Trace barrels for 11 months, and three añe-
jos—one aged in Sazerac Rye barrels, one in
George T. Stagg barrels and one in Pappy
Van Winkle barrels.
In late March, Herradura will unveil
the first of its Colección de la Casa limited
edition, which will annually represent a
change in one of the five sources of tequila
flavor—agave, water, fermentation, distil-
lation and maturation. The 2013 edition
is Colección de la Casa Port Cask, which
targets the concept of altering the matura-
tion process.
Some of the changes may have con-
fused tequila consumers, says Mac Gregory,
director of food and beverage of Starwood
Hotels and Resorts. “The introduction of
muy añejo [extra añejo] may have changed
things somewhat—the American palate was
used to the silver, reposado and añejo con-
cepts, but the muy añejo took them back
a bit. It was a great move for the tequila
business overall, but consumers still don’t
really understand it.” Of course, the luxury
consumer is always looking for and willing
to spend for a new experience; Gregory
instructs his properties to offer their rare
products, in smaller pours, even down to
one-eighth of an ounce, in order to make
the ultra-premium expressions more acces-
sible even to the well-heeled.
Brand
vs.
Category
vs.
Region
As Americans continue to get smart about
tequila, more brands are being made with
U.S. consumers in mind. But selling them
in ways similar to Scotch—where designat-
ed regions are considered of utmost impor-
tance—is harder with tequila, although nu-
merous tequila-focused restaurants do so,
like Tres in San Francisco, which identifies
the regional sources for all 125+ tequilas
they carry.
Retailers, however, are slow to differ-
entiate their wares the same way. Forrest
Cokely, liquor specialist for Hi-Time Wine
Cellars in Costa Mesa, CA, observes, “Re-
gionality isn’t really a thing I can promote.
The big houses like Herradura make sure
they get a cross-section of agaves from all
over, and most large producers must.”
In fact, even stores like Bayway keep
their tequilas organized by brands rather
than by sub-category, to make it easier for
tequila buyers to move within the category,
discover new brands, and trade up and
down in price and quality depending on
the occasion. All this made it easier for
Bayway to expand its tequila base because
shoppers still learning about the spirit
could discover at their own pace.
Tequila connoisseurs have long argued
whether tequilas made in the Los Altos
highlands differ significantly from those
from the Tequila Valley. Highland tequilas
are said to be more fruity and sweet, while
lowland brands are said to be more spicy,
herbal and earthy. These qualities are
mostly evident in silver and sometimes re-
posado tequilas, which offer more natural
agave flavors and aromas.
Bar owners frequently say that cus-
tomers are teaching themselves about the
geographic differences among tequilas,
favoring the recent influx of highlands-
identified spirits, particularly those with a
sweeter flavor profile. Insiders have noted
that while some highlands producers pro-
claim a huge difference between their aga-
ves and those from the valley, there isn’t
perfect agreement that a tequila will be eas-
ily identified by location.
The Margarita
Factor
Gaston Martinez, who travels the country
on behalf of Milagro Tequila developing
cocktail programs for restaurants, says
| se l ec t i ons
tequila
Barrel aging, seen here at Herradura, is
the key to a tequila’s designation. With its
shimmering fields of agave, the Valley of Tequila
was recognized in 2006 as a UNESCO World
Heritage site for its role in shaping Mexican
culture and identity.
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