Embajador Tequila Conquers California At Spirits of Mexico!

Captures gold and silver medals across contest categories…

Embajador, reposado, spirits of mexico, tequila, tequila aficionado, anejoSeptember 29, 2014, Del Mar, CAEmbajador Tequila Supreme añejo was awarded a gold medal from the longest running Mexican spirits competition in North America, the Spirits of Mexico.  A panel of judges with over 300 years of experience between them also voted both Embajador Tequila Platinum Blanco and Embajador Premium Reposado coveted silver medals.  The blind tasting took place on August 25-26, 2014 at the popular Hacienda Hotel in Old Town San Diego with the results announced yesterday during a special ceremony at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

Hailing from the famed blue agave growing region of Atotonilco in the highlands of Jalisco, the family owned Embajador Tequila stunned the Spirits of Mexico competition by capturing the gold medal in the añejo category.

“We feel like sweepstakes winners!” exclaimed an overjoyed Andres Garcia, Embajador’s Regional Sales Manager.  “Taking the gold medal for our anejo at the Spirits of Mexico tasting competition is breathtaking.”

And just like their global brand ambassadors, Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlan, one of the hottest mariachi troops in Mexico, Embajador tequila swaggered into the blanco and reposado segments of the competition and claimed twin silver honors.

“We are ecstatic over winning two silver medals for our reposado and blanco, too,” added Garcia.  “We’re extremely proud of the consistency in Embajador’s flavor profile and quality.”

The Embajador family is adamant about crafting superlative and distinguished tequila.

Embajador, reposado, spirits of mexico, tequila, tequila aficionado, platinum, blancoIt uses only its own estate grown 100% blue weber agave that is carefully tended for 8-10 years.  Baked in an adobe oven, the piñas are shredded using water from the distillery’s own aquifer, and then fermented from 3-5 days.  After double distillation, the luminous Platinum expression is rested 40 days in stainless steel vats to ensure a complete balance of character.

The captivating Embajador Premium Reposado is rested for a period of eight months in American and French Oak barrels, while the gold medal winning Supreme Añejo is aged with devotion for one year and six months in American and French Oak barrels.

This has been a year filled with accolades for the small batched Embajador tequila.  In April, it racked up a glimmering platinum title at the prestigious SIP Awards, while their other expressions garnered silver and bronze prizes, as well.

Embajador, reposado, spirits of mexico, tequila, tequila aficionado“Getting these esteemed awards is a symbol of our family’s determination, commitment and dedication to producing high caliber tequila,” said Garcia, “and that’s the better part of winning.”

Entering tasting competitions and gaining recognition for accumulating awards is only part of Embajador’s strategy to grow the brand.

“Acquiring the gold and silver medals provides us and our distributor sales team with a tequila that we can be proud to stand behind and be assured it’s top-notch juice,” explained Garcia.

“These trophies are great sales and marketing tools that give us the opportunity to present Embajador to any retail buyer and be confident that it will add value to their premium tequila shelf selection,” he described.

“We plan on celebrating these awards with a big ‘Thank You’ to all the people behind the scenes that made Embajador Tequila what it is today,” continued Andres.  “We value their hard work, long hours and integrity.”SOM-logo

Gratefully, he added, “Thank you Spirits of Mexico for celebrating and acknowledging this noble spirit.”

Not accustomed to sitting on their laurels, Andres Garcia admitted, “We plan on commemorating this triumph by popping a few bottles of Embajador Tequila.  Salúd!”

***

Distributors/Vendors:  Contact Andres Garcia, Regional Sales Manager, to discuss the benefits of adding Spirits of Mexico gold medal winner Embajador Tequila to your portfolio at andres@embajadortequila.com.  More details on Embajador Tequila on their website here.  To learn more about the Spirits of Mexico, click here.  Spirits Writers:  For an in-depth interview with Andres Garcia, call 469-216-0567.  Hurry–slots are filling up fast!

 

2014 Spirits of Mexico Winners Announced

dos armadillos, 2014 spirits of mexico, tequila, contest, winner, packagingThe 2014 Spirits of Mexico winners have been announced!  There is a huge list of winners in both tequila and mezcal this year.  What do you think of these brands?

Following are the winners with links to some of our articles & reviews mentioning them:

Tequila Extra Añejo

Tequila Herradura Seleccion Suprema – Best in Show

“A luxurious spirit loaded with character. It has a lustrous amber color, a medium-weight body and a glorious nose of jasmine, fennel, dill, peppercorn, green olives and oaky vanilla. The spiciness and fruity flavors continue on throughout the long, lingering finish.The finish is long, balanced and sublime.”

Dos Armadillos Tequila – Best in Show Packaging

“Nicely textured, richly sweet, intriguingly spicy with a dash of dried herbal earthiness – a well-balanced combination of sweet agave, acid, spice and finish. Charming and enduring.”

