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

Montelobos_label

 

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.

Embajador Tequila Platinum Blanco Review by Steve Coomes

platinum_box_03_lampleft_b, embajador, platinum, blanco, silver, tequilaNote to all tequila distillers…

I love it when, along with your generous review bottles, you supply a story of how your tequila is made.

The makers of Embajador tequila did this by sending a simple folder with a few laser-printed pages that told a brief but helpful story about its goods.

And they are good.

(Some time after I typed my original tasting notes, I found it had a new and informative website.  Click here to enjoy that story.)

logo w border, embajador, platinum, blanco, silver, tequilaTranslated, Embajador, simply means ambassador, and it serves well in that role in welcoming the drinker into a solid sipping experience.

According to the distiller, half its agaves are baked the historic way, in a stone horno; the other half in a steam-heated autoclave.  According to the company, blending those techniques creates an array of aromas rather than just a few notes.

Once fermented, it’s twice distilled to preserve agave flavor and aroma.  After that, Platinum rests 40 days in stainless steel before bottling.  According to Embajador, laying low for that stretch develops balance and character, though it doesn’t specify how.

To be honest, I didn’t get an array of aromas when I poured some platinum, but the bloom butterscotch and cooked agave was substantial.  Both aromas lingered before giving way to a barely noticeable and appealing grassy note.

[Tweet “Embajador Tequila Blanco: substantial bloom butterscotch & cooked agave”]

The first sip of the blanco was slightly bracing, but refreshing, a delightful zip for an 80-proof spirit.  Its mayahuel, embajador, platinum, blanco, silver, tequilapeppery finish was an open invitation to sip again, so I did.

Subtly but pleasantly sweet, the mid-palate picked up some cotton candy interlaced with a bit of cinnamon.  The finish on that go-round left some traces of lemon and vegetal notes.

Exhaling produced some pleasant menthol notes followed by orange blossom.  Once emptied and dried, the glass gave off delicious aromas of roasted agave.

Platinum stood up nicely when mixed in different cocktails, but given my druthers, I prefer this one straight.

Its fresh, light flavor profile loses a bit of personality even when properly mixed, which is my wife’s preference.  The good news is we both enjoyed Platinum to our liking.

One last bit of info from Embajador…

Platinum is best consumed at 60 F, so put it in the fridge for an hour or so before drinking to cool it off.

 

Titanium Tequila: Luxury Attained

[On April 22, 2015, Casey Hartle, CEO and Vice President of Premium Spirits visited us to share some award winning Titanium tequila, a 2014 Tequila Aficionado Brand Of Promise(TM) nominee.]

Ti

Titanium, a chemical element known for its low density and

Titanium gear.

Titanium gear.

high strength, is generally too expensive and unattainable for most consumers.

Outside of being manufactured as components in high end products like performance race cars, lightweight motorcycles and competition bicycles, about two thirds of all titanium metal produced is used in aircraft engines and frames.

Robert Tijerina, founder of Titanium.

Robert Tijerina, founder of Titanium.

So when Robert Tijerina, owner of Houston based spirits importer, Premium Spirits, and the founder of Priority 1 Aviation, a worldwide business jet aircraft sales and brokerage firm, decided on a name for his tequila, Titanium fit perfectly.

Here, Casey Hartle gives us more background on Titanium’s origin.

Ready For Take Off

Casey comes from a wine and spirits background having servedTitanium_bottle time with Republic National Distributing Company in sales, and then successfully helping another tequila brand gain a firm foothold in the tough-to-maneuver Texas market.

Hartle explains the particular challenges that exist for a start-up brand in expanding from the competitive city of Houston to Dallas, Austin and San Antonio.

Casey’s goal is to take Titanium, an up-and-coming tequila brand in Premium Spirits’ portfolio, to new heights.

Titanium cubeOld Skool Methods vs. Modern Technology

Produced at the famed Hacienda La Capilla distillery (NOM 1479), the tequila itself is the brainchild of their artistic and secretive master distiller (known only as Eduardo) who decided to perfect his own recipe after years of making tequilas for others.

Casey explains Titanium’s process that combines old skool methods and modern technology to achieve a specific flavor and aroma.

[Tweet ” @titaniumtequila: Old skool methods + modern techniques = Obtainable Luxury.”]

Tequila That Won’t Crush Your Soul

Casey imparts what he feels makes a stellar blanco tequila, and how best to enjoy Titanium other than in your favorite cocktail.

El Secreto

Next, Casey lets us in on what’s in the offing for Titanium, and the rest of Premium Spirits’ portfolio.

Where Titanium Is Jetting To Next…

Hartle reveals Titanium’s plan to invade Aspen, Colorado in June 2015’s prestigious Food & Wine Classic.

[Tweet “@titaniumtequila–Obtainable Luxury Tequila that won’t crush your soul. “]

Plans For The Future

Hartle shares his vision for Titanium in the next five years.

Casey informs where Titanium can be found in Texas.

One Thing…

Casey Hartle expresses the one thing he’d like everyone to know about Titanium tequila.

Cleared For Landing

jet_Titanium

Most commonly found in the working parts of private planes and palatial yachts, titanium has also been perceived as a symbol of luxury.

