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How to Taste Tequila Like a Catador…

…Or, at least, how to act like one

Color, legs and tears, taste tequila

Color, legs and tears.

There are two official schools in Mexico that train people to be certified catadores (tequila tasters).  One is actually a faction of the original school established in 2000 and known as the Academia Mexicana del Tequila (Mexican Tequila Academy).

After a bitter falling out between the founders, another school was initiated in 2006 known as the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Vino y Mezcal.

Below are the official guidelines of tequila tasting as set forth by the Mexican Tequila Academy and translated from their website here.

1.)  Durante todo el proceso de cata, no debe haber communicación entre los catadores.

(During the entire tasting, there should be no communication among the tasters

Covered tequila samples, taste tequila

Covered tequila samples.

[judges]).

2)  Recuerde que un gesto o cualquier otra actitud de aprobación o desaprobación, puede influir en la opinión de los otros participantes. Su opinión, sea cual fuere, debe ser reflejada en la cédula de cata, y si tuviera opiniones o comentarios extra-calificación, es importante que utilice el reverso de la cédula correspondiente a la muestra que está evaluando.

(Keep in mind that any gesture of approval or disapproval can influence the opinion of the other judges.  Whatever your opinion, it should be reflected on the scoring sheet and if you have opinions or extra comments (ratings), it’s important to use the reverse side of the scoring sheet of the sample you are evaluating.)

3.)  Antes y durante el transcurrir de la cata no es conveniente fumar, ya que el tabaco disminuye la capacidad de percepción sensorial y sus apreciaciones podrían estar afectadas y el humo afectará a los otros catadores.

(Before and during the course of the tasting, it is not convenient to smoke since tobacco diminishes one’s sensorial capacities and perceptions.  Your assessments may be affected and the smoke will affect the other tasters [judges].)

4.)  Se recomienda que el día del catado se evite el uso de lociones o perfumes.

Agave, up close, taste tequila

Agave, up close.

(It is recommended that on the day of the tasting that you avoid the use of lotions or perfumes.)

5.)  De preferencia el día de la cata se debe tomar un desayuno ligero, entre las 8:00 y las 9:00 hrs. si la cata se inicia a las 11:00.

(It is preferred that on the day of the tasting that you have a light breakfast at 8 or 9 AM if the tasting is to start at 11AM.)

6.)  Antes de iniciar el catado, ponga en su boca un pequeño sorbo de un destilado neutro (se recomienda vodka simple) páselo por toda la boca y finalmente elimínelo, este ejercicio hará que su boca quede limpia de sabores extraños o anteriores y la preparará para una mejor percepción.

(Before the inception of the tasting, place a small sip of a neutral [grain] spirit (plain vodka is recommended), swish it around in your mouth and spit it out.  This practice cleanses your mouth of strange or previous flavors and prepares

Vodka, soda crackers, water and scoring sheets.

Vodka, soda crackers, water and scoring sheets.

you for a better perception [evaluation]).

7.)  Antes de calificar el sabor de la primera muestra, se recomienda poner en la boca un primer sorbo y moverlo por toda ella, eliminarlo y con un segundo sorbo emitir su calificación sobre el sabor.

(Before scoring the first sample on its flavor, it is recommended to take the first sip and swish it inside your entire mouth and spit it out.  With the second sip, express (record) your score on the flavor.)

8.)  Tómese el tiempo necesario para evaluar cada muestra, no lo haga apresuradamente, y sobre todo concéntrese en la muestra en turno. ¡CONCENTRACIÓN ES EL NOMBRE DEL JUEGO!

(Take the time necessary to evaluate each sample.  Don’t be in a hurry, and above all, concentrate on the current sample.  CONCENTRATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME!)

9.)  Recuerde que es su percepción y opinión, sobre la muestra en turno, la que vale y no el qué o cómo pudiere parecerle a otra persona.

(Remember that it’s your perception and opinion over the current sample that counts and not how someone else might perceive it.)

