December 29, 2016

Tequila Herradura Port Cask Finished Reserva

There was a time when tequilas fell pretty much into several well-defined categories. But, about 15 or so years ago, helped along  by an influx of money from major distilling companies in the U.S. that had discovered a growing public taste for agave spirits, change set in at a number of Mexican distillers.

The basic categories stayed the same -- blanco (white) for the just-distilled tequilas, reposado (rested) if aged in white oak barrels at least two months and añejo (old) for at least 12 months. But, curious distillers encouraged by investors pushed for something more, something with a sleeker style and potentially more expensive.

It was back in 2007 that I wrote an article that was widely reprinted in the U.S. and Mexico called "When is a Tequila no longer a Tequila?" In it, I posed the question of whether we were seeing the gradual emergence of a spirit that no longer should be considered tequila.

You can go to that article for details of my in-person conversations with the heads of several prominent tequila houses. Suffice it to say the trend has become only stronger since then, with tequila makers introducing aged agave spirits that have been matured in anything from used bourbon barrels to cognac casks to wine barrels.

One of the latest, if not the latest, iterations is from Casa Herradura, one of four tequila brands owned by Brown-Forman Corp. of Louisville, KY. It creates and bottles estate tequilas in Amatitán, in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Its new release was created by Maria Teresa Lara, one of the few female master distillers in the tequila industry. It is a 2016 reposada she ages for 11 months in medium-char white oak barrels, far longer than required for the designation, and finishes for two additional months in port casks. It is the fifth in the series known as Tequila Herradura Colleccion De La Casa, and is a reintroduction of the Colección de la Casa, Reserva 2012.

A light copper color in the bottle intriguingly becomes a lighter amber in the tasting glass. The nose is clearly tequila, but initially on the palate the flavor isn't exactly tequila. In fact, it it slightly reminiscent of some whiskies, no doubt a trick performed by the alchemy of agave and port.

Further contemplation extracts notes of spice, star fruit, honey and dark cherry. On the finish it is definitely a fine agave expression with the familiar, pleasing floral notes of a good reposada dominating.

The spirit is in the process of  being rolled out nationwide at a suggested retail price of $89.99. It's worth every penny.

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