While the name fits quite well with Tijerina’s aviation background and jet-setting career, Casey Hartle advises that the luxury lifestyle can be affordably obtained simply by sipping Titanium tequila, whether at your favorite watering hole, nightclub, or with friends on a fishing boat or yacht.

yacht_Titanium

That makes Titanium tequila as versatile as its alloy namesake and luxury easily attained.

***

Feeling lucky?  Enjoy this fun video from Titanium tequila.

 

The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila

[Moises (Moy) Guindi, one of the two dynamic founders of Milagro tequila, and J.P. DeLoera, Milagro’s Texas Brand Ambassador, hung around after The San Antonio Cocktail Conference held in January, 2015. Tequila Aficionado Media chased down these two gentlemen for a rare chat at the bar of the luxurious Westin Riverwalk Hotel.]

MilagroBarrels

Ambassadors For the Modern Mexico

The time was 1997, and Europe had just signed a trade MilagroAgaveagreement with Mexico.  It officially recognized such spirits as scotch and cognac, among others.  In turn, Europe acknowledged tequila and mezcal’s denominations of origin.  Even though Mexico had issued its Protection of the Appellation of Origin Tequila in the early 70’s, this agreement was the first step in tequila finally gaining the global respect it deserved.

MilagroHomeUp until then, it had been heavily marketed as a traditional spirit often depicted in rustic agricultural scenes of burros and roping charros.  But, a new millennium was near, and a bustling Mexico City was partying like it was 1999 with art, music, design and architecture.

For two young college buddies, Danny Schneeweiss and Moy Guindi, the Mexico City club scene was where tequila sorely lacked a more modern edge and feel.  It was then that they deliberately set out to propel tequila’s image into the 21st Century.

[Tweet “The Miracle Men Behind Milagro Tequila @milagrotequila”]

Making Tequila Fashionable

003In this clip, Moy recounts the journey he and Danny embarked on to chart Milagro’s agave forward flavor profile in an era where producers were masking their juice to taste like other spirits. [Tweet “Milagro Tequila – Intentionally agave forward @milagrotequila”]

 One Foot in Tradition, One Foot in The Future

Here, Moy and Milagro’s Texas Brand Ambassador, J.P. DeLoera, explain Milagro’s distillation process which combines old style methods with modern machinery to achieve and enhance its unique flavors.

[Tweet “Old style methods + modern machinery = @milagrotequila”]

Further emphasizing their respect for old world techniques, both J.P. and Moy describe how their exclusive joven tequila, Milagro Unico, is made.

Sophistication In A Glass

Milagro’s unique bottles have long been sought after by collectors.  Moy DannyUnicoblames his partner Danny, as the creative mind behind reimagining tequila’s image in clubs and bars around the world.

Milagro was designed to evolve tequila from a red headed step child to a sophisticated gentleman in a classy container.  But, the partners also wanted it to educate consumers.  They added a stylized agave inside each hand blown bottle of their Select Barrel Reserve expressions to illustrate tequila’s true bloodline. [Tweet “@milagrotequila ‘a sophisticated gentleman in a classy container’ “]

What’s In A Name?

Moy recalls the hilarious story of how Milagro got its name.

[Tweet “A miracle? Do you know how @milagrotequila got its name?”]

How To Sip Milagro

J.P and Moy define the differences between Milagro’s core line and the Select Barrel Reserve.

All This and Kosher, Too?

Thinking ahead, the co-founders of Milagro decided to make their tequila kosher, one of the few brands at the time to do so.  Their reasoning was more personal than you might think.

[Tweet “A tequila to celebrate Passover – @MilagroTequila is kosher “]

Where Are They Now?

MilagroBoxIn 2004, Moy and Danny entered into a partnership agreement with family owned super-premium spirits distiller, William Grant & Sons.  The UK based company eventually acquired a 100% stake in Milagro in 2006.  This allowed Milagro to reach nationwide distribution in the U.S. and in key global tequila markets.

Not ones to rest on their success, both Moy and Danny retained certain rights and still have responsibilities to the brand as Moy clarifies here…

Almost 20

After almost 20 years in existence, J.P. describes his strategies to Milagro’s current challenges in the marketplace.

Having birthed Milagro in the midst of the Agave Crisis of the late 90s that almost bankrupted them, Moy learned the hard lessons of staying ahead of the agave pricing curve.

What About China?

Unlike the major spirits brands who consider exporting into China as the next gold rush, Moy believes that a conservative “wait-and-see” approach is best for Milagro.

La Leyenda del Milagro

Both J.P and Moy share their views on the one thing that you should know about Milagro.

Looking Ahead

Demonstrating that they haven’t lost their entrepreneurial drive which spearheaded Milagro into tequila’s New Age and made them one of the top three most influential start ups in Mexico, Moy and Danny are currently involved in a partnership with Montelobos mezcal. [Tweet “@MilagroTequila: 1 of the top 3 most influential start ups in Mexico”] Whatever tequila’s future holds for the next twenty years, it’s a sure bet that Moy and Danny will be at the forefront pushing it, and Milagro, to further heights.

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”]

wahaka

“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

6_ta_logo_pinas lg

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.”]