The Most Anticipated Tequila of our Lifetime
Trying to explain what constitutes “great” Tequila in the new age of whiskey connoisseurship isn’t easy, especially when a large portion of the population is looking for “smooth” rather than purity. The dirty little secrets about Jalisco’s most treasured spirit are still well kept from a public unconcerned about the makings of their Margarita. The fact that many producers are adding artificial agents like glycerol to create texture and body, or that many distillers use a diffuser during production to increase volume and mask imperfections is not widely known; nor are there many interested parties. Still, the nebulous origins of today’s mass market Tequila have sent a number of true aficionados further South towards Oaxaca where the agave distillates are more rugged and less refined—mezcal remains relatively untouched and unsoiled by the demands of corporate booze. But that’s not to say there isn’t a resistance against this challenge to Tequila’s integrity. There are still those who believe in the beauty of Blue Agave and everything it offers to a spirit’s final flavor. Standing tall among those looking to defend Jalisco’s heritage is David Suro, the mind behind the Siembra Tequilas and some of the most elegant, haunting, and richly-flavored agave spirits we carry. I’ve come to know David well over the last five years and the only thing I respect more than the quality of his Tequilas is the sincerity of his principles. Mr. Suro isn’t just a purist for the sake of today’s hipster credibility; he’s a true believer in better production as a means to better flavor.
While we’ve long placed his Siembra Azul and Valles Tequilas into the hands of our most discerning customers, the rumors of David’s “Ancestral” project have been circulating for more than a year. Always the student, his goal was apparently to create a Tequila reminiscent of what the spirit may have tasted like hundreds of years ago, using long-forgotten and more rudimentary practices. What were those methods exactly? Let’s spell them out here:
-Rather than roast or steam the agave pinas in a large industrial oven, David’s team dug a ten foot earthen pit, filled it with wood and lava rocks, ignited it, then covered the bottom with bagasse to protect the agave from direct contact with the stones during the roasting process. Five tons of agave pinas were cooked for the Ancestral for 113 hours with a process that seeks to concentrate and addcomplexity to the ultimate flavor, rather than simply create as much potential alcohol as possible.
-Whereas many industrial Tequila distilleries use a commercial shredder to break down the cooked agave, the most traditional use a stone wheel pulled by a horse or donkey. Even that process was too “modern” for David Suro, however. After researching the topic, David’s team discovered that early agave mashing was done by hand with wooden mallets—a process unutilized for at least 300 years. The result was a meatier fermentation with agave fibers that were far less broken down.
-Finally, the Ancestral was distilled using two different types of still: the first being a traditional 300L Tequila pot still, but the second being a wooden Filipino-style alembic made from pine—a traditional vessel that was used three centuries ago during early distillation periods.
The result is not only a Tequila that bridges the gap between the ancient and modern eras of distillation, and brings “purity” and “transparency” in the production process to the next level, it’s one of the finest blanco Tequilas I’ve ever tasted in my nine year career at K&L. The nose is a flurry of sweet roasted agave aromas, candied citrus, white pepper, and subtle smoke. Bottled at 50.2% ABV, the spirit is tangier, bolder, and rounder on the palate. The Tequila expands over your tongue with brilliant waves of sweet, earthy, herbal, and savory tones—orange blossoms, roasted earth, sweet agave nectar and honey, salty citrus. The finish is a long and meandering road scattered with the remnants of that incredible ride. Smelling the glass afterward, you’ll be overcome with the potency of those elements, but ultimately that’s what traditional production brings to serious Tequila fans: concentration of flavor.
If you’re looking up to Tequila’s top shelf this holiday season, thinking $200 or more will buy you the best Jalisco has to offer, I beg you took look down a little further. For $119.99 you’re getting not only a piece of Tequila history, but also one of the most incredible, pure, and remarkably unadulterated Tequilas ever made. The back label includes every detail of the production process, from the date the agave was planted to the final distillation vessels. Only 3.335 bottles of the Ancestral were made and of that lot we were allocated only 90 bottles.
One sip of the Siembra Valles “Ancestral” will leave no doubt as to what truly constitutes “great” Tequila. The only things you’ll come to doubt are all the Tequilas you tasted before it. This is a triumph, pure and simple.
(for a much more detailed breakdown check out David's seven part YouTube series about the Ancestral)
Siembra Valles "Ancestral" Blanco Tequila $119.99 - Siembra Valles Ancestral is a project conceived of a love of history and a desire to know tequila from its roots, celebrating its true identity and a curiosity of what the past once tasted like. With agave untouched by machine, the Ancestral boasts the complexity of nature's flavors and the skills of tequilero ancestry. It begins its journey through time in the pristine blue agave fields nurtured by the Rosales family’s team of expert cultivators, jimadores, and a lowland terroir. The fruitful plants can credit their rich flavors to a pesticide-free land and rich volcanic soils in the valleys of Arenal in the ranches of Tepezapote and Mesa Del Charco. The geographic terroir provides mineral, peppery, citrus characteristics to this expression. Using an ancient agave-roasting technique that has been lost in the tequila industry for about 100 years, reminiscent of a pit used for mezcal, the piñas are cooked over wood and lava rocks. The agave is then broken down with wooden mallets, an extraction method that has been around for at least 300 years, pre-dating the Tahona method. The first distillation takes place in a traditional copper pot alembic. The second, however, is transferred to a Filipino-style alembic made from pine wood, a completely untouched method in the industry. While copper preserves flavor and transfers heat efficiently in distillation faster and more efficiently, pine preserves flavor and also adds flavors of wood. The result is a blanco unlike any other.