Part 2 of my Interview with Republic Tequila COO, Ken MacKenzie
Tequila is a gracious scapegoat. How many times have you falsely accused it as the culprit for your own indiscretions? Oh I’ve heard it many times, and I’ve done it a few times myself. “Sorry I punched you in the eye. It was the tequila.” “Honey, it wasn’t me kissing your sister. It was the tequila.” “I had no idea I could even drive a fork lift, let alone steal one loaded with Ready-Whip. It had to be the tequila.”
Tequila suffers all of these barbs, insults and abominations without the slightest complaint.
Here’s something to consