Food & Drink
Brave resident tasters put several especial bottles to the test
Published: December 14, 2011
'Tis the season when booze meets billboards all over town and flossy liquor images fill the pages of consumer magazines. This year tequila is making a more concerted appearance, with ads for premium-priced brands especially apparent. A new brand in the increasingly crowded field seems to be making its pitch based on price — higher, not lower. Casa Dragones is elaborately packaged in a Tiffany-blue box, with each bottle numbered and dated… and it retails for $279 at Twin Liquors — where you have to ask. The price wasn't noted on the shelf when I checked.
Miraculously, the Current obtained a bottle. So we decided to put together a what's-it-worth-to-you tasting of tequilas from three out of the five categories of the spirit: blanco or silver; joven or gold; reposado; añejo, and extra-añejo (there was no reposado or añejo in the hunt). This was based on what was at hand, what could be begged and, when there was no other alternative, actually bought. Agreeing to participate in this grab-bag exercise were two of the town's foremost tequila aficionados, Robert Millican of Drew's American Grill (he actually has a certificate from the Academia Mexicana del Tequila) and Jeret Peña of the Esquire Tavern, along with myself and the Current's Calendar Editor Bryan Rindfuss. They tasted blind. I did not. We all used Reidel's tequila flutes and chased our room-temperature sips with a classic sangrita (see recipe on the online version of this story).
The fun began with a baseline silver from Herradura, whose advertising reads, "You can't have great style without great taste." It's packaged in a classy but simple bottle, which may be the "style" part, and comments on the nose ran from peppery and lightly vegetal to honeyed, smoky, and hints of citrus. Observations on the palate were equally wide-ranging, but all agreed that it was light, fresh, and clean, especially after an initial hotness dissipated and some mint and other herbal notes appeared. "It's a lovely little girl," commented Millican. We all thought about $35 was a reasonable price, and that turns out to be very close to what it sells for.
Silver number two was a pony of a different color altogether (a pony being the traditional tequila shooting glass, FYI). Since blancos are bottled straight from the still with no aging in oak, we have to look to other factors to explain why Sauza's Tres Generaciones Plata evoked dark cacao, dates, and vanilla, according to Peña. Highland versus lowland sources for the agave, roasting in pits versus steaming in vats, double versus triple distillation… all can be factors. Though most tequilas are double-distilled, this Sauza gets the triple treatment. If this can sometimes lead to diminished aromatics, such was not the case here. Millican found pineapple and banana in addition to cocoa, and detected a baked agave quality in the taste… all within a light body, however. Rindfuss said it reminded him of sake. Maybe because it seemed more complex, we pegged this one at around $45. It's actually closer to $37.