Tequila Blanco

Jenni Rivera La Gran Señora – Best in Class

“This blanco is all floral finesse, with some talc and geranium out front. Flavor notes of roasted pumpkin and intense concentrated agave sweetness. Finishes with tang of white pepper and baked squash on the very long lasting finish.”

Tequila Reposado

Jenni Rivera La Gran Señora – Best in Class

“Pretty confectionary nose – banana cream, caramel, coconut and vanilla and a taste of creme brulee distinguish this reposado. All spice on the palate, with a medium body and loads of baked fruits and spice box. Ends with a surprising potent punch – solid gold.”

Tequila Añejo

Milagro – Best in Class

“Slightly maritime aromas of seaweed and salt spray with a touch of caramel. Tastes earthy and vegetal, with a green pepper tang, clove and sandalwood.”

Liqueur

Casa D’Aristi XTA – Best in Class

“Anise, honey, chocolate and orange peel make a harmonious nose; on the palate, syrupy but with enough acidity to carry it through lots of orange and honey notes with spiciness. Well-balanced and intriguing.”

Mezcal Añejo

Los Amantes – Best in Class – TIE

“Savory defines the aromas from this aged mezcal – fish sauce, black vinegar and even tamari. On the palate, we find nectarines and plums dashed with black pepper, some vegetal notes and a mild oaky vanilla quality that leads to a finely balanced mix of smoke, acid, brine, fruit and sweetness. Delightful aged mezcal.”

Mezcal Joven

HPS Epicurean Marca Negra Tobala – Best in Class – TIE

“Complex herbal and roasted fruit nose, with white pepper, vanilla, brine and earth in the mix. Moderately smoky, on the palate it bursts with a briny and limey attack – sweet but big and robust with notes of lime leaf and peaches with the emerging smoke. Very long lasting zip of sweet smoke.”

 

Tequila Blanco Gold Winners

Brown Forman Herradura

“Classic aromas of a lightly wood-aged blanco – baking spices including nutmeg, mace and cinnamon, with plenty of
agave aromas and flavors. Fresh and well-rounded, finishing brisk and clean.”

Crotalo Spirits Lucha

“Pale yellow hue suggests light aging; sweet roast agave aromas backed with cinnamon opens up into a delicate
expression of white flowers, pumpkin and agave. Light and pretty with great licorice finish.”

El Cachanilla El Cachanilla

“An interesting aromatic mix – cotton candy, geranium, pencil shavings at the fore – makes for a compelling opening,
and the mild palate becomes robust at the close with an assertive peppery zip.”

Euphoric Spirits Company U4RIK

“Lovely aroma of talc, geranium and paper followed with a dash of dried herbs. Crisp with a slightly bitter appetizing
quality on the palate, leading to an assertive, peppery finish.”

Sidney Frank Importing Co Casamigos

“Pretty white flower and cotton candy aromas and a touch of cinnamon. On the palate, it’s crisp, a little briny with some tropical fruit notes. Crisp and compelling finish.”

 

Tequila Reposado Gold Winner

Sidney Frank Importing Co Casamigos

“Pretty white flower and cotton candy aromas and a touch of cinnamon. On the palate, it’s crisp, a little briny with some tropical fruit notes. Crisp and compelling finish.”

Tequila Blanco

Brown Forman Herradura

“Classic aromas of a lightly wood-aged blanco – baking spices including nutmeg, mace and cinnamon, with plenty of agave aromas and flavors. Fresh and well-rounded, finishing brisk and clean.”

Crotalo Spirits Lucha

“Pale yellow hue suggests light aging; sweet roast agave aromas backed with cinnamon opens up into a delicate expression of white flowers, pumpkin and agave. Light and pretty with great licorice finish.”

El Cachanilla El Cachanilla

“An interesting aromatic mix – cotton candy, geranium, pencil shavings at the fore – makes for a compelling opening, and the mild palate becomes robust at the close with an assertive peppery zip.”

Euphoric Spirits Company U4RIK

“Lovely aroma of talc, geranium and paper followed with a dash of dried herbs. Crisp with a slightly bitter appetizing quality on the palate, leading to an assertive, peppery finish.”

Sidney Frank Importing Co Casamigos

“Pretty white flower and cotton candy aromas and a touch of cinnamon. On the palate, it’s crisp, a little briny with some tropical fruit notes. Crisp and compelling finish.”

Brown Forman Herradura

“Power packed nose of brine and spice in a classic expression of a Tequila valley-style reposado. Snappy and well integrated with an impressive intensity. Assertive and mouth-watering.”

