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


Christmas Eve Blending

What do you do when you're sitting around on Christmas Eve Day, wrapping presents, watching old episodes of Arrested Development, and getting supplies ready for tonight's party? I wanted to bring some fun booze over to my family activity tonight, but nothing that I really would miss were we to drink it all.  Then I remembered all those Four Roses barrel samples that I didn't use when we were sampling casks to purchase.  The Small Batch is a bourbon that Four Roses crafts from a few different barrel formulae and I had a more than a handful to choose from.  All I needed was a big empty bottle.

Rather than do a batch of pure cask strength bourbons, I decided to mix a little of the 100 proof in to tone it down a bit.  One bottle of cask strength OBSQ, one bottle of cask strength OESV, one bottle of cask strength OBSV, and a little bit of 100 proof OBSV to top it off at 750ml.  Then I poured it all into a big bowl, filtered out the charcoal with a strainer, and decanted it back into an empty vodka bottle.

Violá! I did taste a little bit just out of curiousity, but 9:45 in the morning isn't really the best time to sample whiskey.  I'll base my blending success on the reaction of my in-laws later tonight.  Hopefully, I will make Jim Rutledge proud.

-David Driscoll


Week In Review #2


K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Irish

This is a much smaller category so the choices are slimmer, but yet no less of an accomplishment!  Our irish whiskies of the year are:

David D picks: Slieve Foy 8 Year Old Irish Whiskey - This is such a fantastic whiskey and is definitely in my running for the best overall whiskey of the year.  Reasonably priced at the $40 mark, this is so much more than just light and easy.  Stone fruits, white wine aromas, malty richness, sweet grains, and long lasting finish.  Made and distilled by Cooley, this is just another notch in the belt of an already accomplished distillery.  A great recommendation as well for just about any one who likes brown booze.  I can't see how someone wouldn't like this, and I mean really like it.

David OG picks: Redbreast 15 Year Old Irish Whiskey - Redbreast 12 was already taking over the world when the 15 decided to show up and create a little friendly competition.  I've seen customers really struggle over which bottle to choose when faced with both options.  The 15 does up the anty with more richness, an extra dose of oil, and a fatter texture on the palate.  Once everyone realized the 15 was out there, the sales started coming in and now both expressions really move.  A fantastic credit to the ability of Irish agebility.

-David Driscoll


K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Rye



So I ran out of Whistle Pig and Rittenhouse Rye and I couldn't take a fancy picture on my new camera, so the professional images from the fancy K&L webpage will have to do.  In any case, our prestigious year end award for rye goes to:

David D picks: Whistle Pig 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey - Dave Pickerell, the former master distiller for Maker's mark, decided to open a distillery in Vermont.  The situation he was presented with was not unlike High West's David Perkins - sell gin and vodka, or go out and find some aged whiskey to sell in the meantime.  Pickerell went to Canada and located some pretty outstanding rye. Big, rich, mouthfilling rye that seemed to impress just about everyone who tasted it.  We're selling a case every two days right now, which should be an indication about how much people like this stuff.  This is fantastic whiskey that bourbon lovers will appreciate as well.

David OG picks: Rittenhouse 25 Year Old Rye - Truly the grandaddy of American rye whiskies.  This ancient beast from Heaven Hill is so rich and complex that it goes beyond any other aged option out there on the market.  Sazerac 18 is comparable, but really doesn't hit the level that the extra 7 years adds to this bottle.  This baby starts lingering into coffee, toffee, and nougat flavors all while keeping that classic rye spice.  Very much the Holy Grail of rye whiskey for the time being.

-David Driscoll