The Montelobos Mezcal Project

[After The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015, Tequila Aficionado Media caught up with Dr. Iván Saldaña, producer of the upstart mezcal, Montelobos, a partnership project with the makers of Milagro [link] tequila. 

A featured speaker during the conference, here’s our in-depth discussion held at the bar of the lavish Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

La Anatomia del Mezcal

Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)

Iván Saldaña (Photo courtesy of David Suro)

In Dr. Iván Saldaña’s nifty little primer, The Anatomy Of Mezcal–which, by the way, belongs in every serious agave students’ reference library–he goes to great lengths to demystify maguey (agave) and mezcal in a concise and easy-to-understand fashion.

As an introduction into the fundamentals of mezcal, the book covers it all, from what it is to how it’s processed.  Saldaña also defines the differences of artisanal mezcals distilled in palenques and haciendas from those using industrial methods. The latter is a situation currently being hotly contested inside the Mezcal Industry as it tries to cope with its alarming expansion without repeating the mistakes made by the Tequila Industry while still in its infancy.

 

A Double PhD.

Montelobos_ABVFrom his research, Saldaña asserts that the maguey plant efficiently evolves when affected by environmental stress.  It is precisely the plant’s adaptability to extreme conditions that makes it not only a versatile prime material for tequila and mezcal production, but also gives it its unique flavors and aromas that set it apart from other spirits.

The same could be said about Iván’s versatility as a passionate scientist, researcher, environmentalist and mezcal developer who prefers to be challenged to come up with unique solutions.

Here, Dr. Saldaña elaborates on his academic background leading to his PhD.

In this segment, Iván recounts how his wine and spirits experience working for global distiller, Pernod Ricard, led to a craving to create something more intrinsically fulfilling.

My Way

Montelobos_derecho

Taking a lesson from Frank Sinatra, Iván explains what it was like to compose a mezcal like Montelobos without following any commercial guidelines.

Montelobos Explained

Iván has been quoted as insisting that “Mezcal is too often dominated by either an excessive smokiness or inopportune proportions.”  In his quest for the perfectly balanced mezcal, he concentrated on bringing forth Montelobos’ sweeter notes, along with citrus and smoke using cultivated espadin.

006The successful result garnered Montelobos a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013.

Not wanting to create a single faceted mezcal, or replicating an old family recipe, Dr. Saldaña further breaks down Montelobos’ complexities.

[Tweet “Montelobos Mezcal: double gold winner at 2013 San Francisco World Spirits Competition”]

The Value of Innovation

Dr. Saldaña produced his mezcal under the guidance of fifth generation Maestro Mezcalero, Don Abel López Mateos, but still believed in exploration and experimentation when designing its unique flavor profile.  Coupled with innovation, Iván contends that Montelobos is not about science, but about passion.

[Tweet “Montelobos’ unique flavor profile may puzzle some.”]

43.2 ABV

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Iván explains how he arrived at the perfect 43.2% (86.4 proof) alcohol by volume to achieve the flavors and aromas unique to Montelobos.

 

 

Sustainability

Agave_MontelobosNot only vigilant on creating Montelobos his way, Dr. Saldaña was also concerned about its environmental footprint on Oaxaca where it is distilled.

Montelobos uses only organic, commercially grown espadin, certified so by certifying agency, Certimex.  Iván also makes sure that the wood used in roasting the espadin comes from a sustainable source.

The Universe Within the Universe

Dr. Iván Saldaña’s expedition into the anatomy of mezcal is by no means over.

He confessed to having an urge to distill other variations of Montelobos that would emphasize additional flavors and aromas often hidden in traditional mezcal flavor profiles.

For the time being, he prefers to continue to examine and discover the world within the world of mezcal.

[Tweet “Discover the world within the world of @Montelobos Mezcal”]

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Embajador Tequila Supreme Añejo Review by Steve Coomes

Embajador, Tequila, Supreme, Anejo, Review, Steve CoomesCompared to its siblings, Embajador Supreme Añejo is a big, big brother. 

Rested for 18 months—a full 10 months longer than its Premium Reposado—Supreme is a veritable post-grad student compared to its primary school brothers.

Yet, for all that age its color is surprisingly pale gold.  Not that color determines everything, but 18 months is a loooong sleep, a rest I assumed would yield a deeper amber cast.  (As I noted in my review of the Premium Reposado, used cooperage likely is the reason for its light color.) 

But don’t despair or stop reading now, patience has its rewards. Proceed apace.

The nose produces aromas of roasted agave, cherry and even a pleasantly sour orange curacao, which I dug.  Like Thanksgiving turkey, it’s fun just to sniff before inevitably giving into tasting.

Though not overly assertive like some añejos, the flavor is delicious, offering up abundant wood notes tempered by cocoa, ash, toasted oak, caramel, floral tones and honey. 

