Cigar Aficionado

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Mexican victory over the French in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1861, a day early with a visit yesterday from the Don Julio Tequila master distiller, Enrique de Colsa Ranero. He came to preview his latest creation, which will celebrate another anniversary when it debuts later in the year, the 70th birthday of the founding of Don Julio in 1942.

Almost as striking as his Tequila was the method in which he revealed it, which ran contrary to most of my experience. Usually when spirits representatives unveil their lines they either start with the liquor of the mildest body and build to the fullest or they proceed from entry-level quality to highest.

Enrique did neither. He went straight to his new surprise, the anniversary Tequila. Once you hear the logic it makes sense.

One of the strongest trends in Tequila is aging. Reposados (aged more than two months, but less than a year), Añejos (more than 12 months, but less than three years) and the new designation Extra Añejo (more than three years) have been growing in popularity. Enrique argues that while this relatively new development in aging Tequila has brought rich notes to the spirit, it also tends to mask some of the raw agave flavors that are the gift of Tequila as well.

He addresses this quandary with the 70th anniversary edition by starting with an Añejo version of Don Julio and then filtering it. So, rather than pouring first his Blanco (essentially no aging) and then working to the older stuff, Enrique went to this new juice first. And it was quite the pleaser—full of rich honey taste, almost rock candy—some of the mellow caramels and vanillas that you associate with its time in Bourbon barrels and, at the end, a minty evergreen and slight yeastiness.

From there he went to his Añejo Don Julio, which was also excellent, but focused on and developed the sweet and mellow, with pronounced wood tones. Gone were the hints of agave, yeast and mint.

The last taste was of his Blanco-style Tequila. Now was revealed all those agave flavors that are hallmarks for the dyed-in-the-wool Tequila fans who were brought up without the benefits of the barrel aging that is so prevalent today.

The whole thing was...what's that overused expression in the tech world?...counterintuitive...but proved an excellent way to reveal the varied charms of Tequila and to show how the new expression will contain both.

Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying: it's Cinco de Mayo, and you should probably taste some Tequila.

Here's a link to some past Tequila reportage from our library to get you started.

"Jack, some assistance would be greatly appreciated in settling a debate between my girlfriend and myself. The debate is regarding the appropriateness of storing spirits, such as tequila or rum, in a freezer. Does this have any negative impact on the flavor? Please help!" —May 24, 2011 10:09 AM
"Jack, I and likely others would like to see you head down to Cuba for your musings on rum and cigars. Bottoms up!" —May 7, 2011 02:03 AM
"Mr. Bettridge, I am an occasional smoker. I have recently started spending a little more money on cigars. I want to learn more about cigars as I would eventually like to be able to pick cigars other than the b rand names. I was hoping you could give me the name of a good book that would summarize everything i need to know about cigars. " —May 5, 2011 23:15 PM