Monday, July 18, 2011

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Some Great Tequila Related Sites To Check Out

visit these sites to learn more about Tequila, Mezcal, Sotol, Bacanora, & Pulque - a good site with info and reviews.
In Search of the Blue Agave - for more in depth information regarding tequila production. - this is the site that started it all for me.
The Blue Agave Forum - a great forum for those who are detail oriented and a bit obsessive-compulsive, like me - LOL! Forum - a good community to talk about tequila.
Experience Tequila - our friend Clayton can give you a personal tour of the Tequila region. - our friends Grover and Scarlet give you their take on the ins and out of tequila.
Tequila Whisperer - a highly entertaining video review site by our friend Lippy.
Tequila Tracker - get the review and the story behind each brand, from our friend Bob.
Tequila Examiners - stay current with our friends Ryan and Eric.
Spirits of Mexico - a fun, great, and educational event that happens every September in San Diego.
New Mexico Tequila Tasting - one of the first tequila festivals in the United States, starts up again in 2011 after an eight year hiatus, promises to be a good time!
Monterey Tequila Festival - a fun tequila festival for those that are closer to northern California. - our friend Rachel has all the hook-ups!
Tequila Regulatory Council - this is where it all starts.

more to be added later...

t1 Tequila Uno Maduro

For the last couple of years, I have been fortunate to be one of the lucky few to taste the first release of each t1 product.  The Ultra Fino blanco and the Exceptional reposado in the spring of 2009, followed by the very limited release of the 11 year single barrel extra añejo, and in 2010 the Unique añejo.  Since I missed out on this years Blue Agave Tour, I thought that it would be a while before I had the chance to taste German Gonzalez' newest release; the Maduro - a bigger more agave forward blanco, created for the experienced tequila drinker bottled at 43% alcohol.  Thanks to my good friend Ray Martinez, not only did he hook me up with a taste of this rockin' blanco, but also found a way to get a me a bottle!

As requested by the wonderful German Gonzalez, here are my tasting notes;

Using a Riedel tequila glass, I notice the nose on this crystal clear blanco is fresh, vibrant, and green with slight notes of earth.  As I bring the tequila to my mouth, I let it touch my lips for several seconds, and notice that it has a really nice buzzing sensation that not only wakes my senses up, but it also lasts for quite a long time.  The taste of this tequila has notes of brown sugar, agave, banana, earth, and black pepper that turns to crisp, raw jalapeño peppers the more I drink it.  This blanco has a very nice, big, bold, machismo presence that I really dig!  The finish is of medium-long duration, that starts peppery with some wonderful tingling sensation on the cheeks that fades to a dry earthy taste.  Is this an overly complex tequila that you are going to ponder for hours? Not really, but this t1 Maduro brings it!  It tastes really good, and it is very lively, which for me, makes it a great rock-n-roll tequila!  German - I'd love to taste this as an añejo, aged in a barrel of your choice!

This should be hitting the shelves by the end of June 2011, so if you like big & bold tequilas, then you should grab a bottle or 2.  I know I will!!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tequila Production

Like with wines, there is terroir in Tequila.  This picture shows the dry volcanic soil  of the  Tequila Valle.  This area is north-west of Guadalajara, and Tequilas that are made with agaves from this region typically have herbal, floral, and or vegetal notes. 

To the east and north of Guadalajara, is the region called Los Altos de Jalisco.  The red soil  helps to produce Tequilas with earth and fruit tones and a touch of sweetness.

Harvesting of the agave is all done by hand.  This guy is called a Jimador.  His job is to tend to the fields, keep the agave healthy and primed during the 7-12 years it takes before the agave are ready for harvest.  Once the agave is ready, he uses a coa (which is a sharp tool) to remove the pencas (sharp thorny leaves), and then loads the agave into a truck, by hand.  The agave can weigh as much as 100 pounds and net about 8 liters of tequila.

While a brown banana is soft and ugly looking, it is very ripe, has lots of sugar and is perfect for baking., and the agave is very similar.  The red spots you see above indicate the ripeness of the agave.

Just as there are many ways to cook a good piece of meat, the agave can be cooked one of three ways.  This is the traditional brick oven.  It steam cooks the agave longer at a lower temperature and helps to impart an earthy element to the Tequila.

This is the autoclave.  It is a large stainless steel oven that steam cooks the agave at a higher, faster rate than that of the brick oven, but it usually will impart a "cleaner" flavor to the Tequila.  The third kind of cooking method is called a difusor. It is basically like a microwave, and thats all I'll say about the difusor for now - hahaha!

After the agave has been cooked, the aguamiel (honey water) is extracted.  This shows the very traditional method called the Tahona.  A very large stone wheel that weighs about 2 tons is used to squeeze the nectar out of the agave.  It is a very slow process that is all done by hand.

