Chisholm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes

Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd
An example of Chisolm Trail’s craftsmanship

Tasting notes submitted to Chisholm Trail Craft Glasses for the prototype of Stolzle’s jarrito tumbler, a proposed vessel designed to exclusively appreciate agave spirits.

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JARRITO TUMBLER TASTING NOTES

 

Mr. Romeo Hristov from Chisholm Trail Crafts, Incorporated, has asked me to test a prototype of the Jarrito tumbler for tequila/agave spirits produced by Stölzle Lausitz GmbH.

Personal Tasting Procedure

All tequilas and other agave spirits are always tasted at room temperature.

As I had been instructed by a representative of Glencairn, the glass should be held at the chest or lower, and the aromas of a spirit should rise up to greet you.

Also, as I had been instructed in the past, with any type of stemmed glassware (brandy snifter, Riedel, champagne, etc.), I prefer to nose (with mouth open) by physically turning and facing to my left as I inhale through my left nostril, and doing the same movement to my right side and nostril.

Lastly, after nosing in the same manner at the front of my nose, I then use the single pass technique across my entire nose.

I prefer to hold all vessels from the stem or the foot to prevent inadvertent warming of the liquid being tasted.  The jarrito was held from the bottom.

Craft Agave Spirits

Tequila(s):  Cobalto Organic Blanco (NOM 1586 Destileria Casa de Piedra; 40% ABV, 80 proof).

Terralta blanco tequila (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 55% ABV, 110 proof).

Terralta extra anejo tequila (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 55% ABV, 110 proof).

Tequila G4 blanco (NOM 1579, Destileria El Pandillo; 40% ABV, 80 proof).

Hacienda Vieja anejo (NOM 1412, Destiladora de los Altos; 40% ABV, 80 proof)

Los 3 Garcias blanco, reposado, anejo (NOM 1594, Casa Tequilera Alcardan K & Asociados; 40% ABV, 80 proof)

Mezcal(s):  Estancia Raicilla (R & J Estancia Distillery; 40% ABV, 80 proof).

Santo Diablo Mezcal Joven (Unaged, 45% ABV, 90 proof, espadin).

Montelobos Mezcal Joven (Unaged, 43.2% ABV, 86.4 proof espadin).

 Glassware

Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd
Tears of Llorona served in Riedel stemware.

Riedel Ouverture tequila glass:

  1. Look, feel and handling (describe the shape, proportions, weight, and balance in the hand).

An accepted tool of tequila tasting since its introduction in 2001, it is the vessel most of us have been exposed to and taught to use to appreciate tequila’s many facets.

Elegantly stemmed and reminiscent of champagne glasses, but not as narrow at the bowl, it can be easily handled and tilted, either at the stem or foot, to examine the color and clarity of the liquid without spilling.

Weighing significantly less than common champagne glasses, there is a risk of Riedels breaking, especially between the stem and bowl.

  1. Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas.

Nosing tequilas, and some 80 proof mezcals, can be a challenge.

Depending on the tequila, and regardless of the proof (ABV), one had to be instructed to literally stick one’s nose inside the bowl and to inhale deeply to find aromas that might have been missed at the initial pass.

Alcohol burn with any proof tequila is also a real possibility while “digging in” to try and capture the scents and nuances.  Frequent swirling is necessary in order for aromas to bloom and for any excess alcohol to dissipate.

While some tasters prefer the Riedel for unaged (blanco) tequilas, it was reputed by the Riedels to have been designed specifically for reposados.

That said, darker expressions of tequila (some older aged reposados, anejos and extra anejos) sampled, and their layers of complexity seem to remain, for the most part, intact.

Glencairn whiskey nosing glass:Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd

  1. Feel and handling (shape, proportions, weight, balance in the hand):

Long associated almost exclusively with the whisky and scotch industries, as well as its aficionados, it has been widely favored and accepted by tequila cognoscenti “oak heads” for many years.

In fact, it has been preferred over the Riedel Ouverture, especially in tasting and enjoying the more aged tequilas.

Known for its distinctive thick foot and bell shaped bowl ending in an extended neck chimney, it has the same size opening as the Riedel.  This allows for more even mouth surface (and ultimately palate) coverage with which to sip, savor and nose a spirit.

Its footed base keeps the vessel steady on any flat surface without the danger of breaking any stems as is often the case with Riedels when accidentally knocked over.

The thickness of the foot is ideal for handling the Glencairn.  Swirling, nosing and sipping are done easily, without inadvertently warming the liquid inside.  Its design is very pleasing to the eye, as well.

  1. Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas:

The Glencairn’s construction allows the taster to discern aromas and nuances often overlooked or muted by other accepted glassware without completely extinguishing the necessary effects of any excess alcohol.

In the case of sampling blanco tequilas, and in particular high proof blancos, I believe the bell (bowl) allows for any excess alcohol to become trapped long enough to not interfere with the nosing process.

As I mentioned earlier, the Glencairn efficiently presents any spirits’ aromas when held in close proximity to the nose.

I believe the thinness and strength of the glass Glencairn uses to produce its vessels is the secret to its value and versatility.

It is just about the perfect glass for any spirit, including tequila, and everyday use.

Stolzle jarrito tumbler:

  1. Feel and handling (shape, proportions, weight, balance in the hand):

In the attempt to craft a drinking vessel that could ultimately be associated exclusively with Mexican agave spirits of all types, both styles of jarritos (tumblers) are uniquely designed without a stem or handle which are both European inventions.

Both jarritos have a slightly weighted flattened base.  One model has a more extended neck similar to the Glencairn or Riedel.  The other model has a slightly shorter neck and a bit wider circumference providing even more mouth surface, and eventually, palate coverage by the sampled liquid.  Both have a slightly bell shaped bowl, not unlike the Glencairn.

Also, similar to the Glencairn, I believe its bell or bowl allows for the non-interference of excess alcohol when nosing higher proof tequilas and mezcals while still discerning the spirits’ various aromas.

Our CMO, Lisa Pietsch, particularly enjoyed the “hand feel” of both jarritos.

