Ever indulge in a little too much tequila? Raise your hand. (I won’t tell.)
You know the time I’m talking about. Those margaritas on the roofdeck of your favorite cantina. Or those shots after midnight at that hole in the wall just past the city limits. Oh, or that frat party near the end of your senior year.
Regardless of the details, seems like everyone has at least one Epic Tequila Story. (Except me, of course. I swear.)
And, of course, that’s not remotely the kind of tequila experience I’m talking about today.
In the last ten years or so, tequila has come a long way, graduating from sloppy sorority girl to polished socialite. Forget those neon green margaritas. I’m talking about tequila that you’d sip, well, like scotch.
Much like the explosion of microbrews and artisan whiskies, smaller tequila makers have been sprouting up left and right, giving good ole Jose Cuervo a run for his agave.
His blue agave, to be exact. That’s this stuff (wouldn’t want to run into one of these spiny beasts in a dark alley, eh?):
Blue agave (Agave tequiliana Weber) is actually a member of the lily family, even though it looks like it’d be more at home on the cactus family tree. It’s grown in certain parts of Mexico, and the plants—which can grow up to 15 feet tall—take 8 – 12 years to mature before they’re ripe for harvesting for tequila.
Partida Tequila, the brand we sampled for this article, is actually one of the few tequilas that qualifies as “estate grown.” This means that they own all the land that their agave is grown on, so they’re able to keep a close eye on quality and consistency.
Sounds about right to me. Their tequila was great.
Premium tequila vs. mixto
Tequila is closely regulated by the Tequila Regulatory Council (no joke) and tagged with appelation-of-origin status, just like wine and cognac.
To be considered a premium tequila, the spirit must be made with 100% blue agave, with no artificial flavors or colors added. Anything else is just mixto. Literally.
Tequila that has additives, but is at least 51% agave, is considered “mixto,” or mixed. Mixto tequilas showed up in the 1930s, as a way to stretch agave during a shortage.
Different types of tequila
When you’re at the liquor store, keep your eyes out for the five basic types of tequilas. Here’s a quick guide:
Gold—Any tequila labeled “gold” is usually mixto (not premium), which means it’s had caramel color and/or flavors added to it. This is the kind of tequila that usually shows up in mixed drinks.
Silver / White—Premium tequila that hasn’t been aged, so it’s clear in color and pure in flavor, so you can taste the agave.
Reposada—“Reposada” means rested, and that’s just what this tequila has done: It’s aged in barrels (whiskey, cognac, wine, etc.) for two to twelve months. It gets flavor and a light golden color from the barrels.
Anejo—This is tequila that’s been barrel aged for one to three years. The barrels give it deep, woody notes and a deeper, almost amber color.
Extra Anejo—A relatively new tequila classification, this tequila has been aged for three years or more. It’s deeply flavored, and dark amber in color.
Tequila in the mail = A happy day at The Mouse House
So, like I said, the good folks at Partida Tequila were kind enough to send me a few small, complimentary bottles of their brew to sample. (Thank you, Partida!).
We consulted the pros
Not being a very educated tequila consumer, I pocketed the bottles and The Angry Chef and I headed over to the headquarters of the cocktail experts at SeeMyDrink.com. The senior staff over there has years of experience tending bar, so we were eager to get their opinion on the Partida.
Sidebar: More on these guys soon. SeeMyDrink.com is an awesome company and one of our newest partners here at The Hungry Mouse. Think cocktails meet Facebook and Flickr. They’re just getting ready to launch their beta, and we couldn’t be more excited. Stay tuned.
Alrighty, to the bar!
Here are our tasting notes, along with a little info on each from Partida. (I’m a sucker for a good bottle. I saved all three of them to use in future kitchen projects.)
What we said
Clean taste. Easy on the palate. Nice aftertaste. Doesn’t taste cheap. A little floral.
What Partida says
Distinctive notes of blue agave, citrus, tropical fruit. Suggested retail is $50.
We liked it, and all agreed that, of the three tequilas, this would be the one we would shake up in a cocktail.
What we said
Stronger than the Blanco, bordering on harsh. Hints of pepper and peppermint. Fiery on the front of your palate and the tip of your tongue. Smokey and woodsy.
What they said
The smoke and wood we picked up were likely from the one-pass Jack Daniels barrels that Partida uses to age their Anejo. Suggested retail is $67.
Definitely a sipping drink for folks who like strong tequila with complex flavors.
What we said
Sweeter than the Blanco and smoother than the Anejo. Really nice, slow heat. Smells a little malty. Hints of vanilla and hazelnut. Long aftertaste. No smoke.
What they said
Their richest and smoothest tequila. A rich finish topped off with scents of vanilla, hazelnut and almond. Suggested retail is $58.
Our favorite. Really great flavor—and really easy to drink. Best of both worlds. Who can complain?
The bottom line?
If you like tequila, definitely try Partida. It’s good stuff, and well worth the cost.
Oh, and if you want to go all out, they also sell bottles of their top-of-the-line Elegante for $350.