There are few books on the subject of Tequila that are considered classics. The Book Of Tequila by the late, great Bob Emmons, stands out as the most essential for any student of agave spirits.
I consider Emmons the first, true Tequila Journalist. He was the first American author to demystify the much maligned Mexican tipple, and give it its rightful place among other elite sipping spirits.
Even posthumously, Emmons’ tome is so sought after that it is almost impossible to buy in paperback, let alone in hardcover. Obtaining a used copy, in any condition, is like discovering a treasure bottle of Porfidio Barrique, and just as pricey.
Ian Williams’ Tequila: A Global History, is not that kind of book–
But it could be.
To say that Emmons volume was ahead of its time goes without saying.
Chock-full of such useful information as addresses of the then existing distilleries, to the history of tequila, and even drinks recipes, Emmons covered it all.
So, what’s left to report?
The Rest of The Story
Since the first printing of Emmons’ book in April 1997, coinciding with the bilateral agreement between Mexico and the European Union that recognized tequila’s and mezcal’s denominations of origin a month later, the Tequila Industry has boomed and busted at least twice, maybe even three or four times.
And Agave Spirits, in general, has zoomed to the forefront of every mixology menu riding the wave of an unprecedented global cocktail craze.
That’s where Williams’ Tequila: A Global History steps in.
Have A Drink!
Sadly, Emmons is no longer on this earthly plane to have a drink with and to discuss the dawning of the growth of the Tequila Industry. Ian Williams, on the other hand, is alive and well and free for a drink!
We asked Ian to join us on Open Bar to discuss Tequila: A Global History. You can view that episode here or read on.
A wordsmith of the most delightful kind, the affable Williams literally embodies the voice and narrative of his book. With a sly smile and a gleam in his eye, this witty Brit kept us in stitches, sumptuously entertaining us with his tequila and mezcal travel tales.
Something For Everyone
His information isn’t just historically priceless (his interview with the controversial pariah Martin Grassl, innovator of Porfidio tequila, alone is
worth the purchase price), but also timely.
Williams deftly discusses the contentious implications of the recently tabled NOM 199 facing the Mezcal Industry and explains the true meanings of the newest designations (ancestral, traditional, artisanal, and industrial) that marketers have diluted into buzzwords to drive the craft spirits sensation.
He skillfully weaves the known Mayan, Olmec and Aztec chronology with current archaeological discoveries of Asian influenced distillation methods that stand to rewrite that history and the part played by the Spanish conquistadors.
And for Millennials seeking to educate themselves, Williams tackles sustainability issues, organic agave spirits, premiumization in the agave spirits market, and the sexiness of the agave plant itself. Even photos and cocktail recipes are included.
Mr. Williams does all this while craftily drawing parallels and similarities from his whisk(e)y, scotch and rum experiences (see Rum: A Social and Sociable History) as well as touching on other Mexican spirits like sotol and bacanora.
If Bob Emmons’ quintessential primer is considered The Greatest Tequila Story Ever Told, then Ian Williams’ Tequila: A Global History, could be its worthy sequel in a continuing agave saga.
Mike Morales and Alex Perez taste and discuss Herradura Tequila Scotch Cask Finish Reposado
Tequila Herradura Unveils New Limited-Edition Coleccion De La Casa Scotch Cask Finish
LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Stemming off the success of its small-batch tequila series, Tequila Herraduraannounces the release of the third Coleccion de la Casa, Reserva 2014 – Scotch Cask Finish Reposado. Having undergone a double maturation process after resting in two different types of oak casks, American oak and single malt Scotch casks, this limited edition tequila offers a desirable taste and finish to delight the senses.
“With the latest in the Coleccion de la Casa small batch series, Tequila Herradura solidifies its commitment to provide new tequila experiences to discerning spirits drinkers who appreciate specialty crafted, artisanal tequilas,” said Liz Edwards, Senior Brand Manager for Tequila Herradura.
Casa Herradura has a strong reputation as an industry innovator and is credited with introducing the first-ever reposado in 1974 and extra anejo tequila in 1995. Coleccion de la Casa is the best example in the industry of how each of the sources of flavor– agave, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation – impacts the character of the final product and creates a totally new flavor profile. As with the other two editions, Master Distiller Maria Teresa Lara was the force behind the Scotch Cask Finish Reposado.
