The Spirit of Mexico
Despite what you may think, Cinco De Mayo does not translate to “drink tequila day” (or five parts mayonnaise, for that matter). Cinco De Mayo (Fifth of May) actually refers to the date the Mexican Army defeated the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. This “David versus Goliath” affair was a huge morale booster for the Mexicans and led to much celebration. (The French subsequently returned to defeat the Mexican Army and capture Mexico City at the Second Battle of Puebla, but where’s the fun in that?)
Given the events of the past year, any excuse to celebrate anything (and drink…more) is a good excuse. Generally seen as a festival of Mexican-American culture, Cinco De Mayo is said to generate beer sales in line with the Super Bowl. Sure, drink beer if you must, but the real spirit of Mexico is actually a spirit, namely tequila (for the sake of inclusivity – and variety – we’ll also include tequila’s smoky cousin – mezcal – as well as other agave and non-agave-based spirits like sotol). Here are five that have recently passed my palate.
Tequila Herradura Silver
I’ve been a Herradura fan forever. I was introduced to the blanco expression at a virtual lunch tasting hosted by Herradura’s Brand Specialist, Michael Fortier. Over a fantastic Mexican lunch from Toronto’s El Rey Mezcal Bar, Fourtier pointed out some of the unique aspects of this premium tequila. Slow cooking of fully mature Lowland agave, natural yeast from fruit and citrus trees on the property, and 45 days of oak aging (very rare for a blanco) result in a captivating tequila that is aromatic, complex, and ultra-smooth. The barely-there hint of oak ratchets up the dimension of flavour. Top-notch. ($70)
Tequila Don Julio Blanco
Explosively fragrant, ripe cooked agave aromatic notes, but also wet slate, marzipan, mild smoke, herbs, cocoa powder and white flower blossom. Multi-dimensional. Round and very nicely balanced, this is a blanco that has it all together. Some fruitiness, some white pepper, some cocoa, some herbal/agave pulp flavours, some citrus and a long, long, mildly spicy finish. At pushing $85, this ain’t cheap. But if the term “you get what you pay for” actually holds water, this tequila is proof.
Villa One Tequila Silver
The question really isn’t, “which celebrities have a tequila brand,” but rather, “which don’t?” The Villa One brand – created by musician Nick Jonas and fashion designer John Varvatos (with a little help from the Stoli Group) – uses 100 per cent blue weber agave sourced from both the Highland and Lowland areas of Jalisco. Agave from each region brings fruity and earthy notes respectively. The resulting silver is quite fragrant, with cocoa powder, marzipan, hints of tropical fruit, and fresh agave. Quite viscous in the mouth, with some peppery notes on the finish and fruity notes throughout. The perfect tequila for those who prefer a less aggressive style. ($70)
Hornitos Reposado Tequila
My preference in tequila is to let the agave character shine. Typically this means blanco (plata, silver) expressions. Reposado (“rested”) means the liquid has spent less than a year in oak barrels. The Hornitos brand was originally crafted as a reposado style in 1950. With a light hand on the wood, you’ll get freshly cooked agave on the nose, along with some lime, cut grass and green apple. In the mouth it shows a nice mix of white pepper, mild smoke, mint, herbs and just a hint of sweet oak. The perfect base for a classic Margarita. ($39)
Los Magos Sotol Blanco
“Tequila and mezcal have dominated the Mexican spirits industry for decades and the category is ripe for disruption,” opines Juan Pablo Carvajal of Los Magos. “We feel extremely fortunate to be able to share Los Magos Sotol with the world, as its flavor profile shares some of the better qualities of premium tequilas and mezcals, while being less woody and smoky than mezcals and softer on the palette, with more floral notes than tequila.” Indeed, this interesting spirit straddles the gap between tequila and mezcal, with herbal, citrus, mint, and some earthy/smoky aromatics. Smooth, dry, and mildly peppery flavours, with a touch of lemon on the generously long finish.