Agave is not Corn – Gracias a Dios

I may someday regret writing this blog.  Maybe I’ll be wiser, have more refined taste, be a more insightful tequilaphile, and edit or delete this blog.  Someone will set me straight.  Bring it on. Until then, here is my stake in the ground.  Knock it down if you will: I really and truly hate it when perfectly good tequila gets ruined by aging it so much that it ends up tasting like bourbon.  There, I said it.

If you’re a fan and follower of Tequila Matchmaker like I am, and you check how “The Panel” (the experts) rate various tequilas, you may know that there are certain kinds of tequilas or flavor profiles for which you are going to be pretty close to their ratings and then there are others cases where you are going to be miles and miles away. For me, there are two situations where I disagree significantly with The Panel.  I’ll save one for a different blog—why fire all my guns at once? Today’s grumpiness is about extra-añejos that lose the beautiful taste of the agave and end up tasting like the barrel (which is the classic bourbon taste).

Mind you, I LOVE bourbon. I was a bourbon drinker before I found and devoted myself to tequila.  I still have a respectable bourbon collection.  I just don’t have nasty bourbon hangovers anymore—gracias a dios.

But why oh why would anyone want to spend eight to twelve years nurturing the divine agave plant in the bosom of the soil of Jalisco, harvest and roast and mash and ferment and distil its celestial nectar, get a genuine blanco tequila from all that work, age it to a respectable reposado and on to an honorable añejo, then further still to the lengths of aging and effort of crafting an extra-añejo which, after all that effort, should be the pinnacle of the art—all this work to accomplish—EXACTLY WHAT YOU COULD DO WITH A BUCKETFUL OF CORN??? AS IN CORN.  Brother, don’t do this to agave.

Now there are some wonderful extra-añejos that do not sell their soul to the barrel.  Somehow they retain the delicate virtue of the agave even after all that aging in oak.  This must be very hard to do.  So every time I taste an extra-añejo, expecting to be disappointed by a bourbon taste, and I taste agave instead, I’m thrilled.  Here is my honor roll of extra-añejos that didn’t piss me off. (These were the only three extra añejos in my top 50 out of 329 rated, as of the date I wrote this blog.)

Calera Tequila Extra Añejo NOM 1431 – My score 87

Nicho Real Extra Añejo 5 Years NOM 1459 – My score 85

Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo NOM 1122 – My score 84

So the next time you’re snacking on elote con crema, or slurping some delicious posole, or perhaps enjoying a tamale or a taco or any of the other bazillion delicious things you can do with CORN, reflect, my fellow tequilaphile, on the one high callingof blue agave, whose scientific name is aptly Agave tequilana, and ask yourself, why would anyone evermake tequila taste like corn booze, instead of tequila?

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