I hold traditional white tequila as the last bastion of the fight against liquor gentrification. Why does everything have to be smooth, and soft, and gentle instead of flavorful? Camper English wrote a fantastic article a while back on his website Alcademics about tequila being the new vodka, and after tasting some of the "hot" new products today it's so clear that this is the case. Tequila is becoming a lifestyle product for rich guys with big egos who want to make more money, so they decide to start up their own brand of alcohol. It used to be flashy designer vodka (remember the Donald Trump vodka?) but now it's all about Mexico - likely due to the cheaper labor and the success of Patron. Tequila must be made in Jalisco, Mexico so these guys don't actually do any of the producing, but rather just the label designing. They hire workers at a co-op to make a tequila and then buy it from them, slap a label on it, and send it over to marketing to start the advertising blitz. I'm so tired of this trend I could honestly scream, mostly because I love Mexico, mexicans (my wife included), tequila, and cultural tradition, but also because these guys don't care about booze. You can tell because their tequila tastes like watered down agave with vanilla and cream.
Just when I thought I'd never see another fantastic blanco again (besides Los Osuna which isn't technically tequila), in walks my Southern rep with a sample bottle of Charbay's take on silver tequila. Even though I recognize Marko's talent as a distiller, the Charbay products (mostly fruit injected vodkas and liqueurs) have never been my thing. I think they are all well made and they never seem to cut any corners, but I just don't drink vanilla Tahitian rum or green tea vodka. However, Marko has a passion for doing things all the way, so when I heard that he travels to Mexico once a year to make a batch of tradtional blanco tequila, my ears perked up. This spirit is personally double-distilled in Arandas, Mexico, by Miles and Marko, in small Copper Alambiques Tequilano Pot Stills, the Blue Agave is hand selected by Jimadoras, baked for four days to transform the fresh Agave into fermented "Mosto," which is then crushed and pressed and ready for fermentation in small wood fermenters. Once the Mosto ferments into a dry Mosto Muerte, it is ready to be distilled.
The result is simply fantastic. The balance achieved in almost surreal - the pepper, agave, citrus, and spice all dance on the palate with plenty of heat and lots of tang! The nose is a tequila fan's dream - plenty of floral elements in play with the agave never losing itself in the barrage of aromas. I had to take three tastes to really believe what I was tasting. Not everyone here thought it was a great as I did, but that's because I am prejudiced. I know exactly what I am looking for with tequila and Charbay has hit the nail squarely on the head. Tequila should be an extension of authentic mexican cuisine - it should be spicy, flavorful, and expressive! Like my wife always says, "who wants to eat bland meat and potatoes when you could be eating carnitas tacos?"
To drink a new world tequila with gobs of oak, vanilla, and soft textures is to eat at Chevy's. I'd rather be at the taco truck on the corner of Middlefield in Redwood City. Thank the lord that Charbay feels the same way because I now what I'm buying for the fiesta from now on.