Attending a tequila tasting at 11:30 on a Thursday morning is one of the things that makes my mum think I have a drinking problem.
When it’s with Herradura and El Jimador she can say whatever she wants, plus plus Ruben was over from Mexico so I’m not missing out on that.
Ruben is one of those characters in this wonderful industry of ours that makes it so enjoyable. Venn Street Records in Clapham was the venue, Stu Fritz and Ciaran McNicholas from Mangrove were the hosts and 6 tequilas and some education were the order of the day.
The history of tequila is a rich one dating back to the 13th Century when the local Indians in Mexico were surrounded by agave.
The legend goes that they were unaware of how to use this plant for anything other than roofing material until lightening stuck some agave one night instantly cooking the plant and producing a milky substance which they turned into what we would these days call a Mezcal Wine (and presumably not touch with a barge pole).
Jump forward to 1521 and the Spanish turned up with their distilling knowledge and created a basic Blanco Tequila. In 1870 Herradura (meaning good luck) was born and 124 years later (that’s 1994 for those trying to do the maths on their fingers) El Jimador was introduced.
These were the two brands we were to taste and the format of the session gave a great opportunity to compare the two brands, tasting the Herradura and El Jimador alongside each other in their different guises – Blanco, Reposado and Anejo.
Time for some tasting
First up came the El Jimador Blanco at 38% and the Herradura Blanco at 40% which is aged in new oak barrels for 45 days, very rare for a Blanco Tequila and giving it a slight colour and oaky/vanilla/peppery taste. Both EJ and H start with the same raw product 100% Agave Tequila made from agave between 7 – 10 years old, cooked in clay ovens for 26 hours at 95 degrees Celsius and using a 100% spontaneous fermentation process (no chemicals folks).
All of these elements along with a double distillation process, with each one having the heads and tails cut, are designed to give a quality tequila base from which to produce the different varietals. If the Blanco’s were anything to go by then they are certainly doing a grand job.
This was followed up by the El Jimador Reposado which is aged in oak for 2 months and the Herradura Reposado which is aged in oak for 11 months (9 times the industry standard 60 days). As you can imagine the difference in aging time gives two very distinct tequilas, both are excellent but it was the Herradura that took this round for me.
Herradura has a certain history with Reposado tequila, in fact Herradura is the history of Reposado as it was they who invented the category back in 1974 (they also invented Extra Anejo for the record). El Jimador Reposado is not to be outdone however and has been the best selling tequila in Mexico since 1997.
Finally came the Anejo’s with El Jimador’s being aged for 12 months and Herradura’s for 2 years. It was the first time that I have tried the EJ Anejo and I immediately regretted not finding it earlier in my life. It is a superb tequila with real Banoffee Pie notes and I am reliably informed by Ciaran only about £18 a bottle making it a steal as well.
One of the reasons the EJ is so good, in my opinion, is the heavy charring that the new oak barrels get before the tequila is placed inside, this really brings out the almost bourbon/rum qualities whilst still maintaining the very distinct tequila flavour. Herradura use different charring levels for different expressions with some getting a light or medium char.
All of the barrels are smaller than industry standard and all are only used a maximum of 9 years, the extra flavour this gives all of the aged tequilas is very apparent.
So far my Thursday was going pretty well with 6 tequilas and some extra knowledge inside me so I took the opportunity to sit down with Ruben for a quick chat.
Ruben is a tequila man through and through. He drinks his tequila straight (in fact he drinks all his spirits straight) occasionally with a glass of ice but usually as they come. His favourite tequila depends on the time of day, in the evenings he likes El Jimador Reposado however (and at this point you are all going to bow down to the man) for his pre-lunch tequila he likes an unaged Herradura at 46% that, unfortunately, isn’t available in this country.
As you will have gathered by now this man enjoys his product (as well as whiskey both Tennessee and Scotch) however he has judged many a cocktail competition and although he was too polite to pick a favourite he has certainly tried some great creations (I did get the distinct impression if you want to impress him when he comes to your bar though, give it him straight).
As for the bars he enjoys he had visited Callooh Callay for the first time the night before and was already proclaiming it as one of his favourite in the world, in fact London’s bars in general got massive thumbs up along with The Library Bar in New York and the Tap Room at Pebble Beach Golf Course.
Ruben was also very proud of the environmental side of their distillery which is amazingly sustainable. The aforementioned heads and tails are not thrown away but instead used to produce energy which powers 13% of the distillery.
The cleaned water is also used on the grounds and fields and the left over agave fibre goes through a 6 month process to make compost which helps make the new agave’s grow.
Great guy, great tequila and great eco message. When he’s next in town make sure you get along to one of his sessions.