Heaven Hill Lunazul

“Earthy and herbal with notes of mint, menthol and yerba buena enhanced by a vanilla sweetness. Medium-bodied with a well-knit balance among sweetness, acidity and fruit with a dash of oaky creaminess. Delicate, refined and a touch of brine at the appetizing finish.”

Muerto Spirits Muerto

“Fills the nose with aromas of cooked agave, vanilla flan and baking spices, notably cinnamon and nutmeg. Great balance between oaky richness and fresh agave flavors in the mouth and another touch of vanilla with mouthwatering acidity and a fresh and pleasing finish.”

Sidney Frank Importing Co Casamigos

“Sturdy nose of talc, grass and coconut; exceedingly smooth with a dash of brine, smoke and very fine limey acidity and vanilla. Finishes pretty and medium-length with appetizing spice cake quality.”

William Grant & Sons Milagro

“Light aromas of tropical fruit, coconut and vanilla; medium bodied, slightly briny with well-knit herbal zing. Crisp, lightly floral and tasty on the finish.”

Tequila Añejo Gold Winners

Brown Forman El Jimador

“Aromas of dill, olives and baked pineapple, with a briny sea salt tang, peaches and vanilla cream. Nicely balanced sweet spice and toffee, with dashes of vanilla, with a subtle spiciness lingering past the finish.”

Brown Forman Herradura

“Intense aromas of vanilla, cinnamon, brine, green olives and green mango herald a classic Tequila valley-type anejo. Filled with spicy flavors – nutmeg, mace, ripe mango, white pepper and cedar – and intense, it finishes strong but very very tasty. Outstanding.”

Euphoric Spirits Company U4RIK

“Moderate weight and high acid tang meld well with the lovely spice expression. Direct, flavorful, brisk and silky; very
fine anejo.”

Garcia Group Spirits Celestial

“Clove, menthol and vanilla characterize this winning anejo’s aromas, with a moderately rich mouthfeel that turns creamy and then spicy rich. At the finish, an impressive spice explosion.”

Heaven Hill Lunazul

“Toasty oak and light tobacco aromas; on the palate, rich, even and oily, with spice notes including star anise, balsam and candy corn. Clean and refreshing finisher.”

Muerto Spirits Muerto

“Richly sweet with loads of vanilla, coconut, candy corn and roasted agave mingling together. Appealing to the sweeter side of the agave but appealing and flavorful, with a pretty finish.”

Pan American Beverage & Tequila Imports, LLC Embajador

“Richly confectioned nose, like pastry cream or cake icing with vanilla and cinnamon notes. On the palate it turns briskly astringent with lip smacking acids, making it very inviting and clean. Finishes tight and tingly with well-balanced spice.”

William Grant & Sons Milagro Select Barrel Reserve

“Opens with a charming cream and caramel confectionary aroma, with hints of menthol and crushed pecans. It’s a sophisticated sipper with a lightly spicy palate, shifting through nutmeg, cinnamon and white pepper, with a pleasing nuttiness on the finish.”

Three Crowns Distributors Jenni Rivera La Gran Señora

“Lush and luscious with a great balance among sweetness, acidity and spice. Great expression that is very, very persistent on the finish with a peppery and pleasing punch. Outstanding.”

Tequila Extra Añejo Gold Winners

Crotalo Spirits Crotalo Tres Marcos 3*5*7

“A deep and rich amber hue with a velvety textured body and an alluring semi-sweet bouquet of vanilla, caramel, fruit and dark chocolate. The palate is loaded with spice, butterscotch, cocoa, vanilla and light peppery notes, all of which persist on the palate for an agreeably long time.”
El Cachanilla El Cachanilla Tequila

“A rich amber hue and an alluring bouquet laced with fresh baked aromas of cinnamon, caramel, vanilla and nutmeg. A gentle entry expands into an array of flavors—toasted oak, cinnamon, maple syrup and marzipan, all of which persist on the palate for an agreeably long time.”

International Premium Spirits Corporation Dos Armadillos Tequila

“Nicely textured, richly sweet, intriguingly spicy with a dash of dried herbal earthiness – a well-balanced combination of sweet agave, acid, spice and finish. Charming and enduring.”

Flavored Tequila Gold Winners

Dirty Tequila LLC Dirty Tequila

“Appealing mix of spice and pineapple with crisp agave; a crowd pleasing shot or cocktail ingredient, sweet and spicy at the same time.”

William Grant & Sons Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur

“Spicy, savory and sweet, this flavored tequila has an appealign earthiness and robust abcho chile zing. Great cocktail modifier sutibale for any tequila or mezcal recipe tweaking. A winner.”

Mezcal Joven Gold Winners

HPS Epicurean Marca Negra Espadin

“Lightly smokey, grappa like in its aromatic appeal, with pumice, chamomile and brine in the mix. Great citric acid crispness, with smoke, fruit and brine wrestling for primacy. In the end, all find their place in this remarkable crisp mezcal.”

