A Sotol By Any Other Name

[On a sweltering August afternoon, Tequila Aficionado Media was invited by Mike Groener, CEO and President of Genius Liquids to sip and savor the latest addition to their Desert Spirit line, Texas Sotol, at their distillery in Austin, TX .]

Here Comes the Rain Again

MonsoonDay

Ask anyone who has spent any significant amount of time living in the Desert Southwest during Monsoon Season, and they will tell you that they can smell rain.  At those times, your part of town may be sunny and bone dry, but a strong breeze will carry the scent of falling raindrops for miles.  Sooner or later, the skies darken, thunder rolls, lightning strikes and the floodgates open.

Similarly, those who have sampled significant amounts of tequila or mezcal wet-cement-signduring their lifetimes will admit to the elusive “wet cement” flavor profile evocative of rain hitting a hot, dry sidewalk.

The latter is so rare these days with tequilas attempting to become smoother and more neutralized, and mezcals being distilled at the more accepting entry level 80 proof (40% ABV) than traditional higher strengths.

But try to describe true sotol such as Don Cuco as I meekly attempted to in Tom Barry’s insightful article, A Sotol Story , and you can fumble to find the words.

“To me, Don Cuco Sotol carries the best of all worlds.  It opens up — blooms — so much that it demands to be treated like a fine wine.  It has the smokiness of some of the best mezcals, but the flavor is simultaneously reminiscent of the best tequilas and then, not at all.”

Tumbando_sotolThe best descriptor that one can come up with is that sotol made in Chihuahua, Mexico smells and tastes like desert rain falling in that region.  It is arguably the truest illustration of the term terroir.

But what does Texas Sotol represent?  That’s what we came to Genius Liquids’ headquarters to find out.

Humble Beginnings

Mike Groener describes Genius Liquids’ humble beginnings and explains the process and challenges in producing Genius Gins and their new Texas Sotol.

The use of champagne yeast was at the suggestion of tequila Siembra Azul’s maker, David Suro, whom Mike met through John Garrett, a friend and spirits supervisor at distributor Victory Wine Group based in Dallas.

Here, Mike discusses more about the inspiration to use champagne yeast in his spirits.

Conscientious Objector to Vodka

Genius Liquids distills three types of gin (standard strength, navy strength, oaked), and Texas sotol, but no vodka.  Distilling something “odorless and tasteless doesn’t represent any piece of art” according to Groener.

Why Sotol?

2015-08-15 13.05.20To learn more about Chihuahua’s native spirit, Groener did his homework.  Through his relationship with Garrett, he has met Judah Kuper, co-founder of Mezcal Vago and spent time at Judah’s family mezcal palenque.

He has also sought advice on his Texas Sotol from Jacob Jacquez, fifth generation distiller of the legendary Don Cuco Sotol, and creator of newcomers, Ocho Cientos and Por Siempre sotol brands.  He has also communicated with representatives of the globally available Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol.

Groener admits that Genius Liquids is a bit egotistical when it comes to deciding what to distill, and prefers a challenge instead of the easy way out.

Sotol By Any Other Name

das_texanum(3)
Dasylirion texanum.

This lovely spirit of Mexico is not without its controversy.

Sotol from Chihuahua, Mexico is distilled using the dasylirion wheeleri plant, more commonly known as desert spoon or sereque in Spanish.

Genius Gin’s Desert Spirit Texas Sotol, however, uses North American sotol or Dasylirion texanum grown, wild harvested, cooked, fermented, and distilled in Texas.  This variety has evolved into a more compacted and hardier plant, designed to survive the harsh Texas summers.

All dasylirions were at one time considered distant relatives of the agave (agavaceae), but it is actually more akin to asparagus.

Mike furthers the debate and recounts the labeling issues concerning the word sotol, and why Genius Liquids prefers to brand it through their Desert Spirit line.

Texas Hill Country in A Bottle

Mike Groener pours a sample of Texas Sotol into my three types of glassware.  Unlike tequila, and to some degree, mezcal, sotol still does not have an official tasting glass.  Lisa Pietsch, Tequila Aficionado Media’s COO, describes it as “Texas Hill Country in a bottle.”

Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Like Master Distiller,  German González elaborating on how he came to create his opus, Tears of Llorona, Mike expounds on how, through their process, Genius Liquids has composed a transportive spirit in a “non-Auto-Tune way.”