10.)  No intente hacer comparaciones; no tiene que conectar la muestra en turno con alguna marca en particular; realice su evaluación como si cada una de las muestras fuera única. Cada una de las muestras tendrá sus propias características, positivas o negativas, sus cualidades, atributos y esos son los que deben contar para usted, de acuerdo con los parámetros de la categoría y clase de la muestra, ya que esto es finalmente lo que se busca.

(Do not attempt to make comparisons.  Do not connect the current sample to a particular brand.  Carry out your evaluations as if each sample were unique.  Each one of the samples will have its own characteristics, positive or negative, its own qualities and attributes, and those are what you should depend (rely) upon in accordance with the parameters of the category and type of the

Scoring tequila samples.

Scoring tequila samples.

sample as that is ultimately what is looked for.)

11.)  Es importante que al pasar de una a otra muestra, elimine el sabor de la anterior con un poco de galleta sin sal y agua.

(It is important that after each sample, you cleanse its flavor [from your palate] with a bit of plain soda cracker and water.)

12.)  Elimine el sorbo de cada muestra evaluada, al final de la cata podrá beber de las muestras que prefiera.

(Eliminate the sip of each sample evaluated.  At the end of the cata (tasting) you’ll be able to drink from the samples you preferred.)

13.)  Es de vital importancia que para evaluar cada categoría y clase de tequila, tome en consideración el parámetro o perfil correspondiente, esas deben ser sus referencias al calificar la categoría y clase.  Al reverso de la ficha, encontrará perfiles generales para la categoría 100% de agave y cada clase.  Al reverso de la cédula encontrará estos perfiles generals.

(It is vitally important that to evaluate each category and type of tequila that you take into consideration the corresponding parameter or profile.  Those should be your references to score the category and type.  On the reverse side of the scoring card you’ll find general descriptions for the category of 100% de agave [tequila] and each type.  On the reverse side of your identification card, you will [also] find these general descriptions.)

14.)  Es indispensable que antes de iniciar el catado, anote en todas sus cédulas su nombre. Y una vez que emita sus calificaciones para cada muestra, realice la suma de puntos total, anotando este resultado en el lugar destinado para ello y que registre esta calificación en su hoja personal de control.

(It is indispensable that before the tasting, you write your names on all of the scoring sheets.  Once you’ve graded each sample, total up the points and write the sum in the space provided and register this evaluation on your personal control sheet.)

15.)  Circule la calificación para cada concepto de evaluación (visual, olfativo, sabor), no palomee, no cruce ni tache los números de la calificación.

(Circle the grade for each component of evaluation (visual, olfaction, flavor).  Do not deliberately “fudge,” cross out or eliminate numbers from the score.)

16.)  Las copas con las muestras, han sido ordenadas de izquierda a derecha en

Covered samples

Covered samples

dos líneas: de la 1 a la 5 y atrás de la 6 a la 10. En esa misma secuencia deberá realizarse la cata, destapando exclusivamente la copa de la muestra que va a evaluar y volviéndola a tapar al pasar a la siguiente.

(The glasses with the samples are in order from left to right in two lines:  from 1 to 5, and in back from 6 to 10.  The tasting should be done in the same sequence, uncovering only the glass of the sample you are evaluating, and then recovering it before moving on to the next one.)

17.)  En general recuerde la capacitación que sobre catado ha recibido. 

(In general, remember the tequila tasting training you have received.)

Considere que su evaluación de cada muestra es en extremo valiosa y que con sus calificaciones estará afectando positiva o negativamente a esa muestra y por tanto a una marca en particular que se expende en el mercado, por lo que se debe realizar con extrema imparcialidad y absoluta honestidad.

(Consider that your evaluation of each sample is extremely valuable.  Your scores will affect, either positively or negatively, that sample and therefore, a particular brand coming onto the retail market.  It should be carried out with extreme impartiality and absolute honesty.)

The Añejo Way of Life With Señor Rio Tequila and Cigars by M.A. “Mike” Morales

I admit, I have a soft spot for Señor Rio tequila.

A snifter of Señor Rio añejo on the patio.

A snifter of Señor Rio añejo on the patio.

