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Sunday
Dec262010

DeLeon Tequila - The Family-Owned Luxury Brand

For months, I've been selling this $100 blanco tequila (yes, blanco) that comes in a fancy black box and I've had no idea what it tasted like.  I didn't personally recommend it to anyone because I knew absolutely nothing about it.  All I did know was that David OG sent it to me in a transfer up from LA whenever I ran out.  I was out of stock more often than not - obviously other people knew about this tequila.  I finally did a little research and what I found surprised me greatly.  DeLeón is a family-owned distillery that makes its own tequila, yet packages it and prices it like a designer vodka.  Bizzare, but I still shrugged it off.  However, perhaps my anti-bling prejudice was blinding me from appreciating some serious agave juice.  When we did the year-end awards and David OG chose it as his tequila of the year, I knew something was up.  "That shit is actually good?" I asked him immediately after he emailed me his decision.  Apparently so.

I, of course, asked David to send me some samples if he was able to and they finally arrived today.  At this point in time, DeLeón is only distributed in the LA area because a local importer has the rights, so luckily we have a SoCal store that can order it and ship it up to me (much like we do for them with Old World Spirits, St. George, Germain-Robin, etc.).  For that reason, I had never received solicitation from their representatives.  The bottles are in solid black packaging, the stoppers are heavy, hand-crafted metal and weigh about five pounds (a good weapon for a bar fight!), and the design is sleek and stylish.  Is this really not Puff Daddy's new tequila?  Let's taste them and see what the fuss is about.  I've been really wondering how these guys have been getting away with selling blanco for $100. From what I've been able to ascertain, their distillery and agave fields are located at high-elevation, which, according to them, makes the piñas very expressive. 

My impressions?

DeLeón Diamante Blanco Tequila $94.99 - Clean nose, and I mean cleeeeean.  Unadulterated agave, citrus, and cinnamon with maybe a hint of nuttiness.  Gentle spritz against the tongue on the entry (which all good blancos SHOULD have), then pure tequila flavor without the slightest hint of harshness.  Gentle, delicate, and graceful.  I immediately took a swig of another fantastic blanco I had at home and there was really no comparison.  Let's look at it this way.  You know when you drink out of a Brita, but then decide to get a glass of tap water the next time you get up?  The tap always tastes a bit more astringent at first, but then eventually tastes like water.  Not a big deal, but the Brita is definitely cleaner.  That's the difference between DeLeon Diamante and any other blanco out there right now.  If you want the best, this is certainly it.  But it's not going to wow anyone who doesn't already drink a ton of blanco.  You have to really know what everything else out there tastes like before you really appreciate how good the DeLeón is.  And, boy, is it good.

DeLeón Reposado Tequila $109.99 (price may go up very soon) - A very compelling nose - butter cookies with citrus and waxy notes.  Earthy aromas on the entry, then a bizarre mix of butterscotch and flowers.  Way out there.  This is unlike any reposado I've ever had.  I could probably drink this fifty times and never taste the same thing twice.  Fun.

DeLeón Añejo Tequila $149.99 - I'd been really looking forward to this one. The añejo is aged 18 months, first in new French oak and then finished in Chateau d' Yquem casks.  You'd think it would be overly sweet and luscious, but it isn't.  It's amazing.  The tequila flavor is the first thing that hits you - big peppery spice and sweet cinnamon, but then the Yquem finishing kicks in and the honey coats the back of your mouth.  If you've ever been looking to indulge yourself, this is sure one way to do it.  This is without a doubt a tequila, and could never be mistaken for anything but.  That's a major accomplishment.

Overall, I'm very impressed.  I'm not sure that everyone realizes the state of tequila these days.  You've got just about every major luxury brand that is owned by someone who has absolutely nothing to do with the production.  They're all just a bunch of people with money who pay some Mexican distillers to make them a product.  They slap their name on it and, boom, they're in business.  Then they get a celebrity to market it, or an HBO show, and they're selling volume like you wouldn't believe.  Tequila is definitely the new vodka.  However, in this world of designer tequila, you've got DeLeón, which is definitely looking to play with the big boys, but actually has the skills to back it up.  They're going for a lifestyle image that's somewhere between Johnny Cash-circa the American Label recordings and Dave Gahan-circa Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus.  It works.  They've got the whole package: quality that is unmatched, a slick marketing campaign, and family-owned, Mexican distiller roots.  If you ask them who made their tequila, the answer is simple: "We did." 

-David Driscoll

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Reader Comments (5)

Would you change your opinion on tequila of the year based on the sample you tried?

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