Tequila Ocho, Single Barrel (Binny’s Selection)

Maker: La Alteña distillery, Jalisco, Mexicowpid-2015-05-05-19.52.46.jpg.jpeg

Age category: 1 year, 19 days (Añejo)

Rancho: El Refugio

Harvest: 2012

Barrel: 2/3

ABV: 54.57% (cask strength)

Price: $60 (Exclusive to Binny’s Beverage

Note: I received an informal tequila tasting from a Binny’s staff member before purchasing this bottle.

Appearance: Pale gold.

Nose: White asparagus with hollandaise sauce, alcohol, lime peel, cane sugar, whiff of smoke.

Palate: Full bodied and rich. Agave syrup, tangerine, orange slice candy, burn.

Finish: Lime pulp, white pepper, burn.

Parting words: La Alteña is best known as the home of El Tesoro tequila, although it makes a few other brands including our friend Tequila Ocho here. Tequila Ocho was developed by Carlos Camarena of the Camarena tequila dynasty in partnership with Tomas Estes as a single-estate (rancho) tequila made using traditional methods.

Binny’s has a tradition of excellent whiskey selections that has now extended into tequila, a spirit that their whiskey staff is also passionate about. As a tequila novice, I found this to be accessible with lots of typical character, but not boring. In spite of being cask strength, it’s subtle and sophisticated with seamlessly integrated vegetal, citrus and sweet notes and aromas. The price is almost impossible to beat, too. Binny’s Single Barrel Tequila Ocho is highly recommended.

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Maestro Dobel: Kakos Market blend (9/11/2013)

Maker: Proximo, Jalisco, Mexico.wpid-20140912_182014.jpg

Notes from label: Single barrel. Aged in French Oak, La Mesa Ranch, barrel No. 3719, bottle No. 174.

ABV: 40%

Michigan State Minimum: $50

Appearance: Clear with abundant, evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Agave syrup, peppermint, lavender, jicama, touch of oak, cracked white pepper.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet. Alcohol, white grape juice, orange rind.

Finish: Black pepper, red dradish, oak, lime peel.

Mixed: I tried it in several traditional tequila cocktails, despite the high price. My preferred method for drinking tequila is with a squeeze of lime, but that didn’t really complement the flavors in this one. It did very well in a traditional margarita and in a tequila sunrise. Did OK in cola with a squeeze of lime but got a little lost.

Parting words: Maestro Dobel Tequila is a single estate tequila from the Cuervo people. It’s technically a reposado, but is actually a blend of reposado, añejo, and extra-añejo tequilas. For some reason it’s been filtered so as to strip away all color from the spirit. Maybe it had an unappealing color or clear was deemed to be more marketable.

At any rate Maestro Dobel is a sweet, easy drinking sipper that works ok in top shelf cocktails too. At this price I would like a little more character and proof, but as it stands I think it’s worth a purchase. Maestro Dobel is recommended.

El Jimador Reposado

Maker: Herradura, Amatitán, Jalisco, Mexico (Brown-Forman)Jimador Rep

Age: Reposado (2-11 mos.)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $20

Appearance: Pale gold with long thin legs.

Nose: Citrus rind, white pepper, touch of oak and vanilla.

Palate: Full bodied and medium sweet. Alcohol, corn syrup, lime peel, a wiff of smoke.

Finish: Lots more rind and a little pepper. Lasts for a good while.

Mixed: Does very well in everything I tried it in. Makes a good margarita, does well in cola and in a tequila sunrise and a Bloody Maria. My favorite way to drink it was on the rocks with a squeeze of lime and maybe even some orange bitters.

Parting words: This isn’t my first tequila review but it’s my first in years. I was drawn to the El Jimador line (also containing a white and an añejo expression) because it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to find. There’s nothing mind blowing or transcendent about El Jimador Reposado. It has a nice balance of typical tequila characteristics. Citrus, pepper, smoke and barrel notes are all in evidence, although the emphasis is on the sweetness, citrus and pepper here.

According to online sources, Herradura uses a device called a diffuser in the manufacture of its brands, even with the eponymous higher-end line. The diffusion process takes the place of the more traditional roasting and cooking of the agave hearts. Both are intended to bring out the natural sugars in the plant, but the diffuser does so in a more efficient manner. The trade off, many connoisseurs say, is that the resulting spirit is less flavorful. I don’t have enough information and experience to form an informed opinion on the topic myself.

Diffuser or no, El Jimador Reposado is simple, tasty and versatile. At $20 it’s inexpensive too, especially compared to its older siblings in the Herraduraline which I’ve been told is virtually indistinguishable from El Jimador. Recommended.