Notes on Tequila from Spirits of Mexico

Spirits of MexicoI’m currently knee-deep in scoring sheets and palate-weary from the 2010 Spirits of Mexico competition, just wrapped up last week. I’m impressed by the number, range and quality of the (mostly) tequilas that entered the competition this year — more than 150 tequilas, mescals, sotols and other agave-based liquids, including two agave beers, which were quite welcome by the end of the two-day tasting. Many of the brands appeared to be California-only, not a bad business model when you’re an up-and-coming brand, but it does make the rest of the agave lovers in the country a little envious.

It’s too soon to announce the winners, but today’s lesson is that, judging by this assemblage of spirits, tequila companies are getting a whole lot better about managing their aged expressions in the face of growing world demand. For a few years, it was easy to notice how the blancos emerging were clearly being distilled with much more care and control than in the past. But the barrel management — the way a distiller makes sure the aged expressions are maintained and protected while resting in oak and how those barrels are assembled together to create a final release — seemed not to be getting the same careful attention. Judging by the 40-some reposados I tried last week, though, balance is being returned to the sub-category across the spectrum. I wasn’t on the añejo panel, but I’m guessing that, if not right now, we can expect that particular sub-category of agave spirits to get better and better. And that’s worth toasting!

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