Coleccion de la Casa, Reserva 2014 – Scotch Cask Finish Reposado will be available at fine wine and spirits stores in October nationwide for a limited time at a suggested retail price of $89.99.
Tasting Notes for Herradura Coleccion de la Casa, Reserva 2014 – Scotch Cask Finish Reposado Color: Warm gold with brilliant hues. Aroma: A masterful combination of toasted malt, cooked agave, and smoky wood. Taste: The finest aged tequila is highlighted by the taste of vanilla, butter, honey, caramel and balanced soft spices. Finish: The unique scotch cask results in a long-drawn and with a touch of sweetness.
About Casa Herradura Casa Herradura is one of Mexico’s most historic and renowned tequila producers. Casa Herradura has been hand harvesting, handcrafting and estate bottling fine tequilas from the small town of Amatitán, Jalisco, since 1870. In 2007, Casa Herradura was acquired by Brown-Forman Corporation of Louisville, Ky. Brown-Forman is a diversified producer and marketer of fine quality beverages and alcohol brands. For more information about Tequila Herradura, visit www.herradura.com/
In this final cut, Germán González discusses the real reason he creates such fine tequilas, reaffirms the lessons he has learned in life, and imparts his belief in higher ideals. In the process, we learn what really makes him tick.
How do you describe Tears of Llorona? How do you depict what you have no benchmark for? How do you relate something that is at once incomparable and incomprehensible, yet, strangely familiar, like déjà vu?
Perhaps the closest touchstone is given when deconstructing or reverse engineering Tears of Llorona.
For this first batch, Tears of Llorona is barreled in used sherry, scotch whisky and brandy barrels, achieving a spirit that does not betray its agave and tequila roots.
Instead, cradling the agave notes is a heady spiciness that continues to whisper to your senses the longer you swirl it in your glass.
Notes of bitter chocolate, sherry, leather, tobacco and coffee, along with hints of scotch and memories of the finest cognac or brandy culminate in a finish that resembles “a warm scarf on a cold day.”
While other extra añejos attempt to masquerade as something remotely similar to (or anything but) tequila, it is evident that Germán González has created Tears of Llorona to be Tequila’s higher octave.
Deliberately distilled to be lingered over, this gem is, as its website states, “an opus.” A symphony composed and conducted by a true Master.
[In early November of 2014, San Antonio resident and neighbor, Germán González, joined us at our home office. That evening, he brought his full array of Tequila Uno (T1)–Ultra Fino, Selecto, Excepcional, Tequila Estelar, along with the much acclaimed ultra-aged Tears of Llorona.
In a more relaxed atmosphere and without his signature Panama hat and guayabera, Germán guided us through a tasting of each of his offerings while sharing his wit, wisdom, and knowledge.]
“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts–such is the duty of the artist.”–Robert Schumann
What strikes you first about Germán González is his intense modesty when he discusses his vast accomplishments. Secondly, it’s realizing the level of genius he possesses as a Master Distiller. Thirdly, you are awed by the depth of his artistry.
Distilling what was arguable some of the finest tequila available in the
spirits market in the past with his historic family brand, Chinaco, today Germán humbly pours us proper amounts from his own equally lauded labels, T1 (Tequila Uno) and Tears of Llorona, and teaches us his trademark “toast from the heart.”
Taking his branded Riedel Ouverture tequila glass held at the stem, Germán places it over his heart and says, “salúd, from the heart.” He then reaches out to each of us and, instead of touching at the rim of the fragile vessels, he turns his glass almost sideways and boldly tags the bowls sounding a lyrical crystal clang.
Afterwards, he lovingly looks at the platinum liquid inside his stemmed glass and says, “This tequila is amazing,” as if surprised that it turned out so well.
Coming from a family that played an integral part in both Mexico’s and Tequila’s sweeping history [you can read more about his family history here], Germán González is at once inspired by his past and firmly focused on his future.
A gentleman farmer by trade and a romantic at heart, Germán literally learned his profession from the ground up under the watchful eye of his father, Guillermo, a lawyer and politician.
At eighteen, Germán permanently moved to the family ranchos in Tamaulipas by himself instead of attending university. For several years, he spent intensive weekends learning about the land from Don Guillermo, growing agaves, chiles, corn, soybeans and raising cattle. He felt privileged and grateful to have his father as his instructor and mentor.
