It did not escape my notice that a flicker of fear ran through the eyes of those I mentioned “tequila tasting” to. Oh no, doubtless they have memories, albeit blurry, of scantily clad women with holsters and small glasses insisting you down a shot with lemon and salt, whooping and banging on the table then disappearing as fast as your cash. But this was the tequila tradition of the eighties, and not at all the lifestyle we are introduced to at this tasting. In any case, the lovable Mexican from the House of Cabrito & Centinela Tequilas with us today is called Jesus Morasso, and there’s nothing harsh about him.
On the contrary, we learn how this family-owned business makes memories with its tequilas, living life ‘como va’ or ‘as it goes’ – no hurry or sense of urgency, just a careful watch over the Weber Agave plants, planted in the Jalisco region of Mexico – the tequila highlands. There are five tequila regions in Mexico, rather like the delimited areas indicating permitted wines of France (AOCs) amongst which Jalisco is the main player. With its red soil, rich in iron oxide to produce a good concentration of sugars in the agave plant, tequilas from here tend to be fruitier than the more herbaceous tasting tequilas of Mexico’s lowlands.
Having established the first tequila distillery in 1904, the Centinela Family has grown considerably, with agave plantations covering the equivalent of 3,000 football fields to produce 4,000 piñas – or agave hearts – each day in order to make enough tequila for the Casa to reign as the third largest producer, providing Mexico with its most popular tequila.
Time for the taste test! We start with the Cabrito range – this is Mexico’s No. 1 selling tequila and in case you were wondering cabrito means goat (as depicted on the label) and can also be used to describe a rather cool, do-as-he pleases sort of a person – an independent spirit.
A clear, bright liquid with fruity flavours of the agave plant and a touch of herbal notes too. This is the ideal mixing tequila really – Nick (see picture) made lovely margaritas with this; freshly squeezed lime juice and a touch of agave syrup for sweetness. They really were refreshing and delicious.
Reposado tequilas have spent a little time in wood barrels. Ex-bourbon barrels are used as they may only be used once for bourbon, so there is still plenty of flavour to be extracted from the American oak of the barrel. Consequently there is a more spicy and complex palate than the Blanco, and softer mouth-feel.
On to the elegantly packaged Centinela range. (Centinela: The one who defends or protects.)
This blanco tequila had a stronger agave flavour than the Cabrito blanco, along with a real freshness. All the makings of a margarita linger, a hint of mint, salt and lime, although Nick mixed this one with Friché grapefruit soda and served it in a glass with a salt rim. This went down extremely well, possibly as the grapefruit flavour went so well with the agave.
Now we are onto tequilas to spend time with, definitely to be sipped and enjoyed! The Centinela Reposado is my personal favourite, with a bit of a green tea flavour along with cinnamon, toffee, vanilla and a hint of smokiness. Easy to drink, smooth and a lovely, soft mouth-feel.
Ooh, the intensity! This tequila is certainly more complex than the reposado, more closed too, but fuller in body, softer, heaps of vanilla and notes of sweetness – caramel, fudge and toffee. Not sure you would really want to mix this – not to make a margarita anyway, as that would hide some of the delicate flavours derived from more than a year on oak. A proper tequila lover’s tequila.
All tequilas at the tasting are 38% abv.
By Lucy Rundle, Amathus Soho
0207 287 5769