Ditch the lemon and the salt. Sit down and take a moment to appreciate the subtlety and charm of Mexico’s favourite spirit.

It was inevitable that the serious intent and application usually applied to CHEERS tastings would go somewhat pear-shaped when Tequila was involved! And it was publisher Shayne Dowling to blame. He blurted out that he couldn’t get the Crash Test Dummies’ lyric out of his head while sampling the lineup in front of him. (And once he’d shared the lyric, neither could the rest of us … )

“Running into you like this without warning, Is like catching a sniff of tequila in the morning” is the line from the song, I think I’ll disappear now.

Internationally, the Tequila category is hot right now. New brands are being launched left, right and centre; celebrities feel the need to have their own label, sales are sky rocketing and producers almost can’t keep up. What’s driving all this action? The fact that Tequila is not just for shooters. True, well made Tequila is as good as any special whisky or brandy and should be enjoyed in much the same fashion – in calm contemplation and appreciation.

“I still feel that people assume that Tequila is a shooter and a party starter,” said avowed Tequila fan Shayne Dowling. “But how often would you find anyone sitting down in front of even five different Tequilas and doing a tasting; taking note of the variety of flavours, the subtleties and the nuances which are so apparent in all of them?” was spirits writer and enthusiast Patrick Leclezio’s counter.

His words resonated with fellow tasters Clifford Roberts and Guy McDonald. The assumption on being offered a small glass of Tequila is that it’s going to be harsh and spirituous, and that you need lemon and salt to rid your mouth of the flavour – but that’s not the case. As liquor writer Roberts pointed out, if you had a lineup of vodka and one of Tequila, the latter offers far more interest and complexity than the former.

Just a single Silver and one Añejo Tequila bracketed a lineup of six Reposados. The Silver or Blanco, is Tequila in its purest form, bottled pretty soon after distillation without having been aged. Reposado is a Tequila which has been aged for between 2 and 11 months in either wooden barrels or storage tank – and Añejo is one which has had a minimum of at least a whole year of maturation in oak.

The final assessment or takeout after all the notes were collated is about the subtle nuances of flavour and aromas that Tequila has to offer. It’s a wonderful spirit that is capable of complexity and intricacy. If there’s one thing to recommend, it would be that consumers slow down and take their time to sip and appreciate Tequila.

Tasting panel: Patrick Leclezio,
Guy McDonald, Clifford Roberts, Shayne Dowling, Fiona McDonald

Avión Silver

Smooth, young and well integrated despite its youth, said Patrick. Light, crisp and clear there’s no harsh edginess to it although there is a typical peppery bite to the spirit and Fiona found the aftertaste both long and gently sweet.

Espolòn Reposado

A toffee, spicy earth and sawdust nuance on the nose followed to a palate that offered a leathery, spicy almost viscous mouthfeel. Again, peppery spirit heat with a touch of sawdust but not abrasive or sharp, Clifford found.

José Cuervo Reposado

Bright citrus aromas carried into the mouth for Guy who picked up a citrus/lemonade flavour as well as tropical fruit. For Shayne it was soft with white pepper spiciness and caramelised fruit. Bold and rich with a pleasant herbal note Clifford said.

Kah Reposado

Layered, complex and rich straight off the bat. Butterscotch and caramel aromas said Fiona, with wood shavings which added appeal. Big and bold in the mouth with its 55% ABV substantially higher than the rest, but so smooth and approachable. Really silky and enveloping. Gentle jalapeno flavour with a light florality too. “It has the dryness and complexity of a good single malt,” said Patrick. Lovely lingering tail.

Don Julio Reposado 

Humbugs, menthol and mint toffee were words used to describe the nose while Fiona found a loamy, forest floor and subtle perfume nuance. Regal, complex, subtle and silky with Shayne finding orange Cointreau liqueur-type flavours along with cinnamon spice and a woodsy note. Patrick noted that this was the least peppery of the lot but that might be attributed to its 38% ABV.

El Jimado Reposado

Basil, herbs and jalapeño said Guy, while Patrick picked up twigs and green wood. Shayne was reminded of walking through a smoggy citrus orchard with a tang of smoke from smudge pots in the air. Notable spirit vibrance but with good body and length.

Avión Reposado

Freshly grated green apple and cactus herbaceousness on the nose Fiona said, followed by a smooth, silky and elegant palate that displays a fantail of flavour. Polished oak which is beautifully integrated and reminded Clifford of Dubbin on leather.

Herradura Añejo

Pine needles for Guy was Patrick’s pineapple and Granny Smith fruit. Crisp, fruity and silky smooth in the mouth with an appealing dryness and soft caramel flavour. Spicy long-lived tail, Shayne noted. Balanced with good complexity and elegance.