 Tails of The Funk

Much like Montelobo’s Dr. Ivan Saldaña’s love affair with mezcal’s funkiness, Mike demonstrates how he carefully uses the colas (tails) after distillation to enhance Genius Liquids’ Desert Spirit Sotol.

The Magic Ingredient

Careful not to get too technical with his method of distillation, but with the same umph of Carlos Camarena’s (Tequila Tapatío) passion, Groener breaks down the love involved in producing a Genius Liquids spirit.

The Future

The first batch of Desert Spirit Texas Sotol was so well received that it sold out within two weeks of being launched.  The plan is to move Genius Liquids to larger digs due to the oppressive heat that prevents them from fermenting properly.

Groener spells out what the future holds for Genius Liquids and its expansion.

Off camera, Mike divulged that he’d like to wrestle with the challenge of producing a traditionally made Texas mezcal agave spirit, and has already sourced maguey for that project.  There are also plans for a blended agricole rum.

2015-08-15 13.06.27

In whatever direction Groener takes Genius Liquids, one can be sure that it will continue to seek, define and express the true meaning of Texas terroir–one small batch at a time.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Embajador Añejo Tequila Review | Steve Coomes

Embajador, Tequila, Supreme, Anejo, Review, Steve CoomesCompared to its siblings, Embajador Supreme Añejo is a big, big brother. 

Rested for 18 months—a full 10 months longer than its Premium Reposado—Supreme is a veritable post-grad student compared to its primary school brothers.

Yet, for all that age its color is surprisingly pale gold.  Not that color determines everything, but 18 months is a loooong sleep, a rest I assumed would yield a deeper amber cast.  (As I noted in my review of the Premium Reposado, used cooperage likely is the reason for its light color.) 

But don’t despair or stop reading now, patience has its rewards. Proceed apace.

The nose produces aromas of roasted agave, cherry and even a pleasantly sour orange curacao, which I dug.  Like Thanksgiving turkey, it’s fun just to sniff before inevitably giving into tasting.

Though not overly assertive like some añejos, the flavor is delicious, offering up abundant wood notes tempered by cocoa, ash, toasted oak, caramel, floral tones and honey. 

Simultaneously sweet and vegetal upon entry, its texture becomes weighty at mid-palate and especially when moved around the mouth.  There’s briefly nougat-like density at midpalate that fades quickly to honey before skulking off to a slow and delicate finish. 

The exhale practically ignites notes of rose and lavender, providing insight into the wild yeast influencing its ferment.Embajador, Tequila, Supreme, Anejo, Review, Steve Coomes

Having now tasted its full line, it’s clear that Embajador wants its tequilas to finish fast.  Perhaps that bids drinkers back to the glass for more or leaves them searching for lingering, pleasant flavors?  I don’t know.  But none of the three offerings give much of a goodbye.

Such a rapid departure isn’t an insult, however, it’s just different. And to be fair, I’m also a bourbon drinker who loves a high-proof palate punch, which isn’t for everyone. 

As proven by the success of Avion tequilas, there’s an abundance of drinkers who enjoy light-bodied sippers, and this would certainly fit that profile.

Distiller’s note: Supreme is best enjoyed neat at 68 F.

Embajador Tequila Online

 

Tstephen coomes, steve coomes, Embajador, Tequila, Supreme, Anejo, Review, Steve Coomesequila Aficionado is proud to welcome rising star in tequila and travel journalism, Stephen Coomes, as a Contributing Writer and Reviewer.  His steady gigs include roles as contributing editor for Nation’s Restaurant News (the U.S. restaurant industry’s largest publication), restaurant critic and feature writer for Louisville magazine, feature writer for Edible Louisville and Seafood Business magazines, Kentucky travel and dining contributor for Southern Living, and dining blogger for Insider Louisville. He also writes marketing, PR, web copy and ghostwrites for numerous private clients.  You can visit Steve online atwww.stevecoomes.com.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

How Your Favorite Periodicals Perpetuate Tequila Myths

One Day, At Band Camp…

Recently, myself, and a few select others in this tightly knit tequila community, were asked to be interviewed for quotes concerning “surprising things you can do with tequila” for the May issue of a major, worldwide men’s magazine.

In the US, this would be just in time for Cinco de Mayo, and the predictable onslaught of articles riddled with comical inaccuracies and beginning with hackneyed clichés like…

“Remember when you were in (grade school, high school, college)…?”  Or…

“Celebrating Mexican Independence Day…”  Or…

“I can’t stand the smell of tequila to this day because one time….”  And, my very favorite–

“…tequila, made from the agave cactus….”

