Herradura’s Tequila With A French Accent

The other shoe has fallen in Herradura Tequila’s Colección de la Casa with the introduction of a Cognac-finished spirit to match its Port-finish that debuted in April. Both releases are part of the innovative Tequila maker’s effort to raise the image of the agave-based liquor.

“Tequila is not the bad boy anymore,” says brand manager Valdemar Cantu about tequila’s reputation for being pounded down in shots as opposed to savored. “Herradura is the good boy,” he adds, referring to the company’s claims to have been the first to make reposado and extra anejo Tequila.

Both editions started life as reposado Tequilas (which are at least two months, but less than a year old). The Port edition was rested in former American whiskey barrels for 11 months and then had a finish in former Port casks for two months. The latest example also spent 11 months in American wood and then enjoyed three months in former Cognac casks. The Cognac casks were sourced from that appellation’s premier region, Grande Champagne.

The global brand ambassador Ruben Aceves explains that the Cognac version took longer to finish because the higher alcohol content of brandy meant that the wood of brandy casks retain less flavor content than ones used for Port, which is a fortified wine. The Cognac-finished Tequila also didn’t receive as intense a color contribution from the cask.

The process of finishing the liquid involved constant monitoring by the 30-member Herradura tasting panel until they felt the Tequila was right. They even let one cask go a month longer to see if it would improve the process. Apparently it didn’t.

The choice of Grand Champagne casks matched the herbaceous and spicy character of the lowlands Tequila, Aceves adds.

The company has great plans for further innovations, according to Cantu, with new editions planned yearly in time for the holiday season. He reveals that the Port was planned as a holiday release, but unforeseen difficulties slowed its debut.

Future releases will also be based on exploration of the maturation process, Cantu says, but not necessarily limited to reposado Tequilas. There is a limit, however. “We are not trying to play with flavored Tequila.”

“We’re very innovative, but we don’t go crazy.”

Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Reserva 2013 Cognac Cask Finish (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume; 14 months total maturation; $89.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Light brass color with tiny rivulet legs that gather and then sheet.

NOSE: Inviting candy aroma with subtle spices and a bit of citrus.

PALATE: The dominant taste is Tequila, with all the agave spiciness that implies. The influence comes as a sort of negotiator between the spice, a caramel note and some smoke, making the spirit elegant and nuanced.

FINISH: The brandy lets itself be known on the finish with a slight nuttiness and some fruit flavors, and ,again, its elegance.

Herradura Coleccion de la Casa Reserva 2012 Port Cask Finish (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume; 13 months total maturation; $89.99 a 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: Deeper and redder than the Cognac edition, but still a bright colored spirit. The legs are fatter and faster.

NOSE: Layers of fruit—wine notes, cherry and plum—appear on the aroma, which is woodier and not as spicy as the Cognac-finished Tequila

PALATE: The taste is also distinctly that of Tequila with agave spices, but with more wine influence. Bolder and less nuanced. Loads of fruit and some cocoa. As with the nose: cherry and plum. But also some blackberry is evident.

FINISH: Not the nuanced gentleman that the Cognac Tequila is, but the finish hangs on longer and is a bit chewy.

CIGAR PAIRING: Domaine Avo <40> (6 inches by 52 ring gauge, $12.50, 89 points, December 2013 Cigar Aficionado) A very pointy torpedo wrapped in a silky cover leaf. It’s bright and spicy with a constant woody undertone and earthy finish. Paired with the Cognac-finished Tequila, it picks up instantly on its spice, meeting the spirit note for note and giving the Tequila extra body. The Herradura returns the favor by underlining the wood and earth on the cigar. The Port-finished Tequila has more effect on the Avo, making it blossom with fruit that previously hid out on the cigar. The Tequila sparkles a bit more as it reacts to the flirtation of the cigar by becoming rounder and more hearty.