Cinco de Mayo – Let’s Celebrate Tequila

tequila tasting hero

If you’re like me, you savor celebrating any holiday that lets you imbibe.  Cinco de Mayo is no different, though I can’t trace my ancestry back to Mexico like I can with St. Patrick’s Day and Ireland.  I’ve also had a shaky relationship with Mexican alcohol since college, though I’m sure many of you have had a similar experience with tequila.

With that said, I set out to overcome my fear and begin to appreciate the agave spirit the way it’s intended;  slowly and with a bit more coin.  I did a lot of searching, reading reviews before I decided on the types of tequila with which I would begin my adventure. I really wanted to step outside my comfort zone.  I ended up with three different types of tequila: blanco, reposado, and mezcal.

Now, I really don’t know a thing about tequila, outside of being made from the agave plant.  I don’t know the process in which it’s made, but I had to do a little research what makes a reposado a reposado, just like with a blanco (it’s not just because it’s white).  A quick Google search or a visit to Wikipedia can help wonders.  It also helps when your lush friends decide that it’s going to be a tequila night and you can give them suggestions on things they might find significantly more enjoyable than shooting Cuervo.

avion silver - cinco de mayoAvion Silver (Blanco)

Damn near every single list I read had Avion listed as one of their best tequilas.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think a single list didn’t have Avion Silver (or at least one of their products) listed pretty high on their list.  So I would have been a fool to not pick this up as part of our tasting.

If you’re looking for a tequila that smells like tequila, this is what you’ll want to pick up.  The scent is unmistakable and it brought back way too many bad memories of bar room bathrooms and dirty toilets.  But I was determined to make the best of this tasting and give it the old college try.  Once I got beyond the smell, the flavor was pretty damn amazing, though short lived.  It packs a punch in terms of flavor as soon as it hits your tongue, but it quickly fades and leaves you with more of a “meh” feeling.  It’s not bad, but it just really doesn’t have a ton of flavor.  This will most certainly be used, but will be exclusively used in margaritas (which the wife and I enjoyed this past weekend…amazeballs).

espolon reposado - cinco de mayoEspolòn (Reposado)

This was yet another favorite of many “best of” lists I perused and it’s certainly well deserved.  Not only is the label cool looking, Espolòn has won numerous awards for both their tequilas (they also make a blanco).

The smell also reminds me of college, but for some reason, this has a different aroma.  It’s sweet and smooth, with a hint of what I assume is caramel (I don’t do tasting notes, so this is really just a shot in the dark).  Either way, it was a unique surprise on my nose.

The taste is almost reminiscent of a mild bourbon, if you poured bourbon into a glass you recently had tequila in.  It’s hard to describe, but was a unique and fun experience.  There’s really no spice or burn, until the finish, with just the slightest hint of spice at the back of the tongue.  Overall, quite pleasant and would go really well with a fajita or similar heavily spiced meal.

Mayalen Wild Cupreata (Joven Mezcal)mayalen mezcal - cinco de mayo

I’ll be honest, this was a random pick off the shelf at the store.  I didn’t really know what I was doing and I figured I would wing it.  I had tried mezcal once before, in a mixed cocktail at some fancy bar in Chicago.  I wasn’t very impressed and the combination of sweet and smoky just didn’t seem to play very well to me.  Of all the tequilas, this one I was the most apprehensive about, not just because of the experience with the cocktail, but also because I’m not the biggest fan of smoky alcohol (sorry scotch lovers, it just doesn’t play right on my palate).

When I picked this up, I had no idea what a joven mezcal was (it means young, or unaged) and I hadn’t heard of this distiller, but I figured it couldn’t be terrible since it was on the top shelf (I’m a sucker for marketing and I know placement doesn’t mean much beyond marketing purposes).  This was the riskiest pick of the lot and I could see my wife looking at me sideways as we checked out, assuming these bottles would never be touched again after today.

Let me tell you, when I poured this, I thought I had made a huge mistake.  The smokiness was pretty apparent and I became instantly afraid.  As I sat and inhaled, trying my damnedest to pick out fragrance, I realized that this one might be too much for me, but I plowed ahead nonetheless.  The smoke actually wasn’t too terrible after giving it some time and it actually smelled a bit fruity.  My first sip (if you’d call it that) burned my lips and tongue (this sucker is 96 proof), but quickly subsided into an amazing flavor combination of light smoke and spices.  Don’t get me wrong, it kicks like a mule, but I was impressed with the flavors that came out.

Overall, everyone was quite impressed with the selection of tequila (I had 4 novices tasting along with me) and each had their favorites, though no one liked the mezcal, despite my hesitance that it was the best.  My scotch loving friend was actually most into the Espolon, where I really thought he would have loved the Mayalen.  He was joined by my mother-in-law, who preferred the smell and flavor of the reposado over everything else, with her least favorite being the mezcal.  Mrs. Drunkard and her friend were along for the ride and liked the Avion the best, though they were downing glass after glass of a tequila liqueur (Agavero) they had picked up, so I can’t trust their judgement.

Hands down, my favorite was the Mayalen mezcal, followed closely by the Espolon reposado.  The flavor of the mezcal just blew everything out of the water and left me more satisfied than the others.  My least favorite was the acclaimed Avion blanco.  While it was tasty and provided the flavor you’re looking for in a tequila, it finished too quickly, not leaving a taste on my tongue, and almost vanishing completely once you swallowed.  This would be great for a margarita, but is not my cup of tea for sipping.

So, this Cinco de Mayo, stay away from the Corona’s and Cuervo and try something new.  Sip that tequila and really start to enjoy the craft and work that goes into creating tequila, just like you do with whiskey or craft beer.  Slow down, savor, and enjoy.

Have a safe and happy Cinco de Mayo!

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