The author of this upcoming article told me that his magazine’s circulation encompassed a wide age demographic that included

One day, at band camp...
One day, at band camp…

males from their mid-twenties to early sixties.  In other words, from Millennials to Baby Boomers.

He further confidently informed me that his readership “has no idea about tequila outside of Cuervo Gold.”

At least, that’s what his boss–the editor!–told him to assume was his audience.

I was both disheartened and dismayed.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

According to this magazine’s website…

“[It] is the world’s largest and best-selling men’s magazine with 47 editions in 61 countries and a global readership of more than +35 million.  In the U.S., [its] circulation exceeds 1.8 million, and it has been named a Capell’s Circulation Report top-ten performer every year for the past decade.”

This magazine also gives complete breakdowns of their demographics including education and income, and how they compare to other men’s magazines.

It is, by far, the leader.  Further, its mission statement is…

50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.
50 Shades of Grey, er, gray.

“It’s the brand for active, professional men who want greater control over their physical, mental and emotional lives.  We give men the tools they need to make their lives better through in-depth reporting, covering everything from fashion and grooming to health and nutrition as well as cutting edge gear, the latest entertainment, timely features and more.”

Lastly, it claims to be…

“#1 source of information for and about men.” 

Underestimating Your Audience

*Rant Alert!*

So–

What does it say about editors of major men’s magazines who still insist that their audience only shoots tequila and chugs suds when their own stats tell a different story?

Major men’s magazines who service this demographic continue to dumb down significant advancements in the spirits industry, as well as perpetuate tequila myths to keep their readers in the dark.

Tequila hasn’t just “come of age.”  It’s been coming “of age” for

Remember when luxury meant subtle?
Remember when luxury meant subtle?

the past twenty years like the most recent Paleo diet or ab workout.  Cutting edge technology doesn’t only occur in the latest sports car or luxury wristwatch.

Here’s a newsflash for you, Perry White–

The issues facing the Tequila Industry at this point in time are much more critical than “surprising things you can do with tequila.”

When you construct 9 pages on your website to convince potential advertisers that your audience is wealthy and educated, act like it.

Give them timely information with substance–

 For Instance…

This article in the Times-Picayune is a prime example of a journalist who refuses to underestimate her newspaper’s audience while adding value to their lives.

It’s no secret these days that the craft beer and distilling industries are taking a bite out of the huge market share that beer and spirits multinational corporations have dominated for decades.

In case you missed it, Tequila Aficionado Media tackled this issue at length in Craft Tequila–WTF Does That Mean? Part 1 and Part 2.  In Part 2, we made suggestions on how you can distinguish a craft tequila from all the others (the Craft Tequila Gauntlet).

These behemoth conglomerates continue to fight back, either by swallowing up smaller brewers or distillers, or, as in Budweiser’s case, by turning up its nose at the whole craft concept, illustrated in this now infamous Super Bowl XLIX TV spot.

 Consumers Care

Whether it’s a by product of self-education and exploration, or the education being received from the craft spirits sector of the market, the average consumer is becoming more aware of what they’re imbibing and demanding quality and transparency from the industry.

So much so, that some consumer groups have taken it upon themselves to sue spirits makers like Austin, Texas’ Tito’s Vodka, and most recently, Jim Beam bourbon, for false claims that they are handcrafted.

Handmade?
Handmade?

While Simon Ford, one of the erudite founders of The 86 Company, makers of Tequila Cabeza, agreed in this interview, that such lawsuits are frivolous, he does admit that small companies like his owes it to the consumer “to explain the ins and outs of how it’s made and why it’s a worthy spirit.”

Therein lies the rub.

The Truth and Nothing But The Truth

It behooves all small craft brands to continue educating their customers every chance they get, whether in person, through word-of-mouth, in point-of-sale materials (POS), or through social media channels.  And…

It is vitally important do so in print periodicals.

Conversely, it is the responsibility of the journalist, blogger, writer, copy editor or author of the article to report the information accurately–no matter what your boss says.

Think we’re being too difficult in demanding that we be quoted truthfully?  That we’re acting like prima donnas because we refuse to pair down our quote to fit your word count?  That we’re making a big deal out of a little white tequila lie?

