Our Tequila Selection

I wrote yesterday that I was very frustrated in my attempts to find new tequila. What I did not mean to imply is that we didn't already have some fantastic selections. I just haven't been able to add anything to them. We know that some of us enjoy the adventure of continuing the search for something new. When that adventure reaches a limit, it can be quite a disappointment. Here's a rundown of some of the wonderful products we carry in the order I most enjoy them, just in case you've never had them.

Seleccion ArteNOM 1079 - Jesus-Maria, Jalisco (Mountain Agave 6,200 ft. Alt.) $39.99 - Rancho El Olvido (ATP&C) is tequila's highest altitude distillery.  The agave grown at this level hits a higher BRIX sugar level owing to a porous soil and a climate that stresses the agave more.  The nose is packed with lime, pepper, and other citrus fruits, but it isn't overly zesty.  It's there, but it's subdued and concentrated.  Amazingly flavorful considering it's so mild!  A delicate dance of black pepper and baking spices.  Part of the elegance is due to the fact that these guys do not add agave nectar to re-ferment the mash (a practice that is currently legal and results in big, smooth, candied tequilas).  Because agave nectar is 100% agave, the bottle can still claim to be 100% agave even though it's the same as chapitalizing a wine.  This tequila offers purity, authenticity, and quality for a very affordable price. Highly recommended.

Seleccion ArteNOM 1414 - Arandas, Jalisco (Mountain Agave 5,400 ft. Alt.) $44.99 -
Destileria El Ranchito has been owned by Feliciano Vivanco since the post-revolutionary period of 1919-1929.  They hold 2,000 acres of estate grown agave and distill everything on traditional pot stills.  Their fermentation process is what makes them very unique - something about the yeast and their climate creates a bready, yeasty, banana nut aroma and flavor.  This is an incredibly understated reposado that absolutely blew me away with its uniqueness and mild-mannered profile.  Nutty, bready, with cinnamon bursts and spicy cloves on the palate.  Very unique and very, very good.

Seleccion ArteNOM 1146 - Atotonilco El Alto, Jalisco (Mountain Agave 4,620 ft. Alt.) $49.99 - Casa Tequileña is owned and operated by Enrique Fonesca, known as El Arquitecto.  A fifth-generation grower and master distiller who holds one of the largest plots of agave in the industry, this añejo is made to showcase the oak without overshadowing the agave.  The nose is amazing!  Again, subdued and needing to be coaxed, but incredible when it finally arrives.  Nutty aromas with toasted vanilla, but neither rich nor oaky.  Warm baking spices on the palate, which is incredibly lean for an añejo!  Black pepper and fruit on the finish with more roasted nuts.  Divine!

Gran Dovejo Añejo Tequila $54.99 - This stuff is actually made at Vivancos, just like the ArteNOM Reposado, but they bring in their own distiller. Frank Mendez called me one day and told me he'd like to come present his new family project: Gran Dovejo tequila. While Frank and his cousin don't come from a tequila-making background, they consider themselves afficionados and feel the same exasperation I do toward the current state of things. They said to themselves: if we're going to do this, we're going to do it right - no cutting costs, no hiring a giant factory to mass-produce flavorless swill, no catering to Costco, no parties with celebrities, just good tequila. In order to do so, they tracked down Leopoldo Solis Tinoco (one of the great master distillers in Mexico) to help bring Gran Dovejo to life. Leopoldo was so satisfied with the final result that he offered to put his name on the bottle as a sign of approval. I've never tasted a tequila more suited for bourbon drinkers than the Gran Dovejo añejo. It has all the texture, the new wood, the spice, and the mouthfeel. I love that they didn't let this thing get all supple, soft, and smooth because there's enough of that in the market. Imagine a bourbon, but one where all the spice came from the spirit rather than from the wood! This tequila spent 18 months in a barrel but it tastes like an 8 year old bourbon because the spirit itself is so expressive!

Tequila Ocho Plata Tequila $44.99 - Tequila Ocho's tequilas are made by Felipe Camarena, a third generation Tequilero, and each vintage--yes, these are vintage designated tequilas--comes from a single estate with its own microclimate, making these the most terroir-driven tequilas on the market. The 2011 vintage Plato comes from El Puertecito. The Plata is spicy, clean, vibrant and delicious.

Los Osuna Blanco $39.99 - Why don't you see the word tequila anywhere in the description?  Because Los Osuna is made in Sinaloa, not Jalisco, and therefore cannot legally call itself tequila, even though it is made from 100% blue agave.  The Osuna family has been distilling the agave plant for almost 130 years so, believe us, they know what they're doing.  Anyone who doubts that the best tequilas can be made elsewhere need only to taste the outstanding blanco, the best "tequila" we offer.  It's nose sings of agave spice and citrus, while on the palate it glides over the tongue with a hints of pepper, lime, and flowers.

Los Osuna Reposado $49.99 - Soft cinnamon notes and lovely wooded spice. YUM. A great midway agave spirit that had both the spice and the richness for people who crave them both.

Charbay Blanco Tequila $49.99 - The Charbay is not the watered-down, overly-sweetened designer tequila being sold these days, but traditional, spicy spirit! Charbay distilled this in Mexico and it’s stunning. They were the first American Distillery to personally distill tequila in Mexico, from 100% Blue Agave Tequila, hand-distilled by Miles and Marko, combining traditional Tequila distilling methods with Charbay proprietary techniques of double-distillation. Miles said "Tequila is by far one of the most challenging" of distilled spirits. Personally double-distilled in Arandas, Mexico, by Miles and Marko, in small (90-250 gallon) 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.

Tequila Fortaleza Reposado $54.99 - Guillermo Erickson Sauza is a fifth generation tequila maker who hand-crafts beautiful, artisanal tequila at his century-old estate. His tartabuelo (great-great-grandfather) Don Cenobio was the first person to export tequila to the US, way back in the 1860s, starting his own brand in the 1870s. That tequila (Sauza) was passed down the generations before being sold my Guillermo's grandfather in 1976. Tequila Fortaleza is a return to his roots, and to the traditional methods, including the use of a stone mill called a Tahona to crush the agave, a small, copper pot stills to destill the fermented agave mosto. The resposado is aged in barrel for up to nine months and no less than six, and is authentic tequila, the kind that would make Sauza's ancestors proud.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll