Tequila Learns A Lesson From Whiskey

TequilaTequila has been growing consistently in the US over the past 15 years or so, with the presence required behind the bar of numerous brands and expressions essential to most sorts of bars and restaurants.

But even after all this growth, there hasn’t really been the sort of experimentation that’s been seen among whiskies, for instance. It’s mostly still blanco, reposado and anejo, with the occasional distiller sending along extra anejo to the US, and a few trying new things, like 100 proof line extensions.

But the steady growth of interest in agave spirits has emboldened some distillers. Corazon released some limited expressions finished in various whiskey barrels, but beyond the generally inferior flavored versions, they are one of the main exceptions to the idea that tequila makers aren’t very experimental.

Now, Herradura is back with the announcement of the second of a series of small-batch tequilas, Coleccion de la Casa Reserva. Last was the 2012 release, a Port Cask Finish. Soon to come is Coleccion de la Casa, Reserva 2013 – Cognac Cask Finish Reposado.

The Coleccion de la Casa series is a good example of how to experiment with aged spirits, as Tequila Herradura’s master distiller Maria Teresa Lara intends to focus on each of the sources of flavor – agave, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation – in the search for an annual unique expression.

At Herradura, as I found last week, the ideas are currently flowing freely. While nothing is definite, it’s possible that the company’s plans to release a 110 proof blanco into the US will follow the new expression’s entry into the Mexican market. While other high proof expressions are available here, including the recently released Tapatio 110, few are so dramatically different from the standard 80 proof expression as the Herradura proved to be in a tasting, and the addition of one more big supplier into the higher proof tequila business could be just the sort of move that will open up new horizons for tequila drinkers and on-premise accounts looking for something really new with which to woo customers.

One thing the trip to Jalisco cleared up was the essential differences between Casa Herradura’s two main brands – Herradura and El Jimador. In essence, there are two main differences – both are distilled twice, but for Herradura the second distillation takes five hours rather than the four used for El Jimador. And then there are the times the two brands are aged or rested – Herradura reposado gets 11 months in oak while El Jimador gets only two, for example. But that doesn’t mean one is better, only that they are at opposite poles of the tequila sub-category styles. In fact, Herradura’s master distiller likens El Jimador anejo to the classic and pricey Herradura Selecion Suprema extra anejo, especially for those times when pouring the $300+ per bottle expression won’t do.

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