Gracefully designed, the jarritos seem to naturally invite the casual sipper to wrap his or her fingers around the bowl and neck of the vessel, allowing the impression of becoming more “intimate” with the agave spirit inside.

For judging purposes, the natural reflex to hold the vessel by the bowl can be circumvented by simply placing the jarrito on a flat surface and nosing from a standing position, if necessary.

The base of both models is still wide enough to hold the jarrito securely by the fingertips to swirl and sniff.  The danger of inadvertently warming the liquid inside by using this technique is negligible.

Finally, the thickness of the jarrito glass is just millimeters thicker than the Glencairn.  The short necked jarrito is also slightly thicker than the long necked one.

  1. Initial nosing, persistence, complexity and emphasis of the aromas:

Glassware:  Extended neck jarrito.

Nosing (80 proof tequila)

The floral aromas were instantly noticeable without having to swirl the jarrito to help aerate the liquid.  Upon closer nosing, the fruit aromas became very prevalent, as well.

In the case of Tequila G4, there was an instantly discernible scent of wet cement perceived at just the initial pass through.  Normally, this particular aroma isn’t evident until after several attempts using the Riedel Ouverture.

Nosing (110 proof tequila)

 The sharpness remained as above.

As with any high proof spirit, there would be significant alcohol present, however, only at the bottom of the glass where it belongs.  In this case, the alcohol was not at all offensive or aggressive.

Intake 

 Again, I was taken aback by how lucid and sharp the liquid tasted on the intake.

Glassware:  Short neck jarrito.

Nosing and Intake (110 proof tequila)

Same as long necked jarrito, however…

Both the nose and the intake showcased significantly sweeter elements in the Terralta extra anejo that was both surprising and pleasing.

Terralta is a very complex tequila to begin with, but the short neck jarrito stood up to the challenge.

Overall Impressions and Recommendations

 Incongruence between nosing and tasting… 

For those of us using Riedels exclusively to assess tequilas and all other agave spirits, it is not uncommon to perceive an imbalance or incongruence between nosing and tasting.

I believe, at least in tequila competitions and tastings that I have been involved in, that frequent re-tastings or re-pours are necessary for the judge to determine accurate ratings and/or flavor notes.

Tasting in HD…

In nosing 80 proof tequilas with the jarrito, I was struck by how sharply and easily it was to discern the separate aromas from each other.

It was like watching television in HD, or hearing the notes on a finely tuned piano for the first time.  The nuances and subtleties of the tequilas came across loud and clear.  It was very exciting.

The presence of alcohol…

In nosing 110 proof tequilas, and having spoken to well known tequila master distillers at length, the presence of alcohol is a necessary element for the spirit itself to express its unique characteristics and aromas.

Any attempt to eliminate its presence, either by using specific glassware designed to do so, using ice, or additives included during the spirits’ rectification process, only serve to mask a potential flaw or to mute other pertinent characteristics inherent in the spirit.

For this reason, I look for and expect a certain amount of alcohol.

Criticism against Glencairn…

Chisolm Trail Crafts | Jarrito Tumbler Tasting Notes http://wp.me/p3u1xi-5bd

There have been some reviews by a few critics of the Glencairn that it presents the aromas and flavors of the liquid inside “almost too brightly.”

While I’ve never experienced this effect, to me, there is no such thing as presenting a liquid “too brightly.”

My belief is that over reliance on the Riedel Ouverture tequila glass has possibly trained “catadores” (tequila tasters) to become “nose blind” to certain aromas.  In the long run, the Riedel’s design doesn’t do agave spirits justice.

If a vessel is properly constructed, it should allow both the connoisseur and the layman an equal footing in making professional judging determinations at competitions, or simply personal buying decisions for one’s enjoyment.

In my opinion, the jarrito does as comparable a job in presenting agave spirits—perhaps even more so—than the Glencairn.

Marketability and acceptance of the jarrito tumblers…

My first reaction was to use the shorter necked jarrito to taste mezcals, and the longer necked one for tequilas.  My reason for this is that I use a Glencairn Canadian whisky glass almost exclusively for mezcals and felt the short necked jarrito was a natural progression.

The longer necked jarrito reminded me of the traditional Glencairn or Riedel Ouverture, which is why I chose it for tequilas.

Apart from the individual properties of each agave spirit that I tasted, what I found most gratifying about using the jarrito was that there was a consistency of nosing-to-flavor that is often lacking in other glassware.

After using both jarrito models interchangeably between tequilas and mezcals, the differences were slight.

The higher proof liquids seemed to be presented better in the shorter jarrito with the slightly thicker glass, while the 80 proof spirits compared equally favorably to the Glencairn whisky glass using the longer necked tumbler.

Mezcal has no official glassware like tequila does.  Most traditional or ancestral mezcals at higher alcohol grades are usually served in gourds or clay “copitas” without masking their true characteristics.  Instead, these vessels seem to enhance the complexity of the mezcals.

In other words, one could serve a well made mezcal from a tennis shoe without affecting the overall flavor profile!

For this reason, the marketability of two distinct glasses—one for tequila and one for mezcal, or other agave spirits—may not be a bad idea.

As with any new innovation in drinking vessels, training in its use is essential to its success and acceptance among the agave spirits communities.

Bonus!

Lastly, I discovered that while testing the jarrito tumblers, they required far less liquid to sample and make proper determinations.

In medal competitions, this factor could lead to much less palate fatigue for judges, and cost savings to brand owners.

Recommendation…

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that with the jarrito, there were no surprises or incongruence in the nose vs. flavor factor.

The only surprise is that the jarrito made it so easy!

 

Signed:  Mike Morales, CEO

Tequila Aficionado Media

One With Life at Bracken Cave

 [From September 11 to October 2, 2016, Tequila Aficionado Media, sponsored by 34 expressions representing 21 brands, embarked on an epic RV road show dubbed, The Heartland Tour.  In these next passages, we recount the historic–and epic–highlights.  *FTC Disclosure: Brands appearing on the Tequila Aficionado Dia de Los Muertos & Heartland Tour had to be vetted as Brand of Promise Nominees and paid a nominal fee to be on the tour.] 

