With only 40 available seats, one of the hottest seminars at Portland Cocktail Week was the Bon Vivants‘ Indie Tequila Roadshow. Luckily, I RSVP’d, arrived early and snagged a chair.
We were greeted with a Paloma and for the most part, it was assumed that everyone has had tequila before and knew how it’s produced. This seminar was led by David Suro from Siembra Azul, Tomas Estes from Tequila Ocho, and Sophie Decobecq from Calle 23.
What we learned was how to properly taste tequila which I wasn’t surprised to learn was affected by the type of glass it’s presented in. I have always been fond of thinner glasses and although there is a special tequila tasting glass, it was recommended bars taste tequilas in whatever glassware they had to find the one that most suited. They most likely would do just fine in brandy snifters and champagne flutes. The Bon Vivants tried to gather enough glassware but some got by with random glasses. They were eventually switched out and tasters could see a difference.
First we began by standing and depending on which hand was dominant, started smelling the tequila from looking at the ground, waist level and looking skywards. Then we switched sides and there was a noticeable difference. From the six different positions, I preferred smelling the tequila from the right (my dominant side), waist level. I found it very faint on the left side. It was explained our right brain tends to be analytical and our left is our emotional side. If you want to properly analyze the properties, look at something from the right. For instance, when you get the check at a restaurant, do you cock your head to the right when trying to figure it out? This is what it’s like.
It was pretty interesting to taste with a room of professionals. I generally went with if I liked it or not. I wasn’t into the more dry ones, the ones that tasted faintly artificial or was too “rough.” I liked the last three because they were aged. This I already knew because as a bourbon drinker, I know some aged tequilas age in used whiskey barrels.
Other tasters threw out pepper, chocolate, spice, meat, bitter, waxy, grassy among variations of “sweet” flavors like caramelized and melted sugar.
Our professionals remarked upon how high of a proof they liked their tequilas. I was surprised by Sophie’s answer of around 48 proof. Someone asked why were European spirits 38% or under and the answer had to do with taste but I’m fairly certain it’s taxes. The higher the proof, the higher the tax on imported spirits.
Then there was some joking about how tequila drinkers are frankly, sexual. And if you went on a date with someone who ordered white wine, yawn.
Then we got more serious and talked about the magnificent agave. As more and more Mexicans leave their country to find work, it’s harder to find proud agave workers and there’s been abuse in the industry. I have always been turned off by mixtos, preferring the pure agave tequilas. Someone asked how come there couldn’t just be a tequila (or agave spirit) that is mixed. It’s difficult. You certainly wouldn’t be able to call it tequila.
We wrapped up with Portland’s tamale lady bringing around chicken, pork and vegetarian tamales. It was a good snack after tasting 8 tequilas!
Siembra Azul Tequila blog post about Indie Tequila Road Show
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