Viejo Indecente Mezcal Viejo Indecente Ensamble

“Sweet smoked – cherry wood, smoked peaches and nectarines, with a dash of olive braine create a complex aromatic opening. Full bodied, with a deopth of finish that invites another sip.”

William Grant & Sons Bosscal Mezcal

“Orange creamsicle and vinegar, along with dried herbs and lime zest on the nose; tastes of a beautifully knit smoked fruit platter, spiked with grapefruit juice and a touch of brine.”

Rested Mezcal Gold Winners

Dibela Enterprises 3 Pueblos

“Mint, sage, thyme, menthol, white flowers and soot – what an array of aromas! On the palate, it pops with cinnamon, nutmeg and crisp acidity. A gorgeous mezcal.”

Liqueur Gold Winners

HPS Epicurean Casa D’Aristi Huana

“Tropical fruit, oranges and grapefruit on the nose, with a moderate-dense mouthfeel with loads of tropical, tree and citrus fruit flavor, with a honeyed richness.”

HPS Epicurean Casa D’Aristi Kalani

“Coconut, chocolate and coffee take center stage, dense and mouth-filling, with loads of coconut and chocolate but some balanced acidity. Finishes slightly dry.”

Tequila Blanco Silver Winners

Baron Spirits Baron Platinum
Hacienda Destiladora de Michoacan SPR de RL Hacienda Maravatio
Heaven Hill Lunazul
Mexican Moonshine Mexican Moonshine Silver
Pan American Beverage & Tequila Imports, LLC Embajador
William Grant & Sons Milagro
William Grant & Sons Milagro Select Barrel Reserve
The Legacy Group Campeon

Tequila Reposado Silver Winners

Crotalo Spirits Lucha
El Cachanilla El Cachanilla
Garcia Group Spirits Celestial
Marsalle Company Hacienda Vieja
Pan American Beverage & Tequila Imports, LLC Embajador
Sazerac Company Monte Alban
William Grant & Sons Milagro Select Barrel Reserve

Tequila Añejo Silver Winners

Heaven Hill Lunazul Primero
The Legacy Group Campeon

Tequila Extra Añejo Silver Winner

Crotalo Spirits Lucha Tequila

Flavored Tequila Silver Winner

Agave Loco LLC Agave Loco Pepper Cured Tequila

Mezcal Joven Silver Winners

Dibela Enterprises 3 Pueblos
HPS Epicurean Marca Negra Dobadan
HPS Epicurean Marca Negra Ensamble
Viejo Indecente Mezcal Viejo Indecente Espadin
William Grant & Sons Montelobos

Rested Mezcal Silver Winner

Dibela Enterprises Kilometro 70

Tequila Blanco Bronze Winners

Chamucos Spirits LLC Palm Bay International
Garcia Group Spirits Celestial
Jim Beam Sauza 901 Silver
Marsalle Company Hacienda Vieja
Muerto Spirits Muerto
Revel Spirits Inc Revel Avila Agave Spirit
Sazerac Company Monte Alban

Tequila Reposado Bronze Winners

Brown Forman El Jimador
Palm Bay International Chamucos
The Legacy Group Campeon

Tequila Añejo Bronze Winners

Crotalo Spirits Lucha
Marsalle Company Don Felix
Palm Bay International Chamucos

Flavored Tequila Bronze Winner

Berezan Tequila Ltd De La Tierre

Mezcal Joven Bronze Winner

Dibela Enterprises Kilometro 70

 

 

Download the official Spirits of Mexico results for 2014

We Just Sit Around Drinking Tequila All Day

We don’t actually sit around drinking tequila all day, but that’s what a lot of people think we do.  There’s a lot of effort behind the scenes that goes into producing content for Tequila Aficionado.  One important thing is producing episodes of Sipping Off The Cuff.  Let me tell you a little about that.
 

 

It’s quite a process so we thought we’d share it with you:

First, we have to get the guys together.  Getting Alex and Mike together via Skype isn’t always easy.  family commitments, all the things that can go wrong with computers, and then there’s the software, both the recording software and Skype that have a part in whether or not our programs are recorded properly.

If we had roadies, we’d have them do the tech check for us.

 

 

Setup

We wash Reidel snifters, ensure we have vodka & melba toast for palate cleansing between tequila tastings, and then set up all the bottles of tequilas and other great agave spirits that must be tasted and reviewed.  It takes about an hour just to move furniture, set up the table and then bring everything down off the shelves, dust it off and then set it up nicely for photos just in case Mike & Alex decide to talk about all the brands awaiting review.  Setup time is usually when we take photos for Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Vine.  It is important to us that the brands that send us samples feel it is a valuable proposition.  Providing them with social media content that adds to their electronic equity is very valuable in today’s market.
 

