What was once purely the stuff of traumatic hangovers has grown into it’s own popular sphere complete with diversity, experimentation and, of course, quality. Naturally, I’m speaking of tequila – key ingredient to the perennially popular Margarita and Mexico’s claim to alcohol fame. Indeed, it seemed like just yesterday that most folks limited their tequila vocabulary to more or less two major brands: Jose Cuervo Gold and Patron aka what you drank too much of in college and what you drank too much of after college. However, with the recent whisky explosion there came a peripheral appreciation for spirits like mezcal and tequila. Accordingly, tequila bars are popping up down the street from all the whisky bars that popped up about a decade ago. To which we say, “the more the merrier”.
Upon entering those tequila bars, your eyes will naturally drift over the broad selection, and notice a slew of creative and occasionally outright gimmicky bottle designs. Meanwhile, a few mainstays manage to visually stand out no matter how much company they keep. Among them is our Spirit of the Month for September 2017, Corralejo Reposado, which comes in an iconic big blue bottle. But this ain’t no gimmick – the brand has been doing their thing for decades and the liquid inside is easily as noteworthy as the striking exterior. Put simply, this is as good as reposado gets for the price point. Read on for some background and tasting notes.
Corralejo is a brand a few decades in the making, but entailed in their operation is literally a few centuries worth of history. In fact, the distillery they call home, Hacienda Corralejo, was the first estate in Mexico to produce tequila on a commercial scale, all the way back in 1755. In addition to occupying such historical digs, Corralejo also employs the same distillation methods utilised by their tequila-loving ancestors.
Further separating Corralejo from the pack is the location of their distillery. Whereas the lion’s share of tequila manufacturers unsurprisingly operate out of Tequila, Jalisco, Corralejo makes their product in the municipality of Pénjamo, Guanajuato. Then there’s the process itself, which first involves hand-picking 100% Blue Weber agave plants from the fields of Guanajuato. Those agaves are slow cooked in stone clay ovens for 27 hours and given 12 hours of rest before being sent to the mill. From there the tequila is double distilled, first in a column still and then in a unique Alembic copper pot imported from Spain.
Corralejo’s distillation method not only goes back centuries, but is in fact the same method mastered by the French when they distil cognac. Consequently, Corralejo’s tequila is a little denser, richer in flavour and more aromatic than your standard fare. Every award winning sip is thereby a balancing act between reliable tequila flavour and boldly distinct character.
After undergoing the aforementioned production process, Corralejo Reposado is aged 4 months in 3 types of oak barrels: French, American and Encino. The resulting taste is layered and powerful. This isn’t a tequila that inconspicuously slides down your throat. Rather, it opens on sugary notes and then blasts you with pepper to create a complex and ultimately rewarding sip from start to finish. Here’s a breakdown.
Nose – The first few whiffs offer a prominent blend of agave, cinnamon and pepper with underlying notes of chocolate, fruit and herbs. Based on smell alone, general associations with other tequilas are inevitable (and justified), but after a while the aroma begins to really stand on its own.
Taste – While the nose prepares you for a blast of pepper, the taste is immediately smooth, mellow and sweet. Notes of roasted agave and honey dominate and stay their course while elements of spice and a touch of smoke emerge from the background.
Finish – The finish goes so big on pepper that there’s virtually no mistaking it for anything else. As the alcohol swims downstream, agave, pepper and a little smoke hang on the palate to remarkable effect.
With its bold nose and equally bold finish, one might be inclined to describe Corralejo Reposado as “hot”. However, that would be a mistake because heat implies a certain harshness and this tequila isn’t harsh by any means. Rather, it represents the ideal balance of agave and pepper and thereby makes for an exceptional sipper. Pair that with an unbeatable price point and a bottle you can leave out as kitschy art and you’ve got no reason not to bring this blue baby home.