Bat Fascination

One With Life at Bracken Cave http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4x6From watching the campy Batman TV series, or seeing Michael Keaton’s classic Batman movie at least 8 times when it premiered back in 1989, or devouring vintage Dracula movies with Bela Lugosi, I’ve always been captivated by bats.

Despite my fascination with them, I’d only seen bats in captivity at zoos, or in film documentaries.  I’ve never actually seen them in the wild until our visit to Bracken Cave on the first leg of Tequila Aficionado’s 2016 Heartland Tour.

Bracken Cave, Texas

Also known as the Devil’s Sinkhole, it’s a mere 20 miles from San Antonio and houses the largest bat maternity colony in the world.  More than 15 million Mexican free-tail bats call Bracken Cave their summer home.

This enormous vertical cavern is considered to be the largest single-chamber cavern in Texas.  The opening is a shaft approximately 50 feet wide that drops 140 feet into the cavern.  The shaft then balloons to a diameter of over 320 feet and reaches a total depth of over 350 feet.

One With Life at Bracken Cave http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4x6

Braken Cave:  The Largest Mammal Nursery on Earth

Every square foot of Bracken Cave is jam packed with gestating or nursing female bats (almost 500 per!) that return every March and April after wintering in Mexico, to give birth to their pups.

While it is the nectar feeding bats that service our beloved agaves, specifically One With Life at Bracken Cave http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4x6the lesser long-nosed bat that the “Batman of Mexico,” Rodrigo Medellin, has so tirelessly championed, along with the Tequila Interchange Project’s “bat friendly” tequila and mezcal certification program, the Mexican free-tail variety also plays an important role in agriculture.

In fact, the estimated 100 million free-tail bats living in Central Texas caves eat approximately 1000 tons of insects and agricultural pests nightly at altitudes of anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 feet feeding primarily on the cotton boll-worm moth (a.k.a. corn ear worm moth) that alone costs American farmers up to a billion dollars annually.

Bats Are Dying, Part 2

As we mentioned in the above article written during last year’s Dia de los Muertos Tequila & Mezcal Tour, not only is the industrialization of tequila and mezcal tampering with the bats’ migratory behavior, but a new killer, White-nose Syndrome (Pseudogymnoascus destructans), is also a threat.

Known as WNS, it is a cold-loving white fungus found on the wings and faces of infected bats.  It causes bats to awaken too often during hibernation and to use up stored fat reserves while flying in winter.  These creatures usually freeze or starve to death.

One With Life at Bracken Cave http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4x6

First detected in 2006 in a cave in New York, it is still a mystery as to how this disease has spread so quickly (7 bat species, 26 states and 5 Canadian provinces, and counting).  The national park system, however, is doing its part to cut down on the spread of this epidemic.

Later on in our Heartland Tour at Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, also a home to bats, hikers were asked to walk onto a soap soaked carpet for several feet after a shortened cave tour.  It is believed that tourists who visit national parks could be inadvertently spreading WNS via footwear.

Bat-nado!

Witnessing the appearance of 4 million bats from a true bat cave is a sight like no other.

The first sign that alerts onlookers are the groups of Peregrine falcons that prey on the Mexican free-tails.  These birds instinctively know when the first nightly pilgrims dare to ascend.

Let’s just say that not every bat makes it out of Bracken Cave alive.

One With Life at Bracken Cave http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4x6No flash photography is allowed so as not to upset the bats during their nightly emergence, and once photography is no longer possible, it’s time to just enjoy the phenomenon of the “bat-nado,” the counterclockwise vortex that the bats create when leaving the cave on their quest for food.

We stood wide eyed in quiet reverence as literally millions of bats flew overhead gathering speed and altitude to feed on the moths and insects that attack corn and cotton farms outside the city of San Antonio, and well beyond.

The fluttering of millions of pairs of wings sounded like rain lightly tapping on a tin roof.  The breeze created by their flight cooled the muggy air around us.

Just close your eyes and smile.

One With Life at Bracken Cave http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4x6

Open your eyes and smile.

By the light of the half moon, the waves of bats disappeared like clouds of smoke over the tree tops of Bracken Cave reserve.

One With Life

Later that evening in the RV park, safely tucked away for the night, we selected One With Life certified organic tequila to toast our first magical experience on OWL_labelsthe Heartland Tour.

On the inside label of every batch of One With Life tequila there is a “tequila fortune cookie” or inspirational message.  Ours read–

“Wherever you go, be fully there.”

And, if you listen closely, you might even hear a bat flutter by.

***

Enjoy these few minutes of the bat emergence from Bracken Cave.

Embajador Tequila: Framework for The Future

[Transportation, room and board were provided to M.A. “Mike” Morales by Embajador Tequila in order to research this article.  No monetary compensation was received and no guarantee of a favorable article was given by M.A. ‘Mike” Morales or Tequila Aficionado Media.  This article was written by, and is the opinion of, M.A. “Mike” Morales.]

Open Doors

Embajador Tequila: Framework for The Future http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4mC

Everyone in Atotonilco had heard of the Fabrica Santa Rosa’s suspension due to COFEPRIS’ (Comisión Federál para la Protección contra Reisgos Sanitarios) and SAT’s (Servicio de Admistración Tributaria) prolonged “Juntos Contra la Ilegalidad” (“Together Against Illegality”) crusade  to reduce illegally produced alcoholic beverages on the Mexican market.

Many were shocked since Embajador’s outstanding reputation for producing top notch tequilas had been stalwartly guarded–and envied–for years.

20160719_165039Collectively, the crew at Fabrica Santa Rosa was still reeling from the aftereffects of the shutdown.  A few described these agencies’ G-Men as acting arrogantly and condescendingly.

Certainly, this was no way to treat a group of professionals who had many years of extensive experience in distilling frontline tequilas to the strict adherence of the normas.