 

Filming At about 12-20 minutes per brand, it makes for a long night.  Mike & Alex will taste several brands in one night and usually spend about 4 hours filming together.  

 

Editing

I take the raw footage and edit it.  (Trust me, there are just some things those guys do that you just don’t want to see or hear.)  It takes about 45 minutes to review, edit, research, add facts, format, and produce each individual video.
 

 

Uploading Then we upload the videos to YouTube.  Some days it goes quickly and some days the computer is tied up all day because YouTube is running so slowly.  

 

Posting

With all that done, we’re ready to schedule and post the video on Tequila Aficionado.  We want to make each video posting as search engine friendly as possible so the tequila (and mezcal) brands get plenty of publicity.  That means digging into websites and Facebook for social media links, images, and details on each brand’s production process.  Some tequila brands turn out to be Not Safe For Work (NSFW) and that means wading through a whole lot of bikini images before finding one we can use.  (Please take a lesson from mezcal and stop marketing like it’s 1989?)

Then you, the tequila aficionados see the final product.  We hope the insights that Mike & Alex provide are worth your time.  It is always our hope that the materials we work so hard to produce are as educational as they are entertaining and everyone from the brand owner to the consumer feels it was time well spent.

Are you following us on Vine yet?

Dazed & Diffused: More on the Diffuser in Tequila Production

We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? and in Craft Tequila–WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2  where we featured our Craft Tequila Gauntlet to help you make better buying decisions when seeking quality craft tequilas.

 Here, Tequila Aficionado Media delves deeper…

What’s Not on The Menu

The Pastry War's stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal., We briefly tackled the diffuser controversy earlier in 2014 with The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating?, diffuser, diffusor, difuser, difusor

The Pastry War’s stance on diffuser produced tequila and mezcal.

On the wall of The Pastry War, a world renowned mezcalería and restaurant in the heart of Houston, TX, this chalkboard message proudly explains why owners, outspoken agave advocates Bobby Heugel and Alba Huerta, staunchly refuse to serve tequilas and mezcals produced with a diffuser.

In their view, it’s a battle between traditional methods of tequila [and mezcal] production which yields “delicious tequila [or mezcal],” versus more cost-conscious methods adopted by distilleries that produce “a shitty version of tequila [or mezcal].”

Let’s look more closely at this cursed contraption.

WTH Is It?

Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary diffuser definition–

“a device for reducing the velocity and increasing the static pressure of a fluid passing through a system.”

Diffuser, by its own definition, denotes watering, stripping, deflecting or softening down the finished product, whether it be light, air, or agua miel, what will eventually be distilled into tequila.

Using only hot water and sulfuric acid to extract up to 98%-99% of the sugars from raw, uncooked agave, the resultant tequila, as described by noted agave lover, Fortaleza tequila brand ambassador and blogger, Khyrs Maxwell, in his detailed instructional post, There May Be Too Much Agave in Your Tequila or Mezcal  tastes like…

“…what I would consider to have a chemical/medicinal taste–sometimes slight, sometimes overbearing flavor profile that always seems to overshadow the beauty of the agave.”  

He further states that it “tastes very much like vodka” and has coined the term “AgaVodka.”

Lastly, Maxwell warns…

“So if you come across a tequila or mezcal made with a difusor, the only way that there can be “notes of cooked agave” is by adding that flavor during the finishing process.  They can add “notes of cooked agave?”  Why, yes.  Yes they can…I’ve seen and smelled the additive.  It does exist.”

Maxwell’s statement above excludes the use of authorized additives to blanco (unaged) tequila, of course.

As of December 2012, such practices have been outlawed by the CRT in its normas (rules and regulations governing the production of tequila).  It remains to be seen how well it will be enforced, however, so your pricey, Fruit Loop scented blanco may still be safe for a year or two until inventories are depleted.

Spanish diffuser manufacturer, Tomsa Destil, offers a closer look at the mega-masher and its process, which seem to go hand-in-hand with column distillation.

The site mentions that they have installed 12 diffusers for use in agave processing, but makes no mention of their clients, nor if sulfuric acid to extract sugars from agave is also needed.

Tomsa Destil diffuser., Diffusor in Tequila

Tomsa Destil diffuser.

The Stigma

While controversy swirls around the use of a diffuser, most educated tequila aficionados understand that it is not illegal to do so.  In fact, its application was accepted by the CRT some time ago.

As we mentioned in item #5 of our Craft Tequila Gauntlet, diffuser use by a distillery is a closely guarded secret even though it is a fairly large piece of machinery to try to hide.  There is a stigma attached to it, with most distilleries that have one completely denying that any of their star brands are processed with it.

