There are two polarizing ways you can look at the new Sazerac tequilas from Corazon -- as a total marketing gimmick looking to exploit the Van Winkle name for a quick profit, or as a clever way to help cross whiskey drinkers over into the anejo tequila category. The cynic will assume that the tequilas are shit, while the romantic might hope to taste a bit of that wheated Bourbon magic. The reality of the situation is this: no one knows how to market tequila right now. There's not one company doing it right in my opinion. It's either good tequila in a bad bottle, or bad tequila in a good bottle (or sometimes bad tequila in a terrible bottle); ultimately there seems to be a complete lack of understanding of what exactly tequila consumers want. That being the case, it makes total sense that Sazerac would begin to market its tequila the same way it markets its whiskey -- you might as well start with what works. Personally, I think it's a great idea.
What I didn't think was a good idea, however, was the price: $100 a bottle. I tasted these tequilas about five months ago and decided to pass; not because I thought they were gimmicky, but because they were too expensive. In my mind, the Van Winkle, Stagg, and Sazerac rubs were fantastic ways to garner interest for a brand looking to revamp itself. To me, however, these were $60 tequilas -- comparable in quality to the Fortaleza Anejo at $75 and the Ocho Anejo at $52. The marketing wasn't the bad idea, it was expecting consumers to fork over an extra $40 because the bottle said "Van Winkle" -- that was the bad idea. "I'm interested in the tequilas," I told Sazerac at that time, "but not at those prices."
This week, when the subject of revisiting the Sazerac Corazones came up again, I restated my position; but this time I was able to break through with my opinion. I managed to get the pricing down to $69.99 a bottle for each of the expressions -- for two year old tequilas of this quality, this is more than reasonable. I think getting people excited about tequila is always a good idea, but you can't exploit that interest because you'll turn that excitment back off again. The industry needs a shot in the arm, a revival of some sort, but the brands aren't sure if luxury or authenticity is the way to go -- the result is a mess of something in the middle. I applaud Sazerac in their efforts to bring interesting, barrel specific, transparent tequila to the market place -- free of artificial sweeteners or coloring. And now I applaud them for getting them down to the price they should have been originally.
This is an idea I can now get behind:
In 2010, Sazerac -- the company which owns Buffalo Trace distillery, home of many legendary Bourbons -- began a tequila project with distiller Miguel Cedeno Cruz, which would take tequila from Tequila San Matias distillery in Jalisco and age it in whiskey barrels from Sazerac's most famous expressions. They took barrels from their George T. Stagg, Van Winkle, and Sazerac whiskies and used them to mature tequila for anywhere from 22 months to two years, hoping to inflect the flavor from their boldest expressions into the spirit of Mexico. For collectors of rare American whiskey and lovers of fine tequila, this is a dream combination.
Not only are these three Corazon tequilas a fantastic project between great producers on both sides of the border, we’re now able to offer them for the best possible pricing. Whereas other retailers clock in somewhere between $85 and $100 a bottle, we’re excited to be able to offer these tequilas on special order for $69.99 a bottle – while supplies last.
Working with casks from the Van Winkle Bourbons, the most-coveted American whiskey of all time, Cruz aged this anejo expression for 23 months, producing a creamier and more supple expression with hints of toasted almond and vanilla. The finish goes on forever, meandering between spicy ginger and lemon tea. For any lover of both tequila and Bourbon, the new Corazon expressions from Sazerac are where passions for great spirits collide!
Taking used casks from George T. Stagg, the powerful and over-proofed beast that has Bourbon collectors everywhere in a frenzy, the folks from Corazon aged this anejo expression for 22 months, resulting in a powerful and spicy tequila that starts with pepper and barrel char before settling down into notes of cinnamon and dried herbs. The finish shows hints of cocoa and bold barrel char.
Utilizing casks from Sazerac rye, the more herbaceous whiskey that sets the standard for the industry, this anejo expression was aged for two years and shows the most inflection of the three available anejos. The intensity of the rye is instantly apparent in the tequila, with a distinct hint of charred oak and peppery sweetness on the palate. The finish becomes almost fruity, with butterscotch on the backend that softens the flavors and allows them to linger long on the tongue.