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.