On a recent business trip, as with most all trips I take now-a-days, I ran a search of local liquor stores to find a couple that might be close to where I would be. The plan is always the same – stop in, find the tequila section and scan the shelves looking for brands and bottles that have been passed over for the big names you all recognize. The visit usually ends up with me walking out empty-handed, or, with a bottled water or soda if the clerk has been exceptionally helpful in trying to find something that wasn’t there.
On this particular trip, there were three stores within a block or two of each other that I could easily visit. Upon entering the first, I saw a number of old bottles on a top shelf – not tequila, but old and dusty bottles none-the-less. That’s usually a good sign. After a few moments of scanning the shelves, the clerk inquired about my needs and instinctively pointed to the big brands on the shelf as soon as I said the word “tequila”. I further clarified what I was looking for and the clerk happily pointed behind the counter at a bookshelf in a “private” area. Upon walking back there, I quickly realized that the area was private due to a couple of bookshelves of magazines and DVD’s not fit for family viewing. Regardless, there were four or five shelves of dusty bottles strewn about and I had the opportunity to rummage through them. I could feel the adrenalin that this opportunity brought – there HAD to be at least ONE treasure bottle here! But after checking and rechecking, I gave in. Nothing. I stepped back and again looked at the main shelf of spirits and at the top was a bottle similar to Oro Azul, but the label read “Tequila Tazón”. Hmmm… I pulled the bottle down and looked it over as I’d never seen or heard of this brand. I’ve had Tezón, but this was obviously a different brand altogether. The price was right, so I bought it thinking I’d research it later. Worst case, it was a nice looking bottle for the collection. It turns out that Tazón was a pretty good find and for now, it’s on the shelf waiting to be tasted. That’s treasure enough for me. (You can read more about Tazón at Joe Horrigan’s Collection website)
Walking into the second store, I again quickly scanned the spirits aisle for the tequila section, noticed it at the far end, and started walking that way. Immediately I recognized a new bottle of Casa Noble on the top shelf – a sign that they carry more than just the basic brand names. As I walked up to look at the bottle, slowly revealing itself next to and behind the new bottle of Casa Noble was a bottle of their Special Reserve Añejo. Even better, it was a black ceramic bottle, with the easily identifiable gold leaf markings that just screamed out “basketweave!” I think I levitated for a moment. I quickly grabbed the bottle and instantly that euphoria I was feeling disappeared. The bottle seemed too light. A quick shake and the sloshing that I heard reinforced my initial fears – the bottle wasn’t full. Evaporation. The amount of time that this bottle had probably spent sitting on that shelf had likely dried the cork stopper, causing it to shrink just enough for Mother Nature to slowly siphon off some of the alcohol from inside. But how much? Hard to tell with a bottle you can’t see through. I looked for another bottle but this was the only one. My guess is that hunters smarter than I have run across this bottle before and left it on the shelf for exactly that reason. I’m not one of those smart people. I took the bottle to the cashier to explain to him the problem as I perceived it. He tried holding it to the light to see through it, even as I explained to him the non-translusent properties of ceramics. I told him I was interested, but not at the asking price. He noted that he’d return it to the distributor to get another, not realizing that those bottles are long out of production and general availability. After spending a fair amount of time haggling, I was able to get what I thought was a significant discount – possibly still more than an experienced buyer would pay, but the impulse side of my brain convinced me that I may never come across this bottle again… and besides, it’s a beautiful bottle! I walked out of there with the bottle in hand, a lighter wallet, and an uneasy feeling knowing I’d probably regret my decision later.
The third store provided nothing and I finished my trip, packed the 2 bottles for the flight home and off I went. The Casa Noble was packed in a zip-lock freezer bag and upon unpacking at home, my fears were confirmed… seepage from the bottle. Indeed, while the stopper was still fully in place and tight with the shrink-wrap plastic in place, the seal between the cork and the bottle provided enough of an opening to allow more than a few drops of that precious juice to escape. Evaporation indeed appeared to be the thief in the night. So now what to do? That’s easy – I bought it to drink, so let’s open it up and drink it! And that’s exactly what I did to celebrate the New Year.
In the time between getting it home and New Year’s Eve, I did some research and found out that the bottle that I had purchased (Lot 2250212, #7400) is described as a “Flower Weave” bottle. (example) Based on the painted “weave” patterns on the neck and shoulders of the bottle, these fall into one of five categories: Star, Spiral, Flower, Mesh or Grid. Casa Noble stopped painting the necks and bases of the bottles with the gold leaf weave as production increased, which is one of the reasons they are a sought-after edition.
Finally, New Year’s Eve was upon us and I opened the bottle with anticipation. First and foremost, the aromas that came with the uncorking were a good sign. No mustiness or “old cork” smell. Comparing it to another Casa Noble product, the hints of chocolate and fudge that came with the Medallion Reposado were not as intense here, but they were still present. I was instantly feeling better about my purchase. Pouring it unveiled the wonderfully golden color of this tequila. A few swirls in the glass and then straight to the first taste. Triple distilled and aged five years in French white oak, this añejo was smooth, perfectly sweet and nicely balanced. My concerns about lost alcohol disappeared as the juice provided a warm tingle throughout my mouth and had a nice, lasting finish. This is the type of tequila that makes me want to relax and enjoy it in front of a fire, which I did that night. I really thought this was going to be an expensive mistake, but instead, my New Year was brought in with the sweet taste of some Casa Noble Special Reserve Añejo. Mark this one up in the treasure column!