While Tears of Llorona, an extra-añejo Tequila, has gained much traction for its scarcity and high price since its debut in the United States, it is also notable for its aging process. The dram is a blend of spirits aged in three different casks types: those used previously for Scotch, brandy and Sherry maturations.
Master tequilero German Gonzalez, the fifth in a line of Tequila makers, says that the blend arose from a process of experimentation. He had learned from working with his father that former Scotch casks were excellent for aging in. "One day I woke up with something different in my mind and decided I wanted to use different barrels. So I started aging Tequila in wine, Cognac, brandy—12 different barrels—just to see the effects on the Tequila."
Blending by trial and error with the results he ultimately landed on the final triad of cask types. "I decided on them because I wanted the brightness that Scotch gives you, the fruit from the Sherry and the sweetness from the brandy."
Gonzalez all gives a nod to his agave source in Tears of Llorona. For his raw material he sourced plants in the highland region of Jalisco in Los Altos. "You can taste the influence of the wood, but you can also taste the points of green that [remind you that it is made from agave]," he says. "And I believe that type is the agave that can make that happen."
For this small production that became Tears of Llorona, he also cooked the agave at a low temperature, taking 27 hours (seven more than his norm). Slow cooking was a technique that his wife, a chef, inspired, he adds. "Sometimes what I think about myself when I'm doing that is that I become a chef. In the end you're doing a transformation, and when you do it as slow as possible you are getting richer and richer flavors."
The name of the Tequila stems from an old folktale that Gonzalez heard as child. It involves a beautiful, Mexican native who falls in love with a conquistador. When he leaves her for a younger woman, she drowns their children and her herself. Doomed to walk the earth, she is said to be heard crying out for her lost children. Hence, she is called la llorona (the weeping woman). But Gonzalez's reason for using the name is nothing so horrible as that. He says that when he tasted his creation, he wept tears of joy.
This is a Tequila meant strictly for sipping, possibly with an ice cube or a splash of water, but never to be drowned in a cocktail. But Gonzalez does approve of mixing it with one thing: "A cigar can make an amazing partner."
Tears of Llorona (86 proof, or 43 percent alcohol by volume; five years old; $250-$299 a liter bottle)
APPEARANCE: Bright amber/copper color with quick, thick legs.
NOSE: Without knowing the species this mightn't be instantly recognizable as Tequila. Its floral notes suggest brandy. Lots of competing barrel flavors follow, with vanilla (crème brûlée), Sherry and a slight peat. It reveals its Tequila-ness through a spicy cinnamon note at the far end of the bouquet.
PALATE: The cinnamon lights up as soon the juice hits the tongue and spicy cinnamon and ginger follow. The signature Tequila bread-dough note is soon subsumed by more candied notes with cocoa, caramel, vanilla, cherry and grape. A very complex Tequila.
FINISH: As it drifts off, the spice returns with rampant agave notes that remind you of its source.
CIGAR PAIRING: Achilles Heroicos (Nicaragua; 5 1/4 inches by 50 ring gauge; $8.50; 93 points, Cigar Aficionado December 2014). A hearty foundation of earth and coffee underscore complex layers of cinnamon, nutmeg and gingerbread. This is a rich and delicious cigar that never overpowers the palate. It's the spice conjunction we were going for with this partnership—and it worked—in one direction, at least. The Tequila elicits more cinnamon and ginger from the cigar. However, sweets (grape, cherry and chocolate notes) are what pop on the Tears of Llorona. Where the two find common ground is in their earthiness (and this is where hints of Tequila shine through). Overall, it's an interesting union with many surprising meeting points.