[Tweet “Compared to its siblings, Embajador Supreme Añejo is a big, big brother”]

Simultaneously sweet and vegetal upon entry, its texture becomes weighty at mid-palate and especially when moved around the mouth.  There’s briefly nougat-like density at midpalate that fades quickly to honey before skulking off to a slow and delicate finish. 

The exhale practically ignites notes of rose and lavender, providing insight into the wild yeast influencing its ferment.Embajador, Tequila, Supreme, Anejo, Review, Steve Coomes

Having now tasted its full line, it’s clear that Embajador wants its tequilas to finish fast.  Perhaps that bids drinkers back to the glass for more or leaves them searching for lingering, pleasant flavors?  I don’t know.  But none of the three offerings give much of a goodbye.

Such a rapid departure isn’t an insult, however, it’s just different. And to be fair, I’m also a bourbon drinker who loves a high-proof palate punch, which isn’t for everyone. 

As proven by the success of Avion tequilas, there’s an abundance of drinkers who enjoy light-bodied sippers, and this would certainly fit that profile.

Distiller’s note: Supreme is best enjoyed neat at 68 F.

Embajador Tequila Online

 

Tstephen coomes, steve coomes, Embajador, Tequila, Supreme, Anejo, Review, Steve Coomesequila Aficionado is proud to welcome rising star in tequila and travel journalism, Stephen Coomes, as a Contributing Writer and Reviewer.  His steady gigs include roles as contributing editor for Nation’s Restaurant News (the U.S. restaurant industry’s largest publication), restaurant critic and feature writer for Louisville magazine, feature writer for Edible Louisville and Seafood Business magazines, Kentucky travel and dining contributor for Southern Living, and dining blogger for Insider Louisville. He also writes marketing, PR, web copy and ghostwrites for numerous private clients.  You can visit Steve online atwww.stevecoomes.com.

Embajador Tequila Premium Reposado Review by Steve Coomes


Embajador Tequila, premium, reposado, review, coomesPremium, the second of three
Embajador Tequila offerings can be described as the good middle child of the bunch–

Eager to please, never offending, yet losing a tad of its uniqueness sandwiched between its siblings.

According to the distiller, it’s rested for eight months in American and French Oak barrels, meaning the final product is a blend of juice from both types of cooperage.  It’s pale, straw color suggests that all its cooperage is used since precious little color is given back to the tequila.

 Its aromas aren’t dominant, but pleasant nonetheless.  Banana, toffee and agua miel are evident, and the grassy note that sneaked into the Platinum comes out in the Premium as well.  A bit more time and swirling reveal a bit of citrus and a touch of ash.

[Tweet “Embajador Tequila Premium is fairly light bodied and modestly leggy”]

Not surprisingly, Premium is fairly light bodied and modestly leggy. Vigorous swirling sets off wide-set and narrow trails down the glass’s sides, hinting correctly that it won’t dominate the palate.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t please the tongue either.

Embajador Tequila, premium, reposado, review, coomesA sip reveals strong notes of cocoa, vanilla less so; and toasted marshmallow even less.  You have to work for it, but it’s there and worth waiting for.  Just close your eyes and summon it.

Finish is fast, hinting of but not slamming home, white pepper.  It’s slightly drying and a tad mineral, but pleasant all around.

Premium is not complex, but that’s not a criticism.  A young reposado blended from its rest in American and French oak doesn’t get the chance to assume a distinct personality of one barrel or the other, it just emerges balanced.

Which is likely where Embajador wanted it.

Distiller’s note:  Premium is best enjoyed served at 64 F.

Embajador Tequila Online

 

Tstephen coomes, steve coomes,equila Aficionado is proud to welcome rising star in tequila and travel journalism, Stephen Coomes, as a Contributing Writer and Reviewer.  His steady gigs include roles as contributing editor for Nation’s Restaurant News (the U.S. restaurant industry’s largest publication), restaurant critic and feature writer for Louisville magazine, feature writer for Edible Louisville and Seafood Business magazines, Kentucky travel and dining contributor for Southern Living, and dining blogger for Insider Louisville. He also writes marketing, PR, web copy and ghostwrites for numerous private clients.  You can visit Steve online atwww.stevecoomes.com.

Tequila Aficionado Media Reveals 2014 Brands of Promise™ Winners!

Awards Announced During a LIVE Google Hangout Telecast

For Immediate Release!

hangouts2March, 28, 2015, San Antonio, TX—In an unprecedented live Google Hangout telecast, Tequila Aficionado Media (TequilaAficionado.com) unveiled its Second Annual 2014 Brands Of Promise™ Award winners in Tequila, Mezcal and several other agave related categories.  A full list of Brands Of Promise™ winners can be viewed and downloaded here.

