One of my most unexpected and greatest spirit-based thrills this year was attending the exclusive Patron Masterclass in San Diego. It was a full-day event, starting with a morning of tequila knowledge endowed by the El Consejo Regulador del Tequila, followed by an exam with diploma conferring my learned knowledge about tequila, a delicious buffet lunch, and finally a tasting to remember for a lifetime.
It was our great honor to be led through our spirited journey by distiller Francisco Alcaraz, who designed the copper stills Patron uses instead of the more efficient, yet less flavor inducing column stills.
In addition, Patron does not use the large steam baking autoclaves, but instead employs the traditional small capacity brick ovens, again for greater flavor extraction. Environmental tree-huggers like myself might be surprised and happy to learn that this world-famous distillery was the first "green" company in Mexico, recycling 100% of their waste, turning leftovers into mulch and fertilizer, using reverse osmosis to turn the sludge from the distillery into potable water, and using recycled glass for their bottles.
So let's get to the tequila, shall we? 6 tequilas, in the order we tasted:
PLATINUM: This 3 times distilled tequila is rested in open-air oak tanks for 30 days. Incredibly smooth. Notes of citrus & pepper, light & fresh agave, and gentle notes of wood and vanilla. Exceptionally drinkable. $200
SILVER: 2 times distilled, in comparison to the Platinum, Silver has much more fruitiness present, with citrus, agave, pepper, spice, and earthy notes. It's sweeter than the Platinum, and rougher around the edges, with a more intensified burn, and a longer finish, what Francisco calls the "agave kick."
REPOSADO: aged for 2 months, with just a hint of colors, around half is put into oak barrels. Easy-going with notes of citrus, lime specifically, agave, oak, light floral, vanilla, and honey.
ANEJO: aged for 1 year, the Anejo is the straw color of a Chardonnay, with more intensified aromas and flavors. Smooth and sweet, with vanilla, spice, oak, golden raisin, and a hint of citrus. You can feel and sense the building of what's to come...Now come the big dogs....
BURDEOS: What I am about to write here, I do not take lightly...I have never had the experience with a spirit EVER, that I am describing now. A tequila that was so clean and pure that it had no associated liquor buzz, yet so flavorful and aromatic it could rival the greatest small batch Bourbons or single-malt Scotches in the world. The Burdeos is aged for one year in used American whiskey casks, then 10 months in French oak barrels, then finished for 2 months in First Growth Bordeaux wine barrels (he was not allowed to tell me which chateau, even though I pressed.) It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever tasted.
Although it is in fact a tequila, this spirit effortlessly undulated in character somewhere between a wine, a whiskey, and it's true nature. Sure, there are spirits that will take on character traits from another, but this was something altogether different.
Notes of grape must, tobacco, sweet vanilla, spice, oak, and golden raisins all mingled together beautifully. It was amazing, and at over $500 retail a bottle, most probably, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
PIEDRA: Employing the ancient tradition of the Tahona, the Piedra, an Extra Anejo, is 2 times distilled, and spends a minimum of 3 years aging. It was undoubtedly a great honor to sample the Piedra, which is not even available in the United States retail market yet! The polar opposite of the Burdeos, the Piedra is spicy and bursting with flavors. Sweet aromas of coffee, chocolate, and vanilla meet a palate of earth and spice. Employing new American and new French oak, the Piedra is for the traditional tequila lover, those who love the spice and earth, yet with breathtaking refinement. At close to $400 a bottle, it is definitely not your everyday drinker, and made for an exceptional ending to bar none, my best tequila experience in over 15 years. Thank you Patron.