While most of the Tequila Industry’s heavy hitters are known to possess diffusers, many also own regular shredders, autoclaves and even stone ovens.  Ask any major brand owner whose tequila is produced at these maquiladoras (large production facilities that churn out juice for contracted brands) whether they are a by-product of a diffuser, and they vehemently deny it.

#AskRuben

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura, Diffusor in Tequila

Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura.

 

In the Twitter thread attached to The Diffusor in Tequila Production: Are They Cheating? it was revealed that Casa Herradura had used a diffuser from 2001-2010.

The historic tequila maker initially implemented the super shredder during the last great agave crisis of the late 90s.  Years later, it was taken to task by an organized group of key concerned mixologists and tequila supporters who refused to use Herradura in their cocktails or to include it in their bar menus due to a drastic change in its original flavor profile and quality.  Herradura finally succumbed and stopped using it for that label.

Vintage Casa Herradura, logo, Diffusor in Tequila

In the following screen captures of a Twitter chat from May 1, 2014, Ruben Aceves, Casa Herradura’s Director of International Brand Development, admits that the diffuser is now only used for their Antiguo, El Jimador, and Pepe Lopez brands.

 

Twitter chat #AskRuben.

More Twitter chat. #AskRuben

 

Aceves had previously come clean to spirits writer, Emma Janzen in her article for The Statesman here.

In Khrys Maxwell’s aforementioned blog, he lists tequila producers known to employ diffusers.  Tequila Aficionado also includes this list on every updated NOM List for your convenience.

Nevertheless, one of those distilleries mentioned in Maxwell’s list boldly refuses to hide behind a veil of secrecy–

Destilería Leyros (NOM 1489).

In Defense Of Diffusers

Destilería Leyros, producers of their flagship brand, Tequila Don Fermin and many others, bills itself as a model for modern and efficient tequila making.

It was proudly represented that way even in the wildly popular Spanish language telenovela Destilando Amor, where it stood in for the then fictional Destilería Montalvo.

 

Enrique Legorreta Carranco, one of the owners of Leyros, agreed to answer some of our questions and to try to help dispel the myths and mysteries surrounding the diffuser.

Controversy

“I am aware about the controversy of using difusor [Spanish spelling] in the tequila process.  Here are some key factors and benefits of the process in order to be firm with the press:

“In fact, there is nothing to hide and we are willing to receive tequila bloggers, media or people from Tequila Aficionado in order to know first hand this innovative and ecological process.”

Process

“The difusor extracts the agave juice first of all, followed by the cooking of the agave juice to extract the agave sugars.  This cooked agave juice is called the agua miel.  In traditional process they first cooked the agave followed by the agave juice extraction.  We obviously need to cook the agave juice in order to get its sugars in order to be able to be fermentated (biological process where sugar turns into alcohol).”

Flavor

[We'll note that Sr. Legorreta took issue with the portrayal of the tastes and essences of tequilas produced with a diffuser as described by some bloggers, believing them to be too subjective.]

“This process gives to the taster a more herbal, clean and citric experience.  Also this process is more efficient and as a result gives a tequila with better standards in methanol, aldehydes and other compounds not desired because at high levels produces hangovers.”

 

Traditional Process vs. Modern Technology

“We respect a lot [the] traditional process.  The only thing we believe is that the consumer has the last word to choose between one tequila flavor from another.
“There are people that prefer the traditional strong flavor from tequila.  Other people are preferring tequilas [that are] more pure, citric with subtle notes of fresh agave like if you are smelling [the] agave and [the] land.”

 

Environment

Reiterating what was demonstrated in the videos above, Sr. Legorreta explains…
“A difusor process uses less than 50% of energy, and less than 60% of water used in traditional processes to produce same quantities of liters.  Additional to this [at the] Leyros Distillery we recycle the bagasse that we get in the last phase of the difusor.  All this with our completely self-sufficient green boiler is fueled with bagasse from our own mill.”

 

About That Stigma…

“About why many distilleries denied they have a difusor, I can guess without knowing a reason from first hand–that is because traditional process with ovens sounds more romantic than the technology of a difusor.”
“In fact, a lot of distilleries focus their marketing efforts around traditional processes.  I guess this is working.  If not, I [suppose] they would be focusing more in the tasting notes of the final product.”
Indeed, Destilería Leyros’ website and videos play on the romance using a smattering of phrases as, “It tastes like countryside, like fire in your blood,” and “Like a passionate kiss, the Taste of Mexico.”

A New Style

In much the same manner as importers, brand owners, and maestro tequileros defend

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

Don Fermin barrel room at Destilería Leyros.

(and advertise in their marketing materials!) the use of additives in their aged tequilas (“finished and polished”), Sr. Legorreta asserts that juice made with a diffuser is simply another style of tequila.

