Back when I was in Mexico I was drinking a lot of tequila. I was on vacation, escaping the reality of the fire, and just trying to enjoy not having responsibilities for seven days. This, along with all drinks being included as part of the vacation, led to me being able to drink a lot of the stuff. Whether it was morning, noon, or after I'd taken some Benadryl and someone still insisted I go drink with him anyways I was putting away tequila like no one's business.
Which is fine. I love tequila. This is a rare notion because so many people develop aversion for it due to hazy twenty-first birthday memories punctuated by the acrid odor of lime and bile.
Yet tequila isn't a flat, one-dimensional liquor. The subtleties in flavor and variety in composition are as varied as any wine or sake. From the species of agave used, to the aging, distilling, and terroir each tequila is distinct. Oak aging imparts flavors of butter like what you find in a smooth Chardonnay. The bolder, harsh flavors of tequila blanco may be preferable for cocktailing, whereas a maple-colored añejo's subtle flavors require your full attention.
Tequila is as complex as any other type of alcohol and therefore should be tasted, compared, and enjoyed just the same. During the tour of the markets in Zihuatenejo I was effervescent at the thought of tequila tasting. I floated down the worn cobblestone streets searching until I found a high end tequila shop.
Tall oak shelves stretched to the ceiling from the terra cotta tiles, and bottles of all designs lined the shelves like a Wonderland dispensary. A sweet smell permeated the air that was redolent of wet stone and pears, so thick it melted on your tongue.
As I and a few fellow bloggers perused the different tequilas a gentleman in fine hemp shirt, slacks, and dapper leather sandals approached us. Soon he swept us away to a small bar counter and proceeded to guide us through a tasting of some of the finest tequilas they had.
One blanco was light with the taste of hay and apples. Next, a heavy bodied añejo whose molasses color matched its wildflower honey taste. Each and every sip was defined and distinct leaving it impossible to simply regard it as as JUST tequila.
However, it was when he poured the Clase Azul that I fell in love. An multi-award winning tequila, this particular reposado possessed little of the smoky flavors that comes from roasting the agave hearts that one expects in all forms of tequila. Rather its strength lied in softer flavors and their almost brutal pronouncement - soft butter flavors washed over and soon were swept away by berries. It finished sweet with the taste of cream. Light and refreshing.
Of course, I would be lying if I didn't say I was enchanted by the decanter. The curvy ceramic shape and design was created by a local artist in Zihuatanejo, and each bottle is hand painted. While you may have put up empty Captain Morgan bottles up in your dorm room as "decor" this decanter has actual artistic and practical value once the reposado was long gone; a characteristic vase or water decanter to sit in a guest bedroom for example.
I was sold and purchased a bottle then and there. I was proud of my purchase. Other food bloggers soon followed suit, between four of us we were unanimous in our decision. This was a tequila to be proud of and cherished in one's liquor cabinet, saved only for the most honored of guests and as panacea to the worst of days.
Now, I still have a bottle or two of more common tequila in my home, one for mixing, another for more common sipping, but this still sits as the prize possession in my cabinets. For anyone who is still afraid of tequila this is the one that will sway your prejudice and make you take pride in your tequila.
Have a favorite tequila or tequila story? I'd love to hear about it in the comments.