[Tweet “2014 Brands of Promise Winners Announced!”]

tequila awards, tequila aficionado, brands of promiseAmong the stellar labels recognized as Brands Of Promise™ award recipients, Trianon Tequila won the judges’ Best of Show Award, and Briscas Mezcal was recognized with a Gold medal for each of their expressions.  Gold was bestowed onto JLP Golden Lime Margarita in the Ready-To-Drink (RTD) category, as well.

Download the full list of nominees & winners here.

“The quality of the juice in 2014 was just outstanding,” crowed M. A. “Mike” Morales, CEO of Tequila Aficionado Media.

[Tweet “Congratulations to @TrianonTequila for winning Best of Show! #BOP2014”]

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“What a great year 2014 was!” agreed Alex Perez, Founder and Chairman of Tequila Aficionado.  “So much good juice.  So much good quality.  It is the best time for agave spirit aficionados.”

trianon stack

Best in Show

“Man this was tough,” added Morales, referring to selecting medal winners.

All brands were judged by Perez and Morales, as well as by other Tequila Aficionado staff, on how they performed during Tequila Aficionado’s wildly popular Sipping Off The Cuff™ video series seen regularly on TequilaAficionado.com and viewable on its YouTube channel.

Unlike other spirits contests, The Brands Of Promise™ Awards does not require participating agave spirit brands to pay an entry fee.  It also does not charge winners additional hefty licensing tariffs for the rights to use the medal award graphics on their labels, neck tags, shelf talkers, brochures, point-of-sales materials and websites.

2014-08-11 15.09.09“Competition for shelf space and ‘share-of-mind’ is fierce in this business, especially when going up against more established brands with deep pockets,” admits Perez.  “Most new tequilas, and dozens of mezcals and other agave spirits, are virtually unknown to consumers,” he explains.  “That doesn’t mean that promising startups shouldn’t be recognized.”

“We’re not out to gouge anyone,” declares Morales.  “We understand that advertising budgets for emerging brands are always costly in the beginning.”

[Tweet “The Brands Of Promise™ Awards help brands by leveling the playing field with NO FEES”]

Morales adds, “Simply being nominated for the Brands Of Promise™ awards means that we deem each of these participating brands worthy of the public’s attention.”

***

About Tequila Aficionado Media

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Since 1999

TequilaAficionado.com, (Tequila Aficionado Media) is the most comprehensive and informative source for tequila, mezcal, and sotol on the internet or in print today.

It has been the only online tequila magazine for the past 15 years and is visited by tequila aficionados in over 120 countries around the world.  It produces fresh audio, video, feature articles and other content, and successfully shares them throughout all of its powerful social networks for maximum exposure.

[Tweet “Tequila Aficionado: Introducing you to great tequila, mezcal & sotol for 15 years”]

About the Brands Of Promise™

If you would like to enter your tequila, mezcal, sotol or other agave spirit or related product in the coveted Brands Of Promise™ awards, click here.

If you would like additional publicity for your product or brand, simply click here for our current rates and special promotions.

Download the full list of nominees & winners here.

[Tweet “Enter the 2015 Brands of Promise now! Cutoff 1 Sep.”]

A Bartender’s Tip from Germán González

In this clip, Germán González, distiller of T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorana, reveals the difficulty in getting consumers to sip 100% agave tequila and shares a technique that a particular bartender uses to educate drinkers who ask for T1 in a cocktail.

A thoughtful bartender or mixologist will always serve the customer in the best way possible.

If you’ve never sipped T1 Tequila Uno, before having it in your favorite cocktail, ask for a bit of a sample on the side.

You’ll be glad you did!

Read the full story of Germán González and T1 Tequila Uno here.

The Rules of Agave with Germán González

In these next two clips, while enjoying sips of Germán González’s masterpiece, Tears of Llorona, we discuss the ins and outs of the tequila business.

The Only Rule That Counts

Germán Gonzalez, distiller of T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorana, reveals the only real rule, according to the normas (the rules and regulations that govern the tequila making process), that counts when selecting agave.

The Brix Bottom Line

Here, Germán  explains how an agave’s brix (sugar content) may affect agave pricing.

Read the full story of Germán González and T1 Tequila Uno here.

Tasting Tequila Uno with Germán González (5)

Tequila Uno–Selecto

Germán González, distiller of T1 Tequila Uno and Tears of Llorana, shares his views on T1 Selecto, and how he balances alcohol and water to obtain the right amount of agave elements.

Selecto Flavor Notes

Hand selected maduro (mature) agave goes into this blanco at just the right ABV (alcohol by volume) to release an explosion of flavor at mid-palate and up through the nasal passages.

Again, the finish stays within the throat and back of the tongue, not in your stomach.

Read the full story of Germán González and T1 Tequila Uno here.