More Tequila! More Agave!
There's no need for us to refer back to the dark days of college drinking here: as you guys all know, well crafted tequila is one of the world's great spirits. The funky, herbal agave flavor and citrusy snap makes the best tequilas irresistible. But there is one thing lacking in almost all the options: high alcohol content.
Perhaps this stems from a reaction to the fear many people have of the spirit; it might be an effort to moderate tequila's fiery reputation. But when you think about amazing cask strength bourbons or Scotches, or even navy strength gins, you realize what we could be missing out on. On a recent trip to the Herradura distillery, I got the chance to try high proof unaged tequila straight from the still, and it was pretty much the nectar of the gods. Despite my begging and pleading, though, Herradura is only releasing their high proof tequila in Mexican markets for the time being.
Luckily, there are currently a few standouts available north of the border. If you haven't tried high-proof tequilas yet, seek these out.
Tapatio Blanco 110 Tequila
This top flight tequila, which is imported by the legendary Charbay Distillers, is distilled at Alteña Distillery, which the Camarena family has operated since 1937. Crafted from estate-grown blue agaves from the Arandas highlands, this 110 proof tequila is simply a masterpiece.
Cooked agave charges out of the glass, with all of its rich, caramel-y sweetness tempered by fresh, sharp citrus, black pepper, and green vegetal scents. The higher alcohol content gives the tequila strength and amplifies the flavor experience, but it's not overpowering at all, and is most noticeable in the lingering finish of roasted agave and fire.
Easy enough to sip straight, it lights up a margarita and transforms it from a perfectly balanced cocktail into a explosion of huge flavors.
Available in most major markets and online for around $50 a liter.
Casa Noble Tequila Joven
The Joven from Casa Noble is a slightly more refined high-proof option. Triple distilled and aged in new French oak for 8 weeks before getting bottled at 102 proof, it's a powerful tequila with a touch of wood that evens everything out just a bit. Rich, mellow agave flavors blend with hints of cinnamon and vanilla, then transition to earthy, herbal, chocolate notes. The alcohol heat here is warming and luxurious. There's less purity of focus on agave flavors than with the Tapatio, but the slight mellowing and spice give this spirit more complexity.
This is a sipping tequila that blends the high octane agave with the flavors you might expect from brown spirits. It's decadent stuff.
Available in most major markets and online for about $55 per 750ml bottle.
About the author: Andrew Strenio is a lover of all things potable. Since sneaking his grandmother's bourbon balls, he's moved on to touring distilleries and sipping snifters. He works by day making documentary television and films as an independent producer in Brooklyn.
Tasting samples provided for review consideration.