Sure, it’s produced at the famed La Cofradía distillery (NOM 1137), where its flagship tequila, Casa Noble, grabs all the headlines these days.  And the co-founders, Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina have a great love for tequila and a great love story, too.  And, yes, it comes in a helluva pretty bottle.  But those aren’t my reasons for my affinity to the brand.

It’s their exclusive cigars that pair so well with Señor Rio tequila that bring a smile to my face.

In The Beginning…

Waiting to be lit.

Waiting to be lit.

I was first introduced to Señor Rio Cigars when CEO, Jonathan Gach, sent me a pair that were infused with Señor Rio blanco tequila.  It was a novel idea at the time since tradition dictates that cigars be paired with wines and darker spirits.  Naturally, these were meant to be enjoyed with Señor Rio blanco and its fragrant smoky bouquet and long finish.

The concept of pairing cigars with blanco tequilas compelled  me to seek other blanco tequila and cigar combinations that ultimately lead to my recent article in Cigar Advisor.

Completely hooked, I couldn’t wait to spark up these newer versions of Señor Rio Cigars that Jonathan was kind enough to share.

Pure Elegance

Señor Rio's presentation dresses up any occasion.

Señor Rio’s presentation dresses up any occasion.

Simply placing the Señor Rio bottles outside on the patio table dresses up any occasion and calls for your fanciest lighter, ashtray and crystal snifters.  One whiff of the big, veiny Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper and I couldn’t stray from tradition.  A snifter of  Señor Rio añejo was in order.

From the very start, this stick had all the signs of a handmade gem, lighting beautifully, drawing smoothly and burning evenly with a nice ash.  The combination of the Honduran and Dominican filler, along with the Connecticut broadleaf binder made for a tequila lover’s delight.

Nice ash.

Nice ash.

The hints of leather, wood and nuts courtesy of the wrapper blended nicely with Señor Rio’s initial sweetness. The cigar’s light spiciness (cloves) enhanced the nose and married graciously with the aroma  of the añejo.  Moreover, the cigar’s easygoing softness didn’t interfere with Señor Rio’s medium-to-long finish imparted by its aging in used French white oak barrels for two years.

With the reposado, however, the pairing was more evenly matched.  Aged only six months in used French white oak barrels, it does not have as long a finish as the añejo and this fusion was a duel of the senses.  Each commanded my attention with every sip and draw.  While at times the añejo seemed to step aside, the pairing with the reposado demanded to be noticed.

Up close and personal with Señor Rio tequila.

Up close and personal with Señor Rio tequila.

Once Señor Rio blanco was served, it was comparing night and day.  Everything I had experienced throughout my enjoyment of the cigar was brought to bear with the blanco.  It was a Wimbledon tennis match at Centre Court between two distinct athletic styles where your taste buds are the line judge and the crowd cheers with every volley.

The Añejo Way Of Life

Enjoying the Añejo Way Of Life.

Enjoying the Añejo Way Of Life.

You don’t have to be a CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation (or of a tequila brand or online tequila media company, for that matter) to enjoy Señor Rio.  The pure elegance of its bottle presentation and the tequila’s flavor profile alone can take you to your happy place, what I call “the añejo way of life.”  Coupled with a Señor Rio Cigar, and your trip there will be that much quicker.

Sadly, these puros are not available for retail, yet, and are primarily used at special events and promotions.  But, as Jonathan Gach puts it, “I have been a cigar smoker for 37 years and along with tequila, this is another passion of mine.”

On the positive side, Jonathan is contemplating some exciting future plans for Señor Rio that includes the addition of even more enticing tobacco blends to go along with his stellar tequila.

In the meantime, look for Jonathan and Debbie and the whole Señor Rio tequila crew at your nearest cigar bar and liquor store.  It’ll be your shortest route to the “añejo way of life.”

Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina, founders of Señor Rio tequila.

Jonathan Gach and Debbie Medina, founders of Señor Rio tequila.

For more information on Señor Rio, visit them here.
At Facebook.  On Twitter @senorrio .

senor rio


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