez Vargas in the town of Atotonilco, Jalisco.  Currently Ignacio's son, Juan Fernando runs the company and takes great pride in continuing the tradition and passion his family has for making tequila.  Not only does 7 Leguas make a tasty traditional tequila that is crafted with artisan methods, but they are really great and hospitable people.  I have had the chance to tour their distillery and to visit with Juan Fernando and his crew 3 times, and it is always a day to remember!


 7 Leguas Master Distiller, Arturo Valle-Salcedo and ownder Juan Fernando Gonzalez de Anda  

The Ovens

Copper stills

On our visit in 2008, not only did we taste the entire flight, but we also got to taste some special 6 year añejo that is not on the market.

But what was really special -- memories of a lifetime special -- was when Juan Fernando left the room for a bit and came back with this 3.5L bottle of blanco that was in storage since his dad distilled in back in the early -mid 1970's.  It was the most amazing tequila that I have ever tasted!  

Needless to say, I was honored to get the last pour, and the very last drop from  that bottle!



During the 2008 tour we had the privilege to sign one of their barrels that was around 6 years of age. When we came back a year later in 2009, they surprised us by tapping into that barrel.  The 2 bottles on the right are watered down to 40%, while the beaker on the right is cask strength.  This stuff was mighty good!

Fresh from the "old skool" still @ 55% -- beyond awesome!


Arturo, myself, Juan Fernando, and a gifted bottle of some tasty 7L añejo!



It's 2010, and we're glad to be back!  L-R; blanco (fresh from the still @ 55%), blanco, reposado, añejo, D'Antaño.  7 Leguas does not rechar their used American whiskey barrels, so all of their products are pretty light in color for how long they are aged for.

for those who were on the 2008 tour, we were asked to come back to the barrel room and watch Arturo tap "our" barrel again!

Almost a full year went by from the first time we tasted it to the next, and what a year it was! Aged for around 8 years, it went from really good to AMAZING!!!!  We had it at cask strength, which was 64% (128 proof), and it was to die for!!!  It starts off as chocolate and mint, then more honey and cherry notes show as it opens up, and of course there was plenty of agave to go around!  The texture starts creamy then finishes dry.  It tastes as good as it looks -- Just beautiful! 

Many special thanks to everyone at 7 Leguas; your hospitality, passion, and tequila are just amazing!!!

Go big, or go home...


Until I finally get figure out what to do with my website (building it isn't so easy for me, and as my domain name can easily be confused with a brand name) I am doing this blog for now. I hope you enjoy what I have to offer.  Gracias y Salud!