The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 32 of 128

COMPETITIONS Agave Wars O by Robert Plotkin nce a year the city of San Diego plays host to the largest and most prestigious agave-centric judging in North America: the Spirits of Mexico competi- tion. This past September, 106 of the finest 100% de agave tequilas, mezcals, sotols and bacanoras went head-to-head to see which brands would walk away with gold. Over the course of two days, the panel of 15 judges—all prominent spirit professionals and noted tequila authorities—evaluated the entrants on their aromatics, body, visual appearance, mouthfeel, flavor and finish in a series of blind tastings. The brands earning the top marks at this year's competi- tion are a laudable group. Gold medals and Best of Category honors went to Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila, Corazon Reposado Tequila, El Jimador Añejo Tequila, newcomer Crotalo Extra Añejo Tequila and Los Misterios Tobalá Mezcal. "This was likely the most closely contested competition to date," says Dori Bryant, Event Director of the International Wine & Spirits Competition Group (IWSC Group). "In the past, a relatively small number of brands walked away with the lion's share of medals. This year, the results were more evenly distributed. I think that parity bodes good things for the category." There were also a number of stellar performances within the other categories of agave spirits—mezcal, sotol and bacanora. The big winners included Cielo Rojo Bacanora (Gold), Don Cuco Sotol (2 Golds, Silver), Los Siete Misterios Mezcal (Gold, Silver, Best of Category) and Wahaka Mezcal (2 Golds, 3 Silvers). "One of the important things consumers and drinks professionals should know about tequila is that—like wine—tequilas tend to vary from year to year," observes Bryant. "Differences in quality can be related to the agaves they use or changes in how it's produced. For aged marques, the most likely explanation is wood management, or how effectively a master distiller is at overseeing the tequila as it ages in the barrels. Regardless of the reason why, a particu- lar brand may taste markedly different today than it did just a few years ago." While not every brand of tequila enters every year, Bryant says some consistency patterns have emerged. "There have been seven brands—Cazadores, Chinaco, Corzo, Herradura, Milagro, Milagro Select Barrel Reserve and Oro Azul—that over the past five years have consistently earned medals and finished near the top of their respective categories. Considering how stringent the evaluations are, I think the results offer consumers and on-premise professionals assur- ances of their unwavering quality." The ever-changing nature of the brands is why the Spirits of Mexico Competition is such an important event in the industry. The following are the Gold and Silver medalists from this year's judging. Complete results can be found on The following tequila brands rocked the 2011 Spirits of Mexico competition, taking home top honors and collecting 16 Gold medals, 24 Silvers and Best of Category distinctions in the process: Carreta de Oro Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers) Crotalo Tequila (Gold, 3 Silvers, Best of Category, Best of Show) El Decreto Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers) El Jimador Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers, Best of Category) Herradura Tequila (3 Golds, Bronze) Jarro Viejo Tequila (Gold and Silver) Montoro Tequila (3 Silvers, Bronze) Nobleza Azul Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers) Oro Azul Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers) Puerto Vallarta Tequila (2 Golds, Silver) Siete Leguas Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers, Best of Category) T1 Tequila Uno Tequila (2 Golds) Tres Agaves Tequila (Gold, 2 Silvers) Zircon Azul Tequila (2 Silvers) 32 / the tasting panel / december 201 1 SAN DIEGO'S SPIRITS OF MEXICO COMPETITION IS WHERE BACKBAR STARS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD

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