There continues to be an influx of new and exciting 100 percent agave Tequila brands on the American market. After all, nothing breeds success like success. Is there a point where there are too many brands of premium Tequilas on our shelves?
“Perhaps, but don’t start looking for that saturation point to come soon,” contends Richard Krumm, food and beverage director for the Brennan Restaurant Group, which operates four restaurants in New Orleans. “At one of our restaurants we carry 45 labels of Tequila and they’re all extremely active. Tequila drinkers are different than vodka drinkers who find a brand they like and typically stick with it. Tequila aficionados are very open to trying new brands.”
Brendan Moylan, owner of Noonan’s Bar & Grill in Larkspur, Calif., agrees that Tequila enthusiasts thrive on the sense of discovery. “Stocking new brands is a significant sales driver. We carry over 300 labels of Tequila and invest in new brands when they enter the market. I’m a devoted fan of 100 percent agave Tequilas, and I appreciate having an opportunity to sample a new range.”
In an evolutionary sense, Tequila is a maturing category. As aficionados grow more discerning, distillers are responding by releasing the best and brightest their craft can produce, innovative offerings such as ultra-premium blancos, vintage dated and single estate bottlings, flavor infusions and increasingly rarer and older añejos.
High on the list of sure-fire prospects is organic 4 Copas Tequila, a super-premium line of handcrafted Tequilas made in the lowlands of Jalisco. The 4 Copas Reposado spends nine months in American white oak, while the añejo is aged three years.
According to Mac Gregory, director of food and beverage at the Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., his guests enjoy the Tequila and respond well to it being an organic spirit. “We consider 4 Copas to be a one of the marquee, ‘boutique’ selections based on the quality of the juice and its no-nonsense packaging. It’s an ideal brand to recommend to connoisseurs looking for a sensational Tequila they’ve not experienced.”
Equally engaging is recent arrival Single Estate Tequila Ocho. The range features vintage-dated, estate-delineated, 100 percent agave Tequilas distilled in the highlands of the Los Altos region. Each bottling showcases the agave from an individual estate. For instance, the agaves used to make the 2008 Tequila Ocho Añejo were cultivated in the heat and humidity of El Vergel estate, which is at a different altitude and miles away from the red soil of the Carrizal estate, where the agaves for the 2008 Plata were grown. Few brands, if any, better demonstrate the profound affect of terrior on a finished spirit.
Another lottery pick is La Certeza 100 percent agave Tequila, a range of small batch spirits from Tierra de Agaves. The state-of-the-art distillery was founded in 2002 by Francisco Beckmann, former co-owner of Jose Cuervo. Ultra-premium La Certeza Tequilas are distilled entirely from estate-grown agaves and aged in both American white oak and French Limousin barrels.
Tierra de Agaves also has introduced Lunazul Tequila, a line of small-batch 100 percent agave Tequilas competitively priced well below what their enhanced quality normally would dictate. After less than a year on the market, Lunazul was named a Cheers Growth Brands Rising Star for moving 20,000 9-liter cases in its first 12 months.
“The recognition is well-deserved,” says Bridget Albert, director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits of Illinois and author of Market-Fresh Mixology (Surrey Books, 2008). “The Lunazul Reposado is delicious, skillfully balanced between vanilla, fruit and spice, while their Blanco has a peppery palate with a sweet agave finish. It makes a delightful, spicy Bloody Maria.”
More than three million Americans a year frequent the 14 Señor Frog’s Restaurant and Bar in the U.S., Mexico and throughout the Caribbean, which ensures a warm stateside reception for recently released Señor Frog’s Tequila. The award-winning brand is available currently in a Plata—dry and cocoa-laced—and a four-month Reposado, which is light-bodied with a warm, vanilla and caramel finish.
Also keep your eye on Sauza Hornitos Añejo Tequila. Aged in American white oak barrels and loaded with semi-sweet flavors of vanilla and cocoa, this suave, lavishly flavored añejo is certain to perpetuate the popularity of the Hornitos franchise.
Sauza Hornitos Añejo already is a success as far as The Phoenician’s Mac Gregory is concerned. “It’s been hugely successful as the featured Tequila at our Margarita Happy Hours. Like the Reposado before it, Hornitos Añejo is a great Tequila at a great price. Our guests win, we win and Sauza wins.”