Individually, each recounted how he or she felt ambushed by the government officials and bum-rushed by the deliberate escalation of what were considered by many high ranking officials in the industry as minor—even laughable– infractions.

Despite that, neighboring tequila distilleries were shaking in their boots wondering if their stored tequila would be targeted by those government agencies’ assault that existed only to add more liters of seized juice to their latest numbers.

In fact, the concerned brand owner’s tequila who inspired my Bullying In Tequila editorial during the early stages of Embajador’s closure, is distilled just up the road from Fabrica Santa Rosa.

In this clip, we entered through the iron gates of the perimeter of Tequila Embajador.  The rows of estate grown agave and the rich, red soil of Atotonilco el Alto took center stage.

(Taken from inside our SUV, it may be too fast to watch continuously, and the sound is a bit muffled by the wind as we drove onto the grounds.)

20160719_124459

Once we parked on the property, the charm of the Fabrica Santa Rosa took over.

How the Magic Happens

Here’s where it all starts:  three autoclaves, from 40,000 KGS to 25,000 KGS in capacity, plus 2 ovens of mamposteria (brick/stone masonry).  The cook time in autoclaves is approx 10 hours; in ovens it’s 24 hours.  Embajador is a combination of both of these methods.

Behind the Iron Door

Opening the iron door of one of the masonry ovens and taking a peek inside.  As you can tell, it’s quite a chore.

Adjusting to Variables

Our tour guide, Francisco Segura Garcia, the company’s accountant and bookkeeper who, since the age of 16 has worked in the tequila industry in some form, explains–

A tahona for the boutique distillery.
A tahona for the boutique distillery.

What influences the flavor profile of a tequila?  A common question, he admits, that has a simple answer, yet, complex at the same time.  For instance…

Older agave vs. younger agave; and healthy agave vs. diseased agave.  If you put either of these through the same process, you won’t get the same results.

20160719_144545 (2)Cooking time varies with the time of year, as well.  That’s why there are master distillers with years of experience in the variations that can affect the final outcome.  Also, the seasons of the year makes a difference (summer vs. winter).

The agave is an extraordinary organism, continues Francisco.  One of the most adaptable plants ever created.  It can exist in the desert or near the coast.  Wherever water is abundant, or in extremely arid climates.

Francisco outlines that when they harvest during the colder months, the agave defends itself with a special coating that they must adjust for.

Variables like pressure, cook time, water temperatures at shredding, and above all, fermentation and distillation.  Otherwise, the tequila produced appears cloudy and bitter even though you’ve followed the same recipe as before.

Two Important Elements

Francisco discusses the importance of fermentation and distillation, and how they are equally influential elements within the tequila making process.

The type of yeast used during fermentation is also important since some can produce more higher alcohols than others, which is in violation of the normas.

Framework surrounding a new shredder.
Framework surrounding a new shredder.

Embajador uses proprietary yeast made from their own estate grown agave.

Fermentation time also varies depending upon the time of year (warm vs. cold weather).

The Vision

We witnessed the ongoing construction on the grounds leading to its phased in expansion that would eventually include a boutique distillery within the larger Embajador distillery.  It will include a tahona, barrel room, gift shop, and an historically accurate re-creation of a vintage working tequila taberna, among other things.

The mini distillery is estimated to be completed by the end of 2016, with the remaining improvements to be finished within a year.

Eco-Friendly

Aiming to cut down on the distillery’s carbon footprint, the eco-conscious family recently modernized the fabrica by installing a boiler to heat water used in the plant.  It runs on a combination of leftover bagasse (bagazo) from shredding the agave and wood chips.

The Future Framework

The framework of Embajador’s future.  More of the buildings and what they will house on the grounds.  (Hint:  Even the bricks of the vintage distillery are made by hand.)

Positioned For Success

Licenciado Cristobal Morales Hernández, legal representative for Tequila Embajador and the Fabrica Santa Rosa, describes what he sees for the immediate future of Embajador in two to three years, including the improvements and growth projected for the distillery.

He also takes into consideration the ramping up of the volume of the plant’s production without suffering a dip in quality of its consistently exceptional juice that they have proudly maintained for 12 years.

He concludes that the buying public should continue to expect the same lofty standards of prizewinning tequila and he acknowledges that the situation concerning the mandated stoppage in production was simply a lesson learned.

See And Taste For Yourself

Lic. Morales relays what he wants consumers to know about Embajador.

He graciously extends a heartfelt invitation to the public to see their more than adequate facilities for themselves.

Shhh...Embajador is resting.
Shhh…Embajador is resting.

He ensures that Embajador is strictly adhering to Mexican and global regulations, and that when the public samples any of the tequilas produced at the fabrica that they can be assured of its propensity for high standards of excellence.

Special Feature: Riedel Glassware Care

Special Feature: Riedel Glassware Care http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4lKRiedel glassware care for tequila aficionados, courtesy of Rick Thibault Levy and M.A. “Mike” Morales.

 

We’re all about using fine glassware to enjoy our tequilas to the fullest but washing Riedel glasses after a tasting can have you not-so-happily singing 99 Riedel glasses on the wall and counting down as the delicate buggers shatter when you’re trying to remove towel lint from the inside of the glass or work out a water spot.  Rick Levy has the solution and Mike Morales now sleeps better at night knowing it!  Use a chamois! 

Riedel Ouverture Glass

Shaped for extracting full enjoyment when sipping tequila, the four glasses in this set have narrow bowls on long, slender, stylish stems. Part of the moderately priced Ouverture series offered by world-renowned Austrian glassmaker Riedel Crystal (founded in 1756), they’re lead-free. That means they’re not crystal like Riedel’s premium glasses but are machine blown of potash glass and are dishwasher-safe. Their thin rims are cut and polished to Riedel’s exacting standards, so tequila flows easily onto the tongue and flavor is enhanced. Each glass holds 6-3/4 ounces and stands 8-1/4 inches high

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

USA_Today_comIn early August of 2016, I received an email from USA Today asking me to weigh in on their craft spirits-themed Readers’ Choice contests, and in our case (at press time), the soon-to-be-launched craft tequilas list.

