September has been a month that I was looking forward to for some time. NHL teams open camp, pro and college football returns, and the kids are back in school. While those are all great, I was looking forward to this particular September for a few other reasons. This year’s installment included a couple of business trips mixed in and overlapping with a number of tequila events. Now that the end of the month is upon us and I am once again settled in at home, over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some of these wonderful experiences here.
The month started out on a high note as I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to a private tasting event in Houston that not only featured Casa Noble tequila, a personal favorite, but was also being led by co-owner and founder Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo. Also in attendance was David Yan, the brand’s Director of Marketing for Mexico. As I noted initially, this event took place in Houston and more specifically, at the TQLA Tequila Bar and Restaurant. This meant a three-hour drive for me each way. The drive there was actually quite pleasant and I had enough time to stop at a few places along the way to see what I might find (Success! Two Denton Chinacos and some $20 Trago’s!). I arrived at TQLA about 30 minutes early giving me a chance to meet and talk to David Yan, one of the tequila industry’s great ambassadors and educators. I have known David for some time through various forums and social media channels, but this was the first time that we were able to meet in person and I was very much looking forward to that. After proper introductions we talked for a bit about different topics, including some recent industry news and events, mutual friends, and Carlos Santana, Casa Noble’s newest partner. (Santana was also in Houston preparing for a weekend show and I noted that a few of us at the event were wondering if he’d make a surprise appearance). David is a class act and one of those people that has always been willing to answer questions and share his insights about tequila, and finally getting to meet him and talk face-to-face was one of the reasons I was there.
After a quick introduction and brief chat with Pepe Hermosillo, we took our seats and the tasting commenced as Pepe led a group of roughly 20 people through a quick history of Casa Noble, the La Cofradia distillery, and the production techniques behind the making of Casa Noble tequilas. A lowlands or valley-based brand, Casa Noble is a single estate, USDA certified organic and kosher 100% agave tequila and in front of us were four brandy snifter-style glasses with each already containing a sample of the various tequilas we were about to taste. First was the blanco, or “Crystal” as Casa Noble has titled theirs. Pepe talked us through each segment of the process and explained each step as he went along – a perfect “Tequila Tasting 101” class. First, raise the glass to the light to examine the clarity and brilliance. Next, look at it with the white paper on our tables as a backdrop, picking up on the colors – hints of gray, silver and even green at the edges as light dances through it. The main thing to look for in this step is clarity of the juice – no “floaties”, cloudiness or other things that show possible issues with the tequila.
Next, Pepe walked through the aromas. I’ve found that snifters are generally great for two things: concentrating the aromas and concentrating the alcohol vapors. He asked each of us to place our noses at three different spots above the glass. First, the bottom lip of the glass, getting the nose close to the juice. The alcohol notes tend to be strongest here but this is also the best place to smell any agave notes. Next, we moved to the center of the glass where more secondary aromatics come through and finally, we moved to the top rim, where more of the floral notes really start to expose themselves. Pepe noted that there are 600 distinct “flavors” that can be picked up from a tequila. To help us more easily identify some of those found in Casa Noble’s tequilas, each table was provided with a mini scent kit – six small bottles that contained pure extracts of different scents such as white pepper, agave, lemon-grass and cherry.
At this point, we gave the glass a swirl – looking at the body and legs, watching to see how quickly the “pearls” formed, their size and how slowly they fell down the sides of the glass (legs or tears). The smaller the droplets and the slower the tears, the more body the tequila tends to have. This usually translates to a great mouthfeel and what some describe as almost “chewy”. The gentle swirling also helps accelerate the evaporation of some of the alcohol vapors which then allows the nose to pick up more of the aromas.
Finally, we tasted. Pepe asked us to take a small sip, let it sit in the mouth momentarily before slowly breathing in a bit through the mouth while the juice is still present, then breath out through the nose. This helps to activate the palate’s flavor receptors as well as getting a more complete flavor from the tequila itself. It engages more taste receptors, allowing more flavors to be picked up. Next, we took a larger sip and let it fully coat the mouth looking for body, mouthfeel and various flavors as well as the way the tequila finishes after being swallowed. When swallowing, allow the juice to gently slide down the throat. Swallowing “hard” or gulping tends to cause the stereotypical back-of-the-throat burning.
We walked through this same routine for each of the four glasses placed in front of us: the blanco; the reposado (aged for 364 days, one day short of legally being an añejo); the regular añejo (aged 2 years); and a single-barrel reposado (also aged 364 days). All of the aged expressions were rested in new white French oak barrels and all of Casa Noble’s tequila is triple distilled in small batch stainless pot stills. Finally, as a special surprise, a 5-year single-barrel añejo was poured and given to each of us in a traditional Riedel tequila glass, etched with the Casa Noble logo and provided as a keepsake for each attendee. While each bottle was enjoyable on its own and had its own signature characteristics, from white pepper and citrus to chocolate, caramel and vanilla, the entire line had a distinct and consistent agave backbone that really comes through when tasting each side-by-side.
Myself, Pepe, “Texas Cavediver” Rick & David Yan
Once the tasting was completed, Pepe moved from table to table answering questions and talking with everyone. I took advantage of this opportunity and asked a few questions as well as getting signatures on my own older bottles of reposado and a 5-year añejo, along with a group photo or two. This night did nothing but confirm my belief that Casa Noble is one of the true benchmark tequila brands currently available and I would encourage everyone to seek it out and give it a taste. Special thanks to TQLA Houston and Casa Noble for an informative and fun night. It was a perfect way to kick off what has turned out to be a great month.
(to be continued…)
For more information about Casa Noble, please visit their website at www.casanoble.com.