Read this horrendous tequila blog posted on Liquor Online from August 2014, and then, get back to me.

If The Explosion Doesn’t Kill You, the Fallout Will

This piece of rubbish garnered such responses from readers like…

“What a disservice to someone that wants to learn / understand!”

And, this one…

Don't be THIS writer.
Don’t be THIS writer.

Lifestyle and Spirits Writers–

Let Me Let You In On a Little Secret…

It isn’t that we in this tequila community aren’t grateful for the opportunity to voice our opinions and impart our knowledge of our beloved spirit to your subscribers.  On the contrary–we are fully aware of the enormous goodwill that that kind of street cred can generate for us.

But you must understand and respect that it is our reputations, images, and brands that are also on the line.  Not to mention our character and integrity.

Remember–

You asked for our expertise to up your street cred, too!

Those of us throughout the tequila community take very seriously what we preach.  Whether we’re in the liquor store

Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?
Does your magazine add value to your lifestyle?

aisles or quoted in the pages of a magazine or newspaper, we believe that at every moment we are adding value to someone’s life and lifestyle.

Don’t Be That Magazine

Like it says on Tequila Aficionado Media’s website and all of its social media, it is…

“The most comprehensive and informative source for Tequila, Mezcal and Sotol on the Internet or in print today.”

We don’t pretend to be anything else.  Your favorite magazine shouldn’t either.

Learn all about tequila from field to glass and then get paid to share your love of agave spirits with others! Buy Them Both Now!

Tequila Penasco Anejo by Steve Coomes

 logo2white2, tequila, penasco anejo, penasco, tequila aficionado, bourbonThe Ohio Valley’s schizophrenic spring weather has had an unexpectedly positive effect on my home liquor cabinet. Since it’s been too warm for the furnace and too cool for the air conditioner, the house temp has averaged about 75 degrees for two months. And one of the most notable beneficiaries is Tequila Penasco Anejo (the bourbon has benefitted, too!).

 

Sipped somewhere in the mid-70s one evening, the blooming butterscotch and cooked agave nose was brilliant. A good bit more swishing elevated vegetal notes, hints of mint, lemongrass, and aguamiel. Since temperature raises alcohol volatility, I remained wary of vapor burn. Still, walking that fine line between elegant fragrance and fire was worth it.

 

The flavor of this spirit, rested 14 to 16 months in oak, was bright and brilliant, launching with all the predictable barrel notes of vanilla and light caramel, even touches of chocolate. Held in the mouth, the añejo delivered lush floral notes backed by cinnamon and some straw. After swallowing, that rumor of chocolate reappeared and then dissolved into bruléed sugar, butterscotch and toffee. Given a brief nap in the glass—and trust me, it’s hard to put down—this expression offered up orange peel, wood and again butterscotch, joined by coriander.

logo2white2, tequila, penasco anejo, penasco, tequila aficionado, bourbon

 

Some spirits lose their body when warm, but not this one. It was full and coated both glass and mouth evenly, always generous and soft to every surface. Vigorous swirling of the golden expression yielded numerous narrow legs lined up and evenly spaced as the Rockettes in action. Think that’s a bit much? Have a look for yourself. (Maybe it was the glass?)

 

Sadly, Tequila Peñasco did not supply any press information, such as what its products cost. A quick web search revealed only the brand’s notoriously wonky website and expired liquor store discount offers for the añejo, but no details. That’s unfortunate given that I’d like to know how it stacks up (at the cash register) against its peers.

 

Suffice it to say, though, if you find it, get it if it fits your budget. It’s a straight-up fine sipper.

 

Follow Penasco online: FacebookTwitter.

 

 
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Falling Under the Spell of Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine Tequila

On a frigid and damp Saturday night in November 2013, Roger Clyne, along with his band The Peacemakers, invited Tequila Aficionado Media to an intimate concert and tequila tasting at Billy’s Ice House in New Braunfels, TX, to talk music, heritage, and his tequila, Mexican Moonshine.