I’ll be honest, I dread these lists.  What’s worse is, I dread being asked to participate in compiling them.

Let me tell you why.

It’s A List

In the Digital Age, everyone wants things in bite sized form and they want it now.  It is also proven that numbered lists draw attention.  And, there are so many of them out there on the Interwebs–

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover…

The 10 Best Ways to Cheat On Your Mate…

Six Ways Your Cat Plots to Kill You…

A Word About Your Sins

Ever wonder why those numbered titles are so enticing?7-deadly-sins

It’s because they are aimed at the 7 Deadly Sins.

A steadfast rule of copywriters is to compose content that elicits an emotional response from readers to take action.

To drive your particular sin even further to cause you to read the content, the word YOU is hammered into every title.

[Editor’s note:  See what I did with my title?  You choose which sin fits best for YOU.]

Craft Is A Buzzword

As we thoroughly examined in our reports, Craft Tequila:  WTF Does That Mean? Parts 1 and 2, the term craft has been kidnapped by marketers writing fancy copy to confuse the consumer.

Only 10?

gato sorprendido

While the instructions in the email required at least 20 selections from me, the contest will butcher the selections down to only 10–

Selected by those who are unaware of what a craft tequila really is, and…

Curated by someone whose job it is to find ways to engage USA Today’s readers.

It’s A Contest

check-list-red-wfjgrkbmmkvlWhen our COO, Lisa Pietsch, examined the contest website and the myriad of other pre-existing lists, she found that this is a clever way for USA Today to increase reader engagement.

Reader engagement translates to readers’ time spent on USA Today’s mammoth website, which in turn translates to money they charge advertisers.

The term we use is “sticky” as in spider’s web sticky.

Which leads me to–

Paid Advertisers 

Having been paid to ghost write Editor’s Choice lists in the past, I am fully aware that many times, spirits sponsors of major magazines and websites tend to sneak onto them.

This, despite my vehement objections to the editors that such a move invalidates the list altogether.

So, before any of the Usual Suspects wind up on USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards Craft Tequilas list, here are my selections.  Bear in mind, I was limited to only twenty brands.

The Top 20 Craft Tequilas You’ve Overlooked

In no particular order…

  1. Fortaleza
  2. T1 Tequila Uno
  3. Tears of Llorana
  4. Suerte
  5. Siembra Azul
  6. Siembra Valles
  7. Tapatio
  8. Tequila G4
  9. ArteNOM 1414
  10. ArteNOM 1580
  11. ArteNOM 1146
  12. ArteNOM 1549
  13. Trianon
  14. Pasote
  15. Embajador
  16. Alquimia
  17. DesMaDre
  18. Dulce Vida
  19. Don Fulano
  20. IXA

The Fallout

12995-anxiety_news

Whether any of my selections make the cut, remains to be seen.

Depending on who the other “tequila experts” were that contributed to the final list to be voted on, the results, if nothing else, should be interesting.

One thing is for certain–

Not everyone will be happy.

Tequila Marketing Happy Talk

Tequila Marketing Happy Talk http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4hXSome well-meaning follower posted on our Facebook page this answer to a press release referring to Espolón tequila…

“PSA: “super premium” has no real meaning—it’s marketing happy talk.”

While we’re inclined to believe that sneaky marketers have hijacked the word premium and turned it into a buzzword, in all actuality, it is a spirits pricing term.

Let’s Review

As we pointed out in our feature, Craft Tequila:  WTF Does THAT Mean? Part 2, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), the national trade association and lobbyist representing the leading producers and marketers of distilled spirits in the United States, separates all booze into four categories–

Value, Premium, High End Premium and Super Premium.  [Note the absence of the term, Ultra Premium.]

The confusion stems from the fact that DISCUS lists the price points of each particular spirit by supplier revenue per case, not by retail price per bottle.

It is DISCUS’ industry-focused terms that are the culprit, and marketers have indelibly embedded premium into consumer’s minds like an embarrassing tattoo on a mixologist’s forearm.

Think Like a Marketer

[Warning:  You might want to shower after this segment.]

Webster’s Online Dictionary defines premium as “a price that is higher than the regular price.”

Want to think like a marketer?

Then, run premium through Webster’s Thesaurus and inhale deeply as if you’ve just stumbled upon a secret cava filled to the ceiling with barrels of resting añejos.

Revel in the treasure trove of descriptors like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now.

via GIPHY

A Stroll Down the Tequila Aisle

Now that you’ve toweled off, take a look at DISCUS’ 2015 Industry Review Supplemental Tables, here.

Scroll to the section titled Distilled Spirits Pricing Categories and notice the names listed under Major Brands, especially those in the Tequila segment.

Bear in mind that all spirits categories are measured by how well or badly the Big Boys are performing.  Your preferred craft label may not even be mentioned.

Tequila Marketing Happy Talk http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4hXNow, pretend you’re in the Tequila Aisle of your favorite liquor store and ask yourself–

Would I buy this tequila?

Whether your answer is yes or no, determine where your preferred tequila brand is priced and pigeonholed.

Value, Premium, High End Premium and Super Premium.

Are they within a few bucks of the Usual Suspects, or are they completely out of your ballpark?

By the way, if you’re drinking at the Ultra Premium range, I have swamp land in Arizona that I’d like to unload, er, sell to you.

Falling For Marketing Happy Talk

Next, just for kicks and giggles, take a gander at DISCUS’ US Tequila Market at a Glance, here.

Look closely at the astronomical growth of the High End Premium and Super Premium divisions since 2002-2003.  This trend even has a name–

Premiumisation.  How’s that for a buzzword?

Depending on which categories your favorite tequilas land, are you Tequila Marketing Happy Talk http://wp.me/p3u1xi-4hXcomfortable paying those prices?

Put another way–

Are you happy for supporting the Big Boys all these years?

Remember, there is no shame in sipping value tequilas.  We won’t judge you.  When in doubt, turn to our Sipping Off The Cuff(c) episodes to help with your buying decisions.

