The Tequila Masters 2015 resultsBy Becky Paskin
As the agave boom takes hold across various markets and price points, sorting the best from the rest was the task of the Tequila Masters 2015.
Tequila is well and truly shaking off its image as a slammer spirit, appealing instead to a new generation of discerning consumers looking for quality and flavour from their drinks.
The category is rapidly maturing into the choice of aspirational drinkers, which is mirrored clearly in the number of super- and ultra-premium expressions taking to the spirits market.
With so much sudden interest in Tequila, it can be all too easy for producers to over-use wood to hide impurities in their spirit or to feign sweetness with added sugar, but as consumers explore the illustrious world of Tequila, their palates becoming increasingly educated along the way, quality and transparency has never been so vital.
This was a point underlined by all the judges at The Tequila Masters 2015, held in London’s iconic Mexican restaurant and bar, Mestizo. Joining myself as chair of judges was Eduardo Gomez, founder of the Tequila and Mezcal Fest; Jair Bolanos, operations manager, Mestizo; Emilie Campesato, brand champion at Amathus Drinks; and Jesse Estes, co-founder of Mexican bar El Nivel.
“The entries I scored highly were the ones I feel stayed true to the agave profile,” explained Estes of the competition. “Keeping its integrity, and not adding anything extra to it, is what will win a product a medal.”
With open minds and eager palates, our panel began the day’s blind tasting with a flight of Premium Blancos, which earned silvers across the board. While the judges were split over their preference to consume them neat or in a cocktail, Campesato explained: “These are easy Tequilas to drink – well-balanced and sweet. If you want to start an evening with a Tequila in an affordable category, they are perfect.”
The Premium Reposados fared slightly better, earning two Golds and two Silvers, both the former going to Jose Cuervo’s 1800 and Tradicional Reposado. Judges felt that, while slightly too much oak presence made the agave character difficult to distinguish in some cases, the majority represented good value. “For the price point these exhibit some good flavours,” said Bolanos. “It’s a good entry level for people new to drinking Tequila as they have sweeter flavour profiles.”
Finishing off the Premium set was a smaller round of añejos, which were described as “above average” quality with sweet flavour profiles that had a “good balance for aged Tequila”. Three medals were awarded here, two Golds for Sierra Antiguo Añejo and 1800 Añejo. “More wood doesn’t necessarily equal better quality, but some of these were nicely balanced and you still got some of that agave in there, despite having a strong wood presence,” explained Estes.
As we journeyed on into the Super Premium entries, we collectively noticed a significant shift in the quality of spirit. “The standard was a lot higher but with the price point you expect that,” said Bolanos. Two medals were awarded to the Blancos, to Circulo Tequila Blanco and Herradura Silver, with the latter described as “silky but peppery and well-balanced with real agave character coming through “.
The Super Premium Reposados also drew high praise from the judges, who described each one as “unique” and “brings something new to the table”. Three Gold medals were awarded here, for Sierra Milenario, Circulo, and Olmeca Altos Reposado. “You could label these reposados under the digestif category as well, as you could drink it with food or before a meal; they are all very shippable,” enthused Campesato.
Our hopes for hitting upon a Master medal were dwindling as we moved into the penultimate category of the day, Super Premium Añejo, but luck and the skill of the distiller were on our side. While we awarded three medals in the round, it was Herradura’s Añejo that wowed the judges and drew a unanimous score. “This is a really good benchmark for exactly what I look for in an añejo – more wood than the reposado but still not losing the fruit and vegetal notes from the agave,” gushed Estes. “If you get a nice balance it can be very interesting.”
That said, high praise also went to KAH Tequila Añejo, which also delighted the judges with its woody yet fruity notes.
Rounding off the day with a singular entry was the Flavoured Tequila, a small yet burgeoning category that will no doubt gain legs in the US considering the country’s penchant for flavoured spirits. Despite any trepidation, 1800 Coconut Tequila scored a Silver medal for its accurate flavour with a hint of agave sweetness that shone through.
By the end of the competition, it was obvious to the judges that those Tequilas exhibiting clean yet strong agave character with a complementary balance of wood flavours were the entries securing the highest medals.
With interest in Tequila becoming stronger, and the opportunity emerging to introduce the category to China, a new market of consumers untainted by memories of cheap shots and lime wedges, consistent quality is absolutely key, and our medal winners at the Tequila Masters 2015 are certainly the brands leading the pack.
Click through to the following page to see the results of The Tequila Masters 2015.
|Borco International||Sierra Antigua Plata||Silver|
|Jose Cuervo International||Jose Cuervo Especial Silver||Silver|
|Jose Cuervo International||Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver||Silver|
|Jose Cuervo International||1800 Silver||Silver|
|Jose Cuervo International||1800 Reposado||Gold|
|Jose Cuervo International||Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado||Gold|
|Fabrica de Tequilas Finos||888 Tres Ochos Tequila Reposado||Silver|
|Tequilas del Señor SA de CV||Herencia de Plata Reposado||Silver|
|Borco International||Sierra Antiguo Añejo||Gold|
|Jose Cuervo International||1800 Añejo||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Tequila Corralejo Añejo||Silver|
|Super Premium Blanco|
|Circulo Spirits||Circulo Tequila Blanco||Gold|
|Super Premium Reposado|
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Reposado||Gold|
|Circulo Spirits||Circulo Tequila Reposado||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard Mexico||Olmeca Altos Reposado||Gold|
|Super Premium Añejo|
|KAH Tequila||KAH Tequila Añejo||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo 99,000 Horas Añejo||Silver|
|Jose Cuervo International||1800 Coconut Tequila||Silver|