“The essence of tequila is the agave, and both processes distill agave, just in different ways.  There are some people that love traditions [and] there are others that like to innovate and improve things.”
Just as Leyros’ website and videos “invites you to taste and compare, and then let your palate decide which tequila you’d rather raise in a toast,” Sr. Legorreta concludes:
“At the end of the day, or the end of the history, [it] is the consumer [who] chooses their tequila without a bias in the information.”
Some Truths to Consider

The Leyros videos above claim to use machinery as a way to “considerably reduce the risk of injury” to the people on their workforce.  Yet, as Maxwell points out…

“Not only is the difusor a way to pump out product, it also uses a very small labor force.  As more distilleries use the difusor, there will be less jobs available to those, who for hundreds of years,  have built towns and created families by working in the agave distillate industry.  So what happens to the unemployed?  …do they leave for the US to become illegal immigrants?  Or do they work for the narcos?”

At the risk of being redundant, it bears repeating what noted agave ethno-botanist, Ana Valenzuela said about the diffuser here

Shredder.

Shredder.

 

“…to prohibit the use of diffusers (in hydrolysis of agave juices) that takes the “soul” (the flavor of baked agave) out of our native distillates, singular in the world for its complexities of aromas and flavors.”

In conclusion, if current figures are correct, exports of tequila rose 16% to US$568 million in the first six months of 2014, compared to the same period last year.  It is expected that China will import 10 million liters of tequila in the next 5 years.

Where will Mexico find enough agave to serve their thirsty customers?

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

Mezcaleros de Oaxaca protestan.

These guys know where.

Turning A Blind Eye

On September 4, 2014, dozens of mezcaleros (mezcal producers) dumped 200 liters of mezcal onto the streets of Oaxaca City in protest for their government’s lack of support against tequileros from Jalisco who are allegedly raiding tons of espadín and other maguey (agave), the prime ingredient in mezcal, to produce tequila.

In the process, say Maestros del Mezcal Tradiciónal del Estado de Oaxaca (a trade association) 15 of the 32 varieties of maguey native to Oaxaca are in danger of becoming extinct.

Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Without maguey there is no mezcal or tequila.

Thanks to these transnational maguey marauders, the burgeoning mezcal industry’s days are numbered, it seems.

If indeed a diffuser strips away the agave’s regional characteristics leaving behind a more citric, vodka-like, cookie cutter flavor profile that easily lends itself to clandestine adulteration, over distillation and multiple barrel blendings, then what’s to keep these pirate tequileros from pilfering agave from outside the requisite growing states and using a diffuser to crank out “tequila?”

These days, filling orders to emerging world markets is more important than the blatant disregard for the Denomination of Origin.

Mezcalaria, The Cult of Mezcal: Book Review by Alvin Starkman

Mezcalaria,The Cult of MezcalMezcalaria,The Cult of Mezcal:  Book Review

By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.

Mezcalaria, Cultura del Mezcal, The Cult of Mezcal (Farolito ediciones, 2012) is the third edition, first bilingual (English-Spanish), of the seminal 2000 publication by author Ulises Torrentera.  The book is highly opinionated on the one hand, yet on the other contains a wealth of both historical and contemporary facts about agave, mezcal and pulque.  Torrentera places his subject matter within appropriate social, cultural, ethnobotanical and etymological context, at times referencing other Mexican as well as Old World spirits and fermented drinks.  And where fact is uncertain, or when Torrentera feels the need to supplement in order to hold the reader’s interest, he infuses with myth and legend.

Torrentera takes the reader far beyond the decades old introductory book, de Barrios’ A Guide to Tequila, Mezcal and Pulque and much deeper into the field of inquiry than the more recent series of bilingual essays in Mezcal, Arte Traditional, although the latter does include excellent color plates(the Spanish first edition of Mezcalaria contains a few color plates). It stands at the other end of the spectrum from the monolingual coffee table book Mezcal, Nuestra Esencia and is far more comprehensive than the English portion of Oaxaca, Tierra de Maguey y Mezcal.

Torrentera’s passion for mezcal rings loud and clear.  In discussions with him and in the course of hearing him hold guidecourt, he has repeatedly indicated that it’s crucial that more aficionados of alcoholic beverages taste and appreciate all that mezcal has to offer.   That’s his motivation for writing, speaking, and exposing the public to mezcal in his Oaxaca mezcaleria, In Situ. The spirit, paraphrasing his viewpoint, leaves its main rival tequila behind in its wake, primarily because of the numerous varieties of agave which can be transformed into mezcal, the broad range of growing regions and corresponding micro-climates, and the diversity of production methods currently employed,  the totality yielding a plethora of flavor nuances which tequila cannot match.

