Judges were unanimously impressed at The Tequila Masters 2013, with the range praised for its quality and diversity, reports Marinel FitzSimons.
The Tequila Masters 2013 results were held at Café Pacifico in London’s Covent Garden
“On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me… 29 Tequilas in 10 flights”. It may not have the same ring as the traditional lyrics, but that didn’t put off our Spirits Business Tequila Masters 2013 judges.
Held in the wonderfully fitting Café Pacifico in London’s Covent Garden, the festive lights and decorations, mixed with the heady, vegetal odour of agave and alcohol that permeated the air, made for an incongruous setting, heightened by the rush of cold, wintery air every time the door opened.
The morning started well with some cheese quesadillas courtesy of Café Pacifico – a haven for Tequila aficionados – to line the judges’ stomachs. In a slight move away from the traditional judging process, the premium range – blanco through to añejo – judged in a block, was followed by super premium.
Tequila has been enjoying a growth in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the strong efforts of premium brands to show consumers that there is much more to the spirit than just burning shooters and sugar-rimmed Margaritas where the Tequila is, often purposefully, lost in the lime and syrup. That said, there is still a good way to go to re-educate a generation who still associate Tequila with drunken nights out and bad hangovers.
Nevertheless, the overall quality of the spirits now available is improving, as noted by one of our regular judges, Anne Jones, information manager for BWS at Waitrose: “Tequila is always a fascinating category to judge, and never more so than in recent years. The reposados stood out for me in terms of quality, and it’s always heartening to see such a wide range of flavour profiles across the board, showing that the Tequila market is more diverse and exciting than ever before.”
The Tequila Masters 2013 judges: Cleo Rocos, president of The Tequila Society; Anne Jones, information manager for BWS, Waitrose; Carlos Londono, general manager, Cafe Pacifico; Shannon McCoy, writer, BarChick; Herchelle Perez-Terrado, spirits buyer, Waitrose; Dle Sklar, director, Wine and Spirits International.
Judging a category such as Tequila with a persistently wary audience can be difficult, as Dale Sklar, director of Wine and Spirits International, added: “Tequila is a relatively unknown category outside of Mexico and the US, so it was impressive that the level of knowledge and experience of the judges was so high, something that reflected well in the standard of the judging and the awards.”
Last year’s Masters had proved to be something of a disappointment, with the Tequilas tasted offering a very limited array of diversity and quality – something which might have weighed on the judges’ expectations this year. Any misgivings, however, evaporated very early on in the tasting, which started with the blanco premium Tequilas.
Shannon McCoy, from BarChick, was particularly pleased with the offering. “ I was impressed by the range of Tequilas this year,” she said. “ I was surprised by the many different styles, and the super premium reposados were my favourite category, I could have easily sipped on those all day.”
Similarly, Herchelle Perez-Terrado, spirits buyer for Waitrose, was full of praise for the spirits tasted “ I was actually very impressed with the quality level of the blanco premium Tequilas – the dimensions of flavour across the majority of products were very good for what is an unaged product,” she said. “That probably means that the agave was from a very good source and produced to a high standard. “
The line that was awarded Gold in this category was my favourite and although they were all 100% agave in this category, this particular blanco’s variety of aromas and flavours were excellently represented and stood far above the others.”
This Masters competition produced some stellar results among the super premium reposados, añejos and extra añejos. The only Master awarded on the day went to Corralejo for its Tequila Gran Corralejo Añejo which impressed the judges with its quality and rounded versatility.
Anne Jones, information manager for BWS at Waitrose gets into the swing of things
Cleo Rocos, president of the UK Tequila Society, was quick to praise the range of the Tequilas on offer. “I thought that The Tequila Masters had an extremely interesting, comprehensive and exciting array of entries offered this year. “
Our palates were on full throttle with the diverse range of Tequilas in each of the categories,” she added. “ It was a real pleasure and the tasting evoked passionate reactions and welldiscussed comments from all the judges. Very exciting indeed.”
In terms of where the category is going, Carlos Londoño, general manager of Café Pacifico and sister restaurant La Perla, and co-founder of The Tahona Society, thought that there was a strange shift in the industry where a couple of Tequilas seemed to be losing their identity. “
I found that some of the Tequilas we tasted were trying to become something else instead of Tequila, turning their spicy and earthy spirit into a very sweet spirit more like a liqueur,” he said.
This however, was something that Sklar was keen to see more of. “Perhaps future categories might include some of the Tequila creams that are developing, and also the many Tequila aperitifs & liqueur mixes with various fruits,” he added.
The overall reaction to the Tequilas was a resoundingly positive one, as expressed by Londoño. “The quality of Tequilas taking part seems to get better and better every year. “
I found a lot of diversity in the Tequila profiles in each category. Within the rested, aged and extra-aged categories I found different producers or brands are trying to target different profile tastes or age markets, which can only help the Tequila category in general with its fantastic diversity.”
The full list of The Tequila Masters 2013 results are on the following page.