Go ahead…

Reach for that box of tissues, pour yourself a craft tequila, and vow never again to fall for the marketing happy talk.

 

NOM 199 Will Bring the Tequila & Mezcal Apocalypse

[This editorial (with my comments) is inspired by the following video on the dastardly NOM 199 currently in review in Mexico.  Please, take a few moments to view this easy-to-follow video, then, feel free to share it among your friends, family, colleagues and cohorts.

Afterwards, go here to sign the petition and unifying statement against NOM 199.]

¿Qué es la NOM199? / What is NOM199 from pedro jimenez gurria on Vimeo.

First, a Little History

In 2012, a Mexican legislation called NOM 186 was launched that would regulate any agave spirit.  It would have deprived many rights to small traditional and artisanal mezcal producers outside the Denomination of Origin of Tequila and Mezcal.

All other agave spirits would have been erroneously called “AGUA ARDIENTE de AGAVECEA.”

It would have also trademarked the word “AGAVE” to the Tequila Industry.

This would be like trying to trademark the word “grape.”

Imagine small winemakers not being able to say that their wine was made from grapes because they didn’t own the trademark, “grape?”

Dumb, huh?

Both these measures were driven by the Tequila Industry and the Mexican Ministry of Economy, among other institutions.

Through the efforts of those in the academic fields, hospitality (bars and restaurants), interested WORLD citizens with large social media followings, and those concerned about the fair regulation of what we eat and drink, this NOM was soundly defeated.

NOM 199: The Zombie of NOM 186!

Now, there’s a new initiative that’s designed to revive those previously rejected proposals.

It has been signed and endorsed by the Tequila Industry, the Regulatory Board of Mezcal, and other transnational corporations—and you know who they are!

This time, they aim to misinform you the consumer, about what you are drinking by renaming agave spirits outside of the Denomination of Origins of Tequila and Mezcal as “KOMIL.”

Ever hear of the term komil?

Me, neither.

Nobody has.

There are no cultural records or documents anywhere in Mexico that refer to an agave distillate by the term komil—

None.

It is based on a Nahuatl word (KOMILI) meaning, “intoxicant [inebriating] drink.”

If one of NOM 199’s very own passages is correct:

“The information printed on the labels of the bottles must be truthful and not induce confusion in the consumer as to the nature and characteristics of the product,” then…

They’re doing it all wrong.

If these distillates are forced to be labeled KOMIL and forbidden to use the word AGAVE, it will be more ambiguous and confusing to the consumer and he/she won’t be as informed as to what the drink is made from.

Komil could literally be eggnog like rompope, a tequila or mixto tequila, or any drink that intoxicates.

Currently, any mezcal outside of the Denomination of Origin cannot be termed Mezcal.  Instead it is referred to as “destilado de agave” (agave distillate) or “aguardiente de agave” (agave firewater).

That is already a huge commercial disadvantage.

If this legislation passes and becomes law, these spirits would be forced to label themselves as KOMILES [plural of KOMIL].

This would not only increase unfair competition and confuse the consumer, but would also deprive the basic human rights of those who preserve the tradition of making these distillates by calling them by their actual true name.

This proposed legislation is a cultural and labor dispossession, and an arbitrarily imposed term.

It is designed to wipe out or erase the cultural, historical and familial stories inherent in each beautiful and distinctive agave spirit.

 Consider it a form of genocide.

fb 199Imagine not ever being able to tell the story behind your grandmother’s favorite recipe for cookies or apple pie even though it’s been in your family for generations?

We agree that all alcoholic beverages need some sort of regulation because there are those unscrupulous producers whose beverages deceive and defraud consumers and threaten their health.

This is precisely why we demand consistent, detailed, inclusive, normas (laws) with not only an economic basis in mind, but with academic and bio-cultural, as well.

The spirit that each of these small producers make are derived by distilling AGAVE.

There’s no reason to lie and call it KOMIL.

Let’s call it what it is.

Stay informed and protect what’s yours—The National Heritage. #sellamamezcal  #NoKomil

The BIG Business Of Kosher Tequila, Part IV

Why Go Kosher?

dulce vida, anejo, tequila, kosher tequilaThat’s what we asked several Kosher tequila and mezcal brand owners and ambassadors.  Some of their reasons may surprise you.

Richard Sorenson, Founder of Dulce Vida Tequila, the only 100 proof organic tequila to date, comes from an organic foods background having developed the first USDA organic energy drink on the market to gain national distribution.

“Kosher certification is not something we focus heavily on,” admits Sorenson.  Yet, in Dulce Vida’s case, it legitimizes and solidifies the company’s pledge to the consumer to be “authentic and pure.”  

In fact, Sorenson does not believe that “organic and kosher certification are mutually exclusive” and instead, go hand-in-hand.

Lisa Barlow, co-founder with her husband, John, of Vida Tequila.vida tequila, kosher tequila

“Kosher means ‘fit  or appropriate.’  Some people think that all tequila (blanco) is kosher.

“One thing we do, under kosher certification, is to use a kosher certified yeast for the fermentation process.  Not all brands do this. 

I love kosher law in general, and feel it’s been something I’m proud to say VIDA is.

“I know it’s trendy now to say you’re Kosher but for us it’s something we have been proud of since launching in 2007.  To me it shows we care about the quality of our 100% Agave Azul line of tequila.

“I’m proud our product carries the kosher logo.”

Camille Austin, brand ambassador for Montelobos mezcal–

“To be Kosher is to guarantee, in all aspects of production, that all standards of cleanliness which the Jewish religion requires are met. 

“This is an interesting subject I’ve touched with Ivan [Saldaña, developer of Montelobos mezcal] quite a bit, as well.  In mezcal production, as you know with its diversity, a number of things can be crucial elements to ensuring all requirements are fulfilled.

“For starters, guaranteeing there are no animal products (meats or insects) that contaminate the process. Therefore, a traditional Pechuga mezcal could not be considered Kosher.

“Another important element would be to ensure that all animals involved in production are treated with dignity and respect as is the case with our beloved mule Rambo, who pulls the Tahona to make the Montelobos mash.

“We thoroughly pick through all our raw material, the espadin [agave], one by one, and make sure there are no worms, beetles or other insects.

“Fermentation is key as not all yeast used to make agave spirits has a Kosher origin.  In the case of Montelobos, we ferment naturally in open air, without adding yeast, for a controlled period of no more than 7 days.

montelobos, kosher mezcal
The many facets of Montelobos mezcal.

“There are many organizations globally that are dedicated specifically to audits and certifications such as this.  At Casa Montelobos, we are certified and audited every few months through the OU, or Orthodox Union, based in New York City which is one of the most strict and internationally recognized Kosher organizations in the world.

“On the back label of each bottle you will find a big circled “U” identifiable with this organization.

“You could say that to be certified Kosher is to be disciplined, consistent and organized in your production process.  It is a demonstration to those, albeit those who enjoy your product as consumers or those who are your mezcalero piers, that you are an open book with how you make your product.

“At Montelobos, although a quite small production, we are very proud of the final product and are committed to maintaining the cleanest and most natural standards to make our mezcal.”

With help from Leyenda del Milagro’s brand ambassador, J.P. DeLoera,

Moises Guindi, co-founder of Milagro explains:

“As you may know, kosher certification is related to certifying that a product complies with a set of rules stated in the Jewish religion. 

“That said, Tequila in its essence and based on the laws that regulate tequila production (NOM) would be with some exceptions I will point out, Kosher.

“That said, in order for a product to be Kosher, it requires an audit to ensure it does not fall into the exceptions that would make it non-Kosher.

“These exceptions, in the case of tequila, would be related in adding additives or flavoring agents that may contain a non-kosher ingredient.  Other exceptions would be certain yeasts and the aging in barrels that contained non-kosher products beforehand such as Brandy or Wine.

“The Kosher certification also requires that there are no insects inside the bottles so quality controls to ensure this are required.

“On the  commercial side, being Kosher is an enabler for all those consumers being Jewish or not that are looking to buy products that do not contain any non kosher ingredients.”

From Cesar Barba, Production Planning and Warehouse Coordinator at Milagro’s distillery:

“As Moisés stated, Kosher is a certification to ensure the Jewish community that the production process is compliant with the Jewish religion.

“That being said, this certification is made annually by a certification house that sends a rabbi to make sure that the agave, the distillery, and the barrels (if used), are all Kosher compliant.

“The rabbi sent by the certification house is like an external auditor, so it varies depending on the auditors’ availability, hence why there is no particular rabbi coming to OPTE.  Also, there are some “surprise” visits during the year to make sure we are still Kosher compliant.

“We are certified with KMD, whose logo can be seen in the back label, but there several other certification houses and they are all recognized worldwide.

“The main advantage of being Kosher certified is that you can reach a very specific market niche.

milagro“Given the previous statements, we are Kosher because:

–       We are Kosher certified.

–       Our third-party distiller partner is Kosher certified.

–       We use Kosher certified products from non-animal origin during our production process.

–       Our barrels did not hold any non-Kosher products.

–       We have annual certification visits and one or two audits during each year, depending on the external auditor’s (rabbi) availability.

“Moy basically shared that one of the most important processes to scrutinize is fermentation, where producers may add non-kosher yeast and other additives i.e.:  urea.”

DeLoera concludes, “Finally, a neat story is that Danny and Moy are from different Jewish backgrounds.  Danny is from the Ashkenazi heritage, and Moy from the Sephardim heritage.

“Because Jewish weddings demand all products be Kosher, and Danny and Moy wanted Milagro at their weddings (of course!).  Initially Milagro was certified by agencies from each and both Jewish traditions.  Now it is a bit of good banter, and the one that stands is KMD, which is from the Sephardim tradition, and KMD is known to hold the strictest audits and standards.”

See The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila videos here.

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part III

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequila from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

Still confused about the Kosher dietary laws and how it could affect your favorite agave spirits?  Then, check out Part 1.

Interested to learn more about how these agave spirits brands came to be certified kosher?  See Part 2.

If you’re a…

Tequila and Mezcal Consumer–

Arm yourself.

Both KMD and KA-Kosher supply lists of kosher certified alcoholic beverages.  As we mentioned in Part 1, so does the Chicago Rabbinical Council.  In each instance, be aware that when it comes to tequilas and mezcals…

All Lists Are Flawed!

kosher tequilaUnlike the CRT’s NOM Lists that are updated roughly each month, these kosher lists seemed not to have been touched in years.  And of the brands that were listed, more often than not, were now, sadly, extinct.

Upon closer examination of the KA-Kosher list, many of the certified tequilas are brands distributed in Mexico only.  The American kosher consumer is left out in cold (unless you’re on vacation in Mexico during the holidays!).

In another instance, tequila Embajador is listed as kosher.  When contacted, neither the importer nor the owners of the distillery was aware that the brand was certified.  When they contacted KA-Kosher about the discrepancy, a rabbinical coordinator admitted that Embajador’s certification had lapsed, likely years ago, but whose name still appeared on the list.

In KMD’s case, a quick search reveals that many of the popular global brands listed are suspect and known to process tequilas with diffusers.

In light of new industrial processes like diffusers and their use of sulfuric acid in catalyzed hydrolysis of agave, how can these tequilas be kosher–or even organic–for that matter?

We recently reached out to the cRc and confirmed in a phone conversation with a Rabbinical Coordinator that (at press time) it is taking steps to update its list of kosher tequilas, and, hopefully, adding mezcals.

In the meantime…

How Do I Tell If The Tequila Or Mezcal I Purchase

Is Kosher?

Glad you asked.  First, let’s dispel a few “kosher myths.”

Aren’t All Blanco Tequilas Kosher?

At one time, that was the general point of view by kashut authorities, until the use of glycerin became widely known as an approved additive in the tequila normas.

Here is an article on the OU’s (Union of Orthodox Rabbis) stance on “blenders” such as glycerin in the case of alcoholic beverages.

A Word About Barrels

Another rumor going around is that aged tequilas aren’t considered kosher.

Dulce_VidaNot so when you consider that one of the most popular kosher brewers on the planet, Shmaltz Brewing Company, ages all their lines, including their recent 2015 holiday offering,  Chanukah in Kentucky, in used Jim Beam and Heaven Hill barrels.

Dulce Vida’s 5 year Extra Añejo is also kosher, aged in used red wine barrels from Napa Valley.  (And, yes, there are kosher wineries in Napa.  Google it!)

Richard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida writes, “The barrels are Rombauer Merlot and Cabernet barrels.  They are gorgeous barrels and all have the Rombauer logo emblazoned in the wood.”

Without going into too much detail, in a phone conversation with the Rabbinical Coordinator for the cRc, he informed that if a particular barrel was first used to house kosher wine, then generally speaking, that barrel could be used in aging spirits.  He also mentioned that there was a way to kosher-ize (referred to as koshered) barrels for aging wines and spirits.

Research shows that some cooking utensils can be boiled or blowtorched to be spiritually cleansed.

In a follow up email with this cRc Rabbinical Coordinator, he wrote:  “Kosherizing a barrel which was used to store wine is a complicated and detailed process.  One method involves thoroughly cleaning the barrel, followed by a series of fresh water rinsings.”

The rabbi cautions, however, that, “Due to the complex nature of this process, it should only be undertaken by a recognized and reputable kosher agency.”

It goes without saying that each instance should be judged by that kosher agency on a case-by-case, or barrel-by-barrel, basis to ensure proper koshered rules were followed.

To learn more about the beliefs behind kosher wines, click here.

Isn’t Pareve Enough?

pareve-370x260-300x212This one’s tricky.

A food or drink item labeled pareve means that it can be used together with either a dairy product or a meat product and will not lead to the mixing of meat and dairy as per Jewish dietary instructions.  If you’ve perused the aforementioned lists above, you’ll see that term used after each brand.

Keep in mind that all agave spirits are fermented products.  Depending on the distillery’s fermentation process, they could be using enzymes and yeast accelerators that could come from animal sources that are prohibited by the Jewish dietary laws, and hense, not pareve.

To investigate pareve further, click here.

So, circling back to your original question–

Kosher Tequila, Or Not Kosher Tequila? 

Given the unreliability of the existing kosher lists in circulation, and the lack of transparency on behalf of multinational corporations that mass produce tequila and mezcal, proceed like any other tequila aficionado and–

Check The Label!

Similar to NOM numbers, and organically certified products, search for the seal of a trusted and well-known kosher certifying agency.  Familiarize yourself with their seals and logos shown in Part 1.

Any reputable agave spirit brand that claims to be kosher will proudly display the kosher seal they qualified for–and paid for the privilege of using–somewhere on the bottle or label.

Bottom line…

Santera_K

If it’s not there, it ain’t kosher.

***

In Part 4, discover why certain tequila and mezcal brands decided to “go Kosher.”

The BIG Business of Kosher Tequila, Part II

[An urgent text message about Kosher tequilas from an agave beverage manager at a thriving new bar in New York City, and the resulting questions raised from research into this misunderstood market from all points–tequila and mezcal brand owners, consumers, and rabbinical representatives of the Jewish faith–prompted me to finally discuss the positive, often flawed, and vastly under served kosher tequila and mezcal segments of the market.]

But first, if you’re a…

Tequila or Mezcal Brand Owner

…take a quick peek at Part 1, in case you’re still in the dark about what being kosher means.

Next, before you decide whether being certified kosher is the right move for your brand, here are a few things to consider.

Reliability

siembra_azulDoes the rabbinic field representative of the kosher certifying agency actually understand the tequila or mezcal making process?  Is this person willing to do his due diligence?  And, is he willing to be on-site and to participate at each stage of the certification process?

David Suro, importer and brand owner of the famed Siembra Spirits brands of tequila and mezcal, recalled only positive experiences with the rabbi who oversaw the kosher certification of the first batches of his tequila, Siembra Azul.

“The rabbi was thorough and always there,” recalls Suro.  “I was very comfortable with someone who cared that much.”

(Tequila Treasure Bottle Hunters take note:  Only the first three batches of Siembra Azul were ever designated kosher.)

Is It A Hassle?

Depending on the agency you use, your particular distillery, and if your processes and recipes are consistent, you may be subjected to only one on-site audit and subsequent annual fees to continue using the kosher seal.

Other agencies could require unannounced visits by rabbinical field representatives to determine if your brand should continue to carry its hechsher.

What About Going Organic?

dulce vida, tequila, reposadoRichard Sorenson, founder of Dulce Vida Tequila that is both organic and kosher, admits that the company tends to focus more on being certified organic, but doesn’t feel the two certifications “…are mutually exclusive, but go hand-in-hand.”

This helpful article on the EarthKosher website could help you weigh the differences and similarities of the two certifications.

What’s All This Gonna Cost?

Here’s where it gets sticky.

Depending on the brand’s (or distillery’s) needs, an approximate cost could range from $25,000 pesos ($1437.98) per year, to tens of thousands of dollars– per batch!

The price varies from business to business, and from industry to industry.  Your best bet is to get an on-site estimate from a respected agency and then determine…

What’s My ROI on Kosher Tequila? 

Baron-TequilaDepending on which estimates you believe, you could be missing out on your cut of a multi-billion dollar market.

With the spirits industry anxious to tap into Millennials, you might heed the words of Mordy Dicker, Executive Vice President of Business Development for KEDEM/Kayco, who was quoted in this 2015 Kosherfest press release, “‘People think positively about kosher food.  It’s become trendy.’  Dicker said millennials, vegetarians and people who are glucose intolerant can now find what they need in the kosher space.”

Perhaps they should be looking for your tequila or mezcal, as well?

***

If you’re a tequila or mezcal aficionado and want to “keep kosher,” or simply a consumer looking for new kosher sipping experiences to share with your friends and family, we’ll show you how in Part 3.