When I think of tequila back in my younger days, one word keeps popping up into my head. SHOTS!! dude SHOTS!!
The second though is a trip I took down to Mexico in my youth with my family, to escape a cold Canadian winter and spend time in a country where we could get out of our comfort zone and enjoy some better weather. But we loved it, and getting away from a cold Canadian winter is key if you can, and your last thought is how great the booze tastes.
In the end my memory of tequila and youth is one of manufactured falsities, one where sowing your oats involved picking a drink based on your pre-conceived notions of what taste and perhaps manhood meant. Does this tequila have the worm in the bottle? I asked my friend in my youthful days.. oh ho ho no it doesn't... that's not the real stuff. At a sand bar on the beach in a typical tourist trap, a drunken man came up to me and told me in his experienced wisdom.. "the only good tequila...(hic) is the gold stuff". Which is about as useful information as the best beer is the one's that are brown. In the end I take that drunken retired and highly inebriated man's wisdom with a grain of salt now in my older years. Mostly cause he left the bar with a tab that went down with a paper strip to his ankles.
I felt like I graduated when I would order tequila sunrises at the bars as a young twenty something. Yup fake grenadine, cheap orange juice, and you guessed it... cheap tequila. Cheap tequila is simply known as mixtos. And mixtos for most people, is what your life is introduced with for tequila.
The reality is, true tequila, is like a fine wine. Really good tequila can be aged like a great whiskey, be served with care, and caressed like a true lover when it is 100% agave. I had a premonition of this many years ago when I went to a restaurant in DC called Oyamel.
I fell in love with Jose Andres creations, having eaten at Jaleo. When I visited Oyamel back in the day, I discovered tequila in ways I could only dream. There were flights, just like glasses of wine. Mostly though, it was the taste that emanated from them. They rolled like great whiskeys of oak and vanilla, some had honey and chocolate. Sometimes their palate was velvety, tequila was something really impressive. It was time for a return.
I returned to Oyamel for a taste of fancy. The first picture was what I had first, a simple tasting flight of blanco tequilas. The first was Siembra Azul a mild salt nose and faint hint of cocoa, tasting simple and warming with a muted presence. Next was a Domain Charbay produced tequila which had an incredible salt and briney nose. I was blown away even tasting basic silvers/blancos that had salt sensations on the nose. It's as if the salt you had to lick for your shots were not even needed.
With Domain a huge grass finish came out and a warming giant bump on the swallow. Third and next to come for the Oyamel Blancos flight was Casa Noble. Nose brought a faint sour lemon and still some mild salt. Finish brings on the palate much of what was on the nose but also some black pepper and mild lime.
Strangely enough the silvers/blancos/plata whatever you wish to call them, didn't provide me personally with much a flavor profile. Chamomile? Orange? not so much. Things changed a bit when I went for a flight of rare and collectible which included a mezcal, the first mezcal I have ever had.
The first in the rare was a Casa Dragones another blanco. Strangely, the blancos as enjoyable as they were, just were not grabbing my attention. Another salty nose, and salty palate but this one finished with a real impressive mild sugar sweetness. Still I was wondering where my tequila dreams would return?
The next was Jose Cuervo "Reserva de la Familia". Notes for me personaly on the nose brought a most impressive blanco. Mild floral notes mixed with a sense of grass and nut. In the palate it had a wonderful texture, creamy, sensing of vanilla condensed milk and a herbal finish particularly mixing with the sangrita on the side.
Did I mention the sangrita jalisco? House made, a mixture of peppers, chile pecin, grapefruit, lime, citrus and blood orange juices. It really was an impressive combination with the tequilas.
Not to be out done, I had my first mezcal, and without question, it was memorable.
Del Maguey "Pechuga", is something I can truly say to this day I have never in my life ever had anything like. Limited to only 650 bottles, and distilled with among other things... hanging chicken breast. Say what??!? No I am not making this up. Nose hits with a smoke bomb, nearing a whiskey peat fire. Sweetness comes in the smoke flaring nostrils, orange, dried citrus peel. This one on the nose is a big winner, I have never had a sensory experience like this before and I'll never forget, chicken or not.
Taste however got into a giant almost tannic oak monster whiskey barrel sensation. Wooden, splintery, and also unfortunatley a huge blast of novocaine and phenolic like numbing on the finish. Luckily the sangrita with this mellowed out the palate and brought more of the nose out.
Still I was trying to find my tequila niche, and then I remembered, all tequila, is not clear, some is truly like liquid gold. Pehaps that old man who was downing cheap tequila was on to something? I decided to get a recommendation for an añejo style tequila, and was recommended Casa Noble, and thank the tequila gods it came up.
A wonderful brass and amber body, compliments a most wonderful nose. Milk chocolate, powdered cocoa, and vanilla abound. Yes this is tequila, and boy is it amazing.
It has a wonderful amber bronze body, a nose bursting with chocolate notes, and sea salt (I love sea salt and chocolate together). Tastes incredibly mellow, rich oak and soft grass mixing with chocolate and some butter in a nice memorable dance. Finish is wonderful with a great warmth but no trace of serious heat or even alcohol burn.
It seems I found my tequila niche. It just might be añejo. I think I need more aged tequila, just like a fine wine, and lord knows, I don't need any more shots to entertain me. But it looks like I am honed in on aged tequila. More please!