Spirit of the Month December ’17 – Fortaleza Reposado Tequila

In spite of there being no less than a gazillion different tequila brands, distinguishing one from the next isn’t always such an easy task. It could even be argued that many tequilas taste more or less the same, and that when qualitative differences do apply, it’s usually via texture instead of flavour. Then there are the exceptions, i.e. the handful of statements absolutely bursting with character and distinction. Fortaleza Reposado is one of those exceptions. Not only is the spirit as smooth as can be, but found within each sip is a veritable bounty of unmistakable flavours. It’s our Spirit of the Month for December ’17, and we can’t get enough of it. Read on for some background and tasting notes.

You’ll also like:
Spirit of the Month November ’17 – Woodford Reserve Cherry Wood Smoked Barley
Spirit of the Month October ’17 – Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon
Spirit of the Month September ’17 – Corralejo Tequila Reposado

inventor of fortaleza reposado


Fortaleza Reposado might come in a bottle that looks like it’s been around for ages, but technically speaking the brand launched just over a decade ago in 2005. That said, their recipes and techniques are over 140 years in the making. It all started with a man named Don Cenobio Sauza, who founded his first distillery in the town of Tequila, Jalisco in 1873. And yes, Don Cenobio’s distillery would one day become Sauza Tequila, but that’s a story for another time.

history of fortaleza reposado tequila

Don Cenobio was a legend whose presence still looms large over the industry, and whose list of accomplishments was truly substantial. He was among the first men to recognise the power of Blue Agave, and likewise one of the first to cook agave using steam instead of an earthen pit. That alone made Don Cenobio an early master of crafting proper tequila, which at the time was a relatively obscure variety of mezcal (to read about some of the differences between mezcal and tequila, click here). As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Cenobio was also the first man to export “mezcal de tequila” to the United States, shortening the name to just “tequila” in the process. An industrious man, indeed.

making fortaleza reposado tequila method

Don Cenobio passed away in 1909, and left the family business in the hands of his son, Eladio. Proving that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, Don Eladio distributed his product all over the world, and even helped cement tequila’s status as the national drink of Mexico. After Don Eladio passed away in 1946, his son Francisco Javier took over without missing a beat. It was Don Javier who helped establish the Denomination of Origin for Tequila, after taking a trip to Japan and discovering a bottle of “Japanese Tequila”. That went down in the late 1960s, though it wasn’t until 1996 that the Denomination of Origin for Tequila became official.

Also in the 1960s, Don Javier built a hacienda on the highest point in Jalisco, which conveniently overlooked a rival distillery. Here on this same plot of land he set up a modest distillery called La Forteleza. It consisted of a small brick oven to cook the agave, a tahona pit to squeeze the juices, some wood vats for fermentation, and two small copper pot stills for distillation. Quality was high, but production was sparse, and Don Javier ended up selling the family business in 1976. The plot of land, however, remained in his possession.

fortaleza reposado tequila available bar

Jump ahead to 1999. Don Javier’s grandson, Don Guillermo Sauza, was now eager to get into the tequila game, but just as eager to preserve the methods his forefathers perfected. To accomplish both goals, Don Guillermo spent years rebuilding the distillery. By 2005, Tequila Fortaleza was back in action, with a small brick oven, a tahona pit, some wood tanks and two small copper pots at its disposal. And if you’re asking yourself why Guillermo would go to such painstaking lengths to preserve his great-great-grandfather’s methods, then you haven’t tried Fortaleza Tequila.


fortaleza reposado tequila front view


To make their spectacular product, Fortaleza harvests estate-grown 100% Blue Agave Tequilana Weber by hand, before roasting them in brick ovens. After three days, the agave is taken out and crushed using a horse-driven tahona, just like in the old days. The juicy pulp is washed off with clean water, and the resulting mash distilled in copper alembic stills. For the reposado, Fortaleza ages the tequila in American oak barrels for seven months.

fortaleza reposado tequila industry

While the process certainly sounds labour-intensive, all that hard work definitely pays off. Indeed, Fortaleza Reposado is tasty and distinct on that rare level that so few tequilas achieve. For starters, it’s resoundingly smooth, the kind of spirit you can keep in your mouth for a full minute without feeling any burn. It’s also zesty and refreshing, like delicious spiked lemonade absent of processed sugar. Here’s a breakdown:

Nose: At first wave comes a light, pleasant blend of citrus and agave. Again, think all natural, spiked lemonade and you’re getting there. Also present are notes of pear, vanilla, pineapple, a touch of orange and a slightly floral edge.

Taste: Medium-bodied in texture, and light in immediate flavour, the tequila is first and foremost impeccably smooth. However, to swish it around in the mouth is to reveal copious, balanced layers of agave, citrus, black pepper, cream and fruit.

Finish: Riding out on a mellow tide of black pepper and sugar, the spirit retains its smooth essence and leaves virtually no heat behind.

fortaleza reposado tequila upper view

Tequila has exploded in popularity in recent years, and statements like Fortaleza Reposado make it easy to see why. The next time you’re looking for something to sip on, order this one neat and take your time. And while you’re feel free to pop in an ice cube or a squeeze of lime, don’t you dare bring margarita mix anywhere near this silky, delicious spirit.

Check it out

fortaleza reposado tequila manufacture trace

You’ll also like:
Spirit of the Month November ’17 – Woodford Reserve Cherry Wood Smoked Barley
Spirit of the Month October ’17 – Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon
Spirit of the Month September ’17 – Corralejo Tequila Reposado