This is the much more efficient, modern shredder.  What takes hours for the Tahona to do, happens in just a few minutes here.

Once the aguamiel is ready, it is sent to the fermentation tanks, where it will ferment from 2-10 days, or more.

Once fermentation is complete is is called musto muerto. At this point it musty and slightly bitter and has an  alcohol content of about 6%.  If someone where to make a beer from agave, this is what they would have.

Tequila has to be distilled 2x by law.  There are other brands out there that do distill more than that, but to me, extra distillations don't necessarily make for a better tequila. 

Tequila is usually distilled between 55-65% alcohol, and when a distillery takes their time in production to go slow and not take any short cuts, the product that comes out of the still, is some of the most beautiful tequila I have ever tasted!

Unlike a whiskey or brandy, the aging of a Tequila does not make it better per se, just different.  The wonderful thing about Tequila is that when it is unaged, it has a lot of flavor and characteristics. But if you wnat to round off the edges, mellow it out and add some other elements, you put it in a barrel.  Reposado is a Tequila that has been aged in oak barrels for 2 months up to 364 days.  Once it has been in the barrel for a year it becomes an Añejo.  After 3 years, its an Extra Añejo - but due to a ridiculous CRT Law, bottles that are Extra Añejo can not state how long they have been aged for, and that is why you will find  bottles that will say añejo, 5 years, for example. Aging is done in a variety of oak barrels, but mostly used American whiskey barrels.  There are a few brands out there that are having a lot of success with French oak, used Sherry and Port barrels, as well as new American oak.   Each typle of barrel and the kind of char it has imparts a different taste into the Tequila  

Some distilleries do everything by hand, including the bottling... 
and the labeling , a few at a time.

While some are pumping out the product and have machines fill the bottles and 100 employees to label them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Denton Fest

Prior to 1982, the only puro tequilas that were readily available in the United States were, Herradura and Sauza Hornitos.  But Robert Denton and Marilyn Smith changed all that, and in turn, are very much responsible for the world wide popularity of tequila today. 

After spending a several years in the liquor industry working for a few brands, including Ketel One, they decided to branch out on their own. While Robert was on the business side of the entire operation, it was Marilyn that was on the creative side.  After tasting Caliente tequila, Marilyn knew that this was their next project.  They flew down to Tamaulipas and developed a personal and business relationship with the Gonzalez family, and started importing Caliente and Chinaco tequilas.  Both brands came from the same distillery (Tequilera la Gonzaleña NOM 1127) and were crafted by master distiller German Gonzalez.  Chinaco was available as a reposado, añejo, and a 4 year añejo, (and later on a muy añejo) while the Caliente only came as a blanco.

While promoting the Chinaco line at the trade shows and at any bar that they happened to be in, Bob and Marilyn were also the first to use the brandy snifter for sipping tequila.  While common place now, back then that was HUGE! Tequila was always served in a shot glass, and nothing more.  Hanging out at a bar during a trade show in Chicago in the mid 80’s, they met one of the executives from Sauza tequila, and Marilyn proudly showed off her brandy snifter filled with Chinaco añejo to him.  Needless to say, a few months later they saw a Sazua ad featuring, you guessed it, a brandy snifter.

In the late 80’s, Chincao stopped exporting to the US, so Robert and Marilyn went down to Gudalajara to find their next project.  Knowing that they wanted tequila that was made in very small batches, distilled in small copper stills, and had an añejo that was a minimum of 2 years old, they met a lot of people and tasted even more tequila.  It wasn’t until they got to meet the Camarena family and taste their product that they knew that they had found what they were looking for.  Long story short, Bob and Marilyn built a personal relationship with the entire Camarena family before any business decisions were made.  Once they decided to move forward on the project, a name had to be chosen, and the one they settled on was El Tesoro de Don Felipe.  The first shipments of El Tesoro came over in late 1989 or early 1990, and came in the following profiles; Silver (which was the first brand to use that term, and also caused an uproar with the governing body that oversaw the production of tequila at that time.  They then renamed it Plata but encountered the same situation), Reposado, Añejo, and Muy Añejo (and surprise, surprise, that term caused a problem too).   

While there was some love for El Tesoro, Bob and Marilyn reintroduced Chinaco in 1993 to the delight of many a tequila lovers!  Of which, many of those tequila fans were wine makers from California.  Knowing the grape gave them a better understanding of the agave and a huge appreciation for what the Gonzalez and Camarena family were crafting. In fact, many wine makers would celebrate the end of their harvest with Chinaco and El Tesoro!

