The participants: The Usual Suspects
The Mission: Tequila
Confession: I’ve never been to Mexico. All I know, or think I know, of Mexico and its culture and history has been presented and reported and distorted and digested from a ‘North-of-the-border’ view-point. The good, the bad and the ugly: The Zapatistas in the Chiapas state…El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel…Nacho Libre. And that’s just relatively recently. What about Elvis in Acapulco…Speedy Gonzales…The old Venture’s tune: Tequila!?
Speaking and segueing of which, what better way to get a little taste of the real Mexico than an expert tour of this most Mexican of beverages, guided by an auténtico Tequila aficionado: our very own Subcomandante Rob Gough.
Let’s “break bad”, as it were…
OK, some Walter White kinda mathsie/sciencey/teacherley stuff. First up, just quietly, TEQUILA CAN ONLY BE MADE FROM BLUE WEBER AGAVE. Got that? Good.
There are also two types of Tequila: Mixto (which must contain 51% Agave), and 100% Agave.
There are also 5 styles of Tequila, which we pretty much covered in our subsequent tastings, so here goes:
By-passing the first style, which I daresay we all know – the Gold/Joven/Oro un-aged, mixto, “lip, sip, suck”, hangover from Hades type (or is that just me?) – our first cab off the tasting rank was a Don Julio Silver. Silver/Blanco/White/Platinum Tequila is also un-aged but it is 100% Blue Agave in its purest form. Walter White would approve (for a gringo). A delicate, silky smooth number with vanilla notes, and oilier than the Gulf of Mexico itself! Is Don is good (pardon the ethnic clichés, bordering on casual racism. I’m Orstrahlyan. Oi!)
Anyhoo…next up: the Herradura Silver Tequila. This is another 100% Blue Weber Agave although with an unusual greenish-straw colour due to a very brief period of aging in American oak barrels. The result: a smooth yet more pungent and raw and vegetal character, with a strong finish on the palate. A Silver example but not as we know it.
Our third tasting example was El Espolòn Reposado Tequila. Reposado is a style of tequila that is rested and aged in barrels for between 2 – 11 months. The result is that the Agave flavours are mellowed and shaped by the wood. This particular example is housed in white-oak barrels for six months giving it a caramelly bourbon whisky character with some sweet rum notes. A very mellow and enjoyable drop.
Number four was Patrón Añejo. This type of Tequila is barrel-aged further for at the very least one year, up to three. This results in a rich amber colour and even more smooth and complex flavours, of which this was a particularly fine example. Beautiful caramel and smoky notes in the finish. Muy Bueno.
There is a fifth type of Tequila which is Extra Añejo. This gets the same treatment as the above Añejo, but is barrel-aged for more than three years thus resulting in an even darker mahogany colour and the flavour characteristics of other fine spirits such as aged Scotch, Bourbon, Cognac etc.
We didn’t sample this. We sampled a different kettle of fish altogether for our last tasting: Mezcal. What is the essential difference between Tequila and Mezcal I hear you ask? Mexican law dictates that Tequila can only be made from a single sub-species of agave: the blue agave. Mezcal, on the other hand, can be distilled from any agave.
And as the old saying in Oaxaca (the birthplace of Mezcal) goes: “For everything bad, Mezcal; for everything good, the same.”
Our example was very pleasantly smoky and came sans worm. But no matter, Comandante Rob had a special little bottle filled with them, and only them, for our consumption. After that, we had a world famous Tommy’s Margarita (see our recipe…ABSOLUTELY NO SALT!), mixed by El Comandante, and then I think I went home or somewhere or something. Whatever. Good times.
Da da da, da-da da…TEQUILA!
John…um…what’s my name again? Jesús!