Don Guillermo also purposely kept him away from the La Gonzaleña distillery until he felt Germán was ready for the responsibility.
After several years of piloting Chinaco to unprecedented heights, creative differences with his older brothers caused Germán to seek a new distillery from where he could challenge himself to distill even greater tequila.
Luckily, his lifelong friend and owner of La Tequileña (NOM 1146) Enrique Fonseca, himself a celebrated tequilero, most recently with his Fuenteseca brand, literally gave him the keys to his distillery and allowed Germán to pursue his dream of producing the ultimate expressions of tequila that have ever been realized.
At the same time, Germán uprooted his family and moved to San Antonio, Texas in 2007 to learn about the liquor distribution system and also to study the fickle American palate. He officially launched Tequila Uno in 2009.
Germán memorized two very important principles from his father where tequila was concerned–
That the quality of the agave will always assure favorable results and consistency. That’s why he insists on using estate grown agave from a single plot of land or grove (huerta), and…
Used scotch whisky barrels are the secret to capturing just the right balance when resting tequila.
He deliberately employs the used barrels to take only the rough edges off of the Selecto when resting for his Excepcional. Germán believes that this practice results in a more traditional reposado.
“It’s how reposados should taste–not like añejos,” Germán declares.
Then, he boldly adds, “I don’t care about the color, I care about the flavor.”
The Meaning of Mature
Germán believes the maturity of blue agave has nothing to do with the plant’s brix (sugar content) or age. He judges the maturity of agave by its look and feel.
He prefers using agave from Atotonilco, in the highlands of Jalisco, since he determined that they produce a close flavor profile to agave from Tamaulipas, and thus, compliment each other.
He had blended highlands agave with those from Tamaulipas when in charge of Chinaco during its second resurgence. At that time, La Gonzaleña didn’t have enough agave in reserve as it had in its heyday.
Inside the Mind of An Artist
“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” –Michelangelo
Behaving more like a painter or chef–hands on, using all of his senses–Germán González has in mind exactly what he wants Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorona to taste like and what effect he wants to attain with each expression.
He knows that flavor profile exists within the plant and the resulting juice, just like Michaelangelo knew that inside each slab of marble was a statue waiting to be released.
Germán distills Tequila Uno to set the flavors free!
Chemistry vs. Alchemy
“Tones sound, and roar and storm about me until I have set them down in notes.”–Ludwig van Beethoven
Unless prompted, Germán never talks about the numbers, the chemistry or science of distillation like famed Master Distillers Carlos Camarena (Tapatío), Marko Karakasevic (Charbay), or Melkon Khosrovian (Ixa Tequila by Greenbar) have been known to do. In fact, those were Germán’s worst subjects in high school.
Much like a mezcalero (mezcal distiller) does when producing mezcal, he uses his senses to tell him what alcohol by volume (ABV) his tequila should have to achieve the desired flavor and aroma. The numbers then become minor details in the entire scope of things. He allows the formation and density of the lingering bubbles (perlas) in his glass to be his signposts that he has succeeded.
Balance Is Everything
Germán asserts that alcohol in tequila is not just about getting drunk. He describes it as a necessary element in any tequila’s flavor profile. In fact, he contends that mezcals, by and large, should be distilled at 45% ABV or higher to achieve its balance and to acquire its unique flavor profiles.
The key is finding the balance between the ABV and other elements of the highlands agave to bring about the nuances Germán demands for T1. That’s why Selecto is at one measure of ABV and Ultra Fino is at another. It has allowed him to produce two types of tequila for different
The novice just beginning to explore tequila (Ultra Fino), and the collector or connoisseur (Selecto, Excepcional, Estelar) with more discerning tastes. We encountered this technique at our tasting of Roca Patrón. González has perfected this method into his own signature art form.
Germán González shares his global desires for T1.
Composer, artist, distiller–Germán González has elevated tequila into what it has always aspired to be–
A spirit worthy of the attention and appreciation of the masses throughout the world.
Whatever Germán’s next composition, be assured that it, too, will be a work of art, from his heart to yours.
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
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…
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….
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).
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…
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.
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.”
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 theMoonshine!