For those of you beginning your journey into tequila and other agave spirits, let me say a few things. YOUR TASTES WILL CHANGE. When I started out tasting tequilas (blancos), one after another, I would take notes. I told a friend- I didn't like this one, or that one, because it wasn't smooth enough, or it tasted like nail polish or it's got a weird taste etc. A matter of fact in the beginning, they all sort of tasted about the same. Keep this important fact in mind- When you taste tequila- your decision on how it tastes, is about 15% visual- 60% aroma and 25% is taste.
I was frustrated about not being able to identify all the aromas or tastes, that others seemingly could. I STILL don't smell 'wet daffodils on a sunny afternoon' and probably never will. I mean some of the stuff people say they smell is unbelievable. I don't doubt that THEY smell it, but I say KEEP IT SIMPLE, and KEEP IT FUN. Buy different brands and take notes. Don't listen to anyone giving their opinions while you are sipping, as the thought placed in your mind may give you the allusion of smelling or tasting it yourself. Take your notes on what YOU smell and taste.
Try to identify the main, obvious aromas and flavors. You'll get better at it. Some people are more natural, but you can acquire the skill, with practice. Taste, note, enjoy and constantly try new ones. Don't give up and don't necessarily refuse to buy a brand again, after only one try. I was also told not to finish the bottle completely, so I can come back to it months or a year from now. A seasoned friend told me this, and I am so glad I did. I would found new aromas and tastes and as I became more seasoned l possibly liked it better, and found a whole different taste profile. Maybe it wasn't as harsh as I remembered, or didn't taste like nail polish anymore, since my pallet grew. Also know that keeping a bottle once opened, even though the cap is on tight, will soften and lose flavors and aromas, the longer you keep it. There are sealing tapes and other tricks to help seal the bottles better.
Many of these tequilas I didn't like at first, have a different place for me now, but sometimes your first impression is also correct. I STILL may not like a blanco with an overly vanilla, creamy and sweet flavor, but luckily with many of the bottles that I saved and re-tasted later, I now like them and appreciate them. For example, Fortaleza took some time for me to appreciate the boldness and complexity, and now I absolutely love it. When I first started serious tastings, I used to tell my friend Khrys that Fortaleza tastes like green olive juice and Parmesan cheese and "how can people love this". He said "it's a funky, bold taste, that not everyone appreciates.... especially at first", and to come back to it later. He was right, and as my pallet grew and I tasted other brands, I started appreciating the boldness and complexities, and now Fortaleza is probably my favorite blanco- SO THINGS WILL CHANGE. Yes I still taste some of that profile, but I realize and appreciate that it's part of the natural flavors that evolve from a complicated, bold, old world traditionally made tequila. My taste changed, and again... so will yours.
The funny thing is after tasting maybe 200 tequilas of all types and really taking my time, enjoying and learning about each one, I can say that I have evolved and you will as well. What I mean by that is, I don't just like SWEET and SMOOTH tequila anymore, like I did in the beginning. Actually my famous line that I use all the time now is, "Smooth and Sweet, gets boring real fast". Tequilas don't taste like acetone (nail polish) anymore either, unless you're drinking a sub-par tequila or one not made correctly. Most of the time 100% agave will do it, but I have had some brands, and you will find them, that are inferior. Here are MY TOP Blanco Tequila brands, but most of their other expressions will also be of high quality. (SEE LINK BELOW)
So in the beginning, you may only like plain, simple, smooth, sweet, peppery and spicy tequila, but rest assured.... that will probably change. I have changed, and so will you. Things taste different to me now, and I now prefer a BOLD and COMPLICATED tequila. It has heart, personality and complexity, and it's the furthest thing from a plain taste. If it was made right, it has character, multiple flavors that compliment each other, not ONE STRONG aroma or flavor that takes over. It needs to be balanced. You need to be able to smell and taste different and interesting flavors, but you don't want one aroma or taste to totally dominate the others. You want a balanced flavorful, enjoyable tequila.
I have my simple rating system that I devised. It works for me. I use it for my spreadsheet of hundreds of tequilas. It includes a 1-5 rating for 'Smoothness & Drinkability' (5 being the highest) and a 1-5 rating for Taste & Enjoyability. This is used as an identifier for me to know if I like a product, or if I will purchase it again.
For example, I have a 4 rating for smoothness/drinkability for Riazul, WHY??.. because it IS smooth, BUT more importantly for me, is the taste/enjoyability rating. For me it may just be a 3 because it might not be a profile that I enjoy. Maybe it's too smooth and sweet and creamy with too much vanilla for a blanco, or seems to have artificial tastes (additives). It may seem that no matter how much I've evolved, I simply may not like a smooth, and creamy and vanilla taste in my blanco. You will learn if you feel the same, or not.
I need to have this list for reference, and you will want a list also. You could use a computer with a spreadsheet program or simply get a long piece of paper or cardboard, make columns for the Brand Name- with space for the Cooking Method-(stone, clay, brick horno etc, autoclave or diffuser), Maceration, Crushing or Milling Method-(tahona, shredder/roller), Fermentation tank-(stainless steel, wood, cement etc) and Distillation Method- double or triple, pot stills-(stainless steel, SS w/copper coil, copper pot still, or column still. The NOM, The Terroir (Los Altos highlands or El Valle lowlands, two columns for your ratings- Smoothness/Drinkability and one for Taste/Enjoyability (to combine later), and the comments column- with room for 4 sections- Nose, Taste, Finish and Notes. This should be a good start.
Having the information to rate your tequilas, and having a list of their production methods, with descriptions, NOMS, notes and profile descriptions is essential, and is a lot of fun. Learn to research this information by emailing the brands if necessary, checking tequila sites like this one or Tequila Matchmaker, asking liquor store experts, checking the brands websites etc. It's not always easy but it's necessary to know the differences in the production methods, and ALWAYS stay away from diffuser made products. I have more advanced information on this site about agave production and cooking methods, including diffuser.
So what you like now is NOT what you will necessarily like a year or two from now. Give things a chance, go back and re-taste later, even MUCH later. Buy different brands, get the proper glassware (Riedel, Glencarin, sniffer or maybe a neat glass). In a pinch a wine glass which narrows in at the top or a similar shaped champagne flute may do. NEVER use lime, salt or ice... and NEVER shoot. You MUST SWIRL (to agitate and open the aromas and flavors), SMELL, SIP (small sip at first to warm up the mouth) and SAVOR. Eventually you will learn the differences in the terroirs, learn your desired profile, find your favorite brands and realize the differences in production methods.
I also like Mezcal, Bacanora, Sotol and Raicilla, but honestly, not as much as tequila. Remember Tequila IS a Mezcal, but I am referring to what we know as, and refer to as Mezcal (NOT tequila). You need to be able to tolerate a heavy smoke and rubber taste. I can't always do that, but maybe you can. Sometimes I use Mezcal for mixing and I love Mezcal with OJ, grapefruit or other mixers, as I feel Mezcal makes a great mixed drink. The smoke adds AND loses something when mixed with OJ etc, making a delicious bold interesting flavorful taste.
I personally have to be in the mood for Mezcal but when I am, I also enjoy these spirits neat. You need to try all these other wonderful agave products yourself,. If these changes can happen to me, it can happen to you.
ENJOY YOUR JOURNEY and SALUD!!
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