While Robert and Marilyn are officially no longer involved with the importing and distribution of tequila (or any other liquor) these days, they still remain close friends with the Gonzalez and Camarena families. And for a lot of tequila lovers out there, the Chincao and El Tesoro that was imported by Robert and Marilyn, is considered to be some of finest tequila ever!  On February 27 2011, about 18 tequila aficionados came together at La Pinata in San Jose, CA to celebrate those tequilas and our very special guests, Robert and Marilyn, and properly named - Denton Fest

In order to attend Denton Fest, one needed to bring an unopened Denton Import bottle to share with the party.  And for the evenings drinking pleasure, we had the following tequilas (from left to right); Chinaco "teardrop" blanco, reposado, & añejo. Chinaco "green label" blanco, "red label" reposado, "green label" añejo, and 4 year añejo.  Caliente blanco, El Tesoro "artisan" silver, "white label" silver, reposado, añejo, "a very dark" añejo, and 2 different Paradisos - one bottle from the first batch, and one from the second, as well as a Chinaco 4 year añejo that was not in this picture..  Out of 16 bottles, I tasted 14, and was only able to get tasting notes on 12.  Even though I was only doing 1/2 oz pours, it was a little difficult to devote the proper time that a tequila like this needs when you've got 20 other great tequila people to talk to, and by the 6th glass, it was too difficult to keep focus.  In a nutshell, I'd say that 11 of the 12 I tasted were gloriously amazing!!!  Not only do I wish I could have spent days with each bottle, but I wish I could have bathed in them!!!

Special thanks to Joe Horrigan for organizing this wonderful event, to Art Guzman from La Pinata in San Jose for hosting and providing us with some really tasty food (and the coffee is amazing too!), and to everybody who shared their special bottle.  But most importantly, a very special "thank you" to Robert and Marilyn for not just coming all the way from their home in Michigan, but for finding us these great tequilas, and for the stories they shared.  They are truly, a special couple, and I feel blessed to have spent some time with them.  Thank you!


Caliente (1982); This tequila has a crystal clear appearance with thin slow legs, and a nose that has earthy spicy notes that are vibrant, green of freshly cut herbs and brown sugar.  Nice creamy texture on entry that hits the very tip of tongue and awakens it. Nice warm finish with hints of cooked apple, brown sugar and cinnamon.

El Tesoro Artisan Silver (early 90’s); This tequila is crystal clear with legs that take their time gliding down the glass, and a nose that is very brown and earthy with a slight bit of fruit on top.  Not a lot of alcohol on the palate (due to the angels share) but it has some really nice caramelized banana notes and is loaded with cooked agave!

Chinaco 4 year (1982, this bottle was imported in the very first shipment and came from Bob and Marilyn’s personal collection); The color is a golden hue with thin slow legs, and has melted butter and caramel and baked agave in the nose.  The taste is of cooked agave, dripping caramelized bananas and a bit of earth. A most amazing finish and tequila!

Chinaco 4 year (date unknown); Sorry I was listening to Marilyn tell a great story. So with this I’d say it is a bit toasted nut and earth but more alcoholy than the original 4 year.  Still very tasty!

Chinaco Blanco (1993); Crystal clear, with a nose of fresh cut grass, brown sugar, and earth.  The flavor is very bright and vibrant and slightly sweet from brown sugar notes but has a relatively short finish. It is much drier than Caliente, but it sure is good.

Chinaco Repo (Red Label 1994); Light straw color in color, this tequila is very similar to Green Label blanco in taste but with a touch of butter and a much longer finish.

Chinaco Blanco (Tear Drop, mid 90’s); Very similar to Green label blanco in the nose but not as complex and a bit more alcohol.  This blanco has a lot more brown sugar and a longer finish than the GL blanco, and is much more like to Caliente.

Chinaco Repo (Tear Drop, mid 90’s); Light straw in color with a herbaceous nose.  This repo starts off nice with a slight bit of cantaloupe but turns slightly medicinal and the finish with a touch of bitterness.  I would almost have to say that this bottle was corked

Chinaco Añejo (Green Label 1996); This añejo has a sunny blonde glow, with a nose that has a lot of dry earth, herbs and caramel.  It has a really light, soft and creamy entry. Finish is long but but subtle. I can see why this was so popular during its time.

Chinaco Añejo (Tear Drop, A-series); Golden blonde in color, this añejo     has a nose that has a lot of freshly cut grass and herb.  The taste is filled with caramel and butter with a nice long finish that has herbal elements.

(on the left) El Tesoro Añejo (White Label “Negro”); This anejo is a dark golden brown, and has caramelized brown sugar on the nose, and the palate is loaded with cooked bananas, yet has a very dry texture.  It is much bigger in taste and texture than the “regular” ETWLA.

(on the right) El Tesoro Añejo (White Label) – Straw gold in appearance, this tequila has a big intense texture that pulls your palate apart but has lots of sweet cooked agave and banana notes that also has a slightly creamy texture and a soft long finish.  I really, really dug this añejo!

As a side note.  A lot of the corks were changed out because they broke while they were being opened.

more pics from that evening...

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