His treatise, on the other hand, to some extent does his raison d´être a disservice. He is overly critical of mezcal that is not to his liking.  For example, in the Prologue to this first English edition (don’t let the poor and at time incomprehensible translation of the Prologue dissuade an otherwise prospective purchaser; the balance of the book is well translated) Torrentera writes of mezcal with more than or less than 45 – 50% alcohol by volume:  “above that graduation [sic] the flavors of mezcal are lost and there is more intoxication; if it is below this one cannot appreciate the organoleptic qualities of the beverage.”  He also writes that unaged or blanco is the best way to appreciate mezcal.  He continues that in his estimation “cocktails are the fanciest manner to degrade mezcal.”

Indeed, I regularly drink one particular mezcal at 63%, which is exquisite, and numerous other mezcales in the 52% – 55% range which my drinking partners and I enjoy; we appreciate flavor nuances without becoming overly intoxicated.  At the other end of the spectrum, a recent entry into the commercial mezcal market, produced in Matatlán, Oaxaca, is 37%.  The owners of the brand held well over 50 blind taste testings in Mexico City, including mezcales of less percentage alcohol, of greater potency, and of popular high end designer labels; 37% won out by a wide margin.  In the first year of production it shipped 16,000 bottles of 37% alcohol by volume to the domestic market only; not bad for a mezcal lacking organoleptic qualities.

Regarding the blanco/reposado/añejo issue, why not encourage novices to try it all and decide for themselves?  Why dissuade drinkers of Lagavulin, or better yet Glenmorange sherry or burgundy cask scotch from experimenting with mezcal aged in barrels from French wine or Kentucky bourbon?  While I appreciate Torrentera’s zeal and his belief, his dogmatism may very well serve to restrict sales of mezcal and inhibit valiant efforts to find convertees.  Many spirits aficionados might prefer a mezcal which he does not recommend.  Furthermore, if mixologists and creative bartenders can increase sales and market mezcal through mixing mezcal cocktails, isn’t that what the Maestro wants?

Torrentera’s reflections are otherwise sound and should find broad agreement with readers, be they mezcal or tequila aficionados or novices, or those who are otherwise followers of the industry.  I’ve often expressed his point that far too many exporters and large scale producers are padding their bank accounts at the expense of campesino growers and owners of small distilleries, the mom and pop “palenques” as they’re termed in the state of Oaxaca.  He laments the regulatory direction mezcal appears to be heading, and pleads for change in the NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) and for a better and more discerning and detailed system of classification.  He warns of mezcal heading in the direction of tequila in terms of homogenization.

Torrentera’s work is the most comprehensive and detailed endeavor available in English, which combines and synthesizes literature about agave (historical uses and cultural importance), pulque (within global context of fermented beverages) and mezcal (as one of a number of early distilled drinks). He appropriately criticizes, mainly in the Prologue, academic studies which have provisionally concluded, using a bastardized form of scientific method, the existence of distillation in pre-Hispanic times.

alvin starkman

Available from the author for $12pp via PayPal. Click on image to email for availability.

The author shines in his compiling, extensively drawing from, and quoting diverse bodies of work; scholarly, historical anecdotal, as well as both secular and religious Conquest era laws and decrees.  His bibliography is impressive.  He correctly cites inconsistencies in and difficulties interpreting some of the centuries old references, allowing the reader to reach his own conclusions.  If a criticism must be proffered, occasionally it is difficult to discern when he is quoting versus using his own words.  But this is likely an issue with editing and printing than fault of Torrentera. At times he does neglect to indicate dates and sources, making it hard to determine precisely how much is independent research.  Footnotes would have helped in this regard, and also would have made it easier for the reader to go to the original source material.

Torrentera vacillates between seemingly attempting to write in an academic manner, and inserting intra-chapter headings and content which would appear to be attempts at humor.  To his credit, however, the difference is easily discernible, and accordingly the reader should have no difficulty distinguishing fact from lightheartedness.

Mezcalaria, Cultura del Mezcal, The Cult of Mezcal, is an important and extremely comprehensive body of work.  It should be read by everyone with an interest in agave, mezcal (or tequila) and / or pulque.  Torrentera is to be congratulated for compiling an excellent multidisciplinary reference text which no other writer to date has been able to do.

Alvin Starkman

alvin starkman, mezcal, Mezcalaria,The Cult of MezcalAlvin Starkman has been an aficionado of mezcal and pulque for more than 20 years.  A resident of Oaxaca, Alvin frequently takes visitors to the state into the outlying regions of the central valleys to teach them about mezcal, including different production methods, flavor nuances and the use of diverse agave species. He owns and operates Mezcal Educational Excursions of Oaxaca.  Alvin has written extensively about mezcal and pulque.  He is the author of Mezcal in the Global Spirits Market:  Unrivaled Complexity, Innumerable Nuances.

 

Read more articles by Alvin Starkman at MexConnect.

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