***

Hey, gringos, it could be worse…we did not get there first

Colt_Peacemaker

The Colt Single Action Army, also known as the Peacemaker, is considered a famous part of Americana. “The Gun That Won the West” was wielded by such action-oriented historical legends of the late 19th and early 20th centuries as Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, Judge Roy Bean, Pat Garrett and General George Patton.  It has also been the selected sidearm of Hollywood movies, preferred by everyone from John Wayne to Clint Eastwood in every single Dirty Harry film.  And in 2011, it was declared the official firearm of the state of Arizona. Arizona is also home to another piece of Americana–a guts and guitar driven, reggae and mariachi laced, roots based rock-n-roll band leyenda known as Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.  Armed with expressive lyrics, evocative melodies and four part harmonies, these straight shooters have come to redefine the indie music landscape by being the first band to debut six consecutive albums in the Top Ten of Billboard Magazine’s Internet Sales chart. Along the way, Clyne has gathered a burgeoning cult following that rivals that of Sammy Hagar and Jimmy Buffet–both themselves very successful tequila front men.

I fell under the spell when I stumbled over the line…

The full line-up of Roger Clyne's Mexican Moonshine.

Many aficionados roll their eyes when news of another celebrity endorsed tequila hits the liquor store shelves.  But Roger Clyne came upon his admiration for agave spirits early in life as part of his Southwestern ranching heritage, predating even his love for writing music and performing.

Roger was first introduced to scotch as a teenager by his grandfather who would pour him a dram to “put hair on your chest.”  The taste of “dirty socks in mud” was tough to swallow, but it was his father’s sharing of bacanora, another agave distillate, that opened him up to the wonders of Mexican spirits, and in particular, tequila. Like most of us, Clyne cut his teeth by shooting cheap mixto tequila in college, then swearing off of it until the next opportunity to overindulge.  He was well into his studies (psychology and anthropology) at Arizona State University when he rediscovered that “bright, wonderful, elegant, lyrical taste” of tequila during an exchange program in Ensenada, Mexico, while following a troop of mariachis.

 

It’s surreal, sublime, manmade and divine…it’s the moonshine….

Lyrics on the shipping box of Roger Clyne's Mexican Moonshine.

Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine tequila was born in true outlaw fashion in 2004 during the famed Circus Mexicus music festival that takes place annually in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (Rocky Point, for you ex-pats).

Check out the Circus Mexicus Lineup for 2014 here.

Circus Mexicus 2014.After that initial experience, Roger began scouting for factories to produce Mexican Moonshine, a journey that would even take him to the famed La Cofradía distillery (NOM 1137), the home of Casa Noble and Montejima tequilas.

He finally selected Fabrica de Tequilas Finos (NOM 1472) and forged a relationship with the distillery owner, Federico Cabo, and Master Distiller, Arturo Fuentes.  Together, the team first “dropped” Mexican Moonshine reposado onto the market in 2010, even though Clyne was advised against such commercial suicide due to historically poor sales of this expression.

Soak in the silvery light spillin’ out tonight from the moonshine…

 

In this clip, Roger pours and discusses Mexican Moonshine silver…

 

We’ll get a fine flow flowin’, a good glow goin’…

 

Believing that a reposado is the more definitive expression of tequila, Clyne was surprised when Master Distiller, Arturo Fuentes suggested that Mexican Moonshine be aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels.  Here, Roger explains further.

 

 

I got a healin’ home-brewed remedy, a low-brow therapy…

 

Award winning Mexican Moonshine añejo.

A Gold Medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2014, Mexican Moonshine añejo  was released in 2013 and is fast becoming Roger Clyne’s favorite expression, much to his chagrin.  In the following snippet, Roger breaks down its flavor profile.

 

Turn your back on all the deadlines…

 

On April 29, 2014, Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers will unleash their seventh studio album, The Independent.  The title fits these musical mavericks like an old pair of faded jeans worn as a statement against oppression on Casual Fridays.   Yet, as Clyne states, “There’s something about our music that celebrates what’s uniting versus what’s dividing.”

independent
Click on the image to pre-order The Independent now (Release April 29, 2014).

Using this “Tequila Logic,” Roger Clyne has managed to do the same with Mexican Moonshine, gently hitching the spirit’s Lowland agave heritage to the wood notes of Kentucky bourbon to create a peacemaker that rightfully belongs in any collector’s arsenal.

Mexican Moonshine, Mexican Moonshine…Let your heart and your cup overflow, under the glow of the moonshine!  May your heart and your cup… Overflow…under the glow of the Moonshine!

See Part 2 of our visit with Roger Clyne here!

Visit Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers online now
Visit Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers online now

 

 

mex moonshine
Visit Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine online now

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How to Get Paid to Drink Tequila:

How you can turn your passion into profits and get paid to drink tequila as a blogger, vlogger, podcaster or author

 

Salud!!