This recent boom has led to the agave-based spirits category becoming one of the recent global success stories going from inexpensive and under-valued to premium and highly regarded (Euromonitor International 2017). Tequila sales in the UK have seen a steady increase since 2015, rising 15.1% in 2015, and again by 13.4% in 2016 meaning last year British consumers drank 2.43m litres of tequila (City A.M.)!
Industry insiders have linked this growth and predict that it will continue to grow due to a changing attitude in today’s mindful consumers. They are armed with a more discerning and educated palate and a motivation to discover more about the history and production of the spirits they drink.
Delving deeper into tequila’s popularity, it is clear there has been a shift to premium and super premium products. Consumers are now keen to gain a more profound understanding of the making of products and their history. Of the premium categories, aged tequila is making waves as an alternative to whisky or cognac, proving it can go beyond shots and cocktails.
Aged tequilas (Añejo) start with a base of a traditional white tequila. This is then aged in oak barrels for a length of time according to the style. The longer the tequila is aged, the more pronounced aromas and flavours mature into dried fruits, toasted oak, sweet spices and butterscotch. The ageing softens and rounds the spirit making it a delight to sniff, sip and savour.
Main categories of Tequila:
- Blanco – no oak ageing, just the pure agave flavour
- Añejo – one to three years in oak. The perfect sipping tequila.
Liberty Wines Top Pick: Casa Noble
Casa Noble was acquired in 1990 by Jose ‘Pepe’ Hermosillo, the seventh generation of his family to run a tequila distillery. This boutique distillery was established in 1776 and is located in the state of Jalisco, in the city of Tequila itself, the home of the blue agave.
Casa Noble only makes 100% agave tequila from blue agave grown organically (certified USDA) on 650 hectares of their own land in the hills of Jalisco. A succulent native to Central America, it thrives in this arid climate and high altitude sites.
Mature agave plants (over ten years old) are hand picked and their hard cores (piñas) are slowly steamed in a stone oven for 38 hours to convert the carbohydrate (inulin) into fermentable sugars. The soft piñas are then pressed in a gentle screw mill that presses the sweet juices out. Casa Noble uses a screw mill instead of a roller mill. The latter, while resulting in less wastage, extracts more astringent flavours. The juice is then put into stainless steel fermentation vats where ambient yeasts carry out the fermentation. After fermentation, Casa Noble distils their tequila three times, a process that ensures an extra smooth drink.
Casa Noble’s ‘Crystal’ is an unaged, blanco tequila displaying refined citrus, green apple, freshly cut grass and herbaceous notes. It also has a touch of honey and sweet butter due to the use of a screw mill, which extracts the sweeter, less-astringent flavours of the blue agave. Casa Noble named it ‘Crystal’ because it is a very special tequila that is in a class of its own.
The Añejo has been aged in French oak for two years, a year more than required, to develop layers of complexity. Through this prolonged maturation in oak, aromas such as vanilla, almond, sweet melon and honey develop and the spirit takes on a pale golden yellow colour. A backbone of herbaceous and vegetal notes comes from the blue agave plant from which the base spirit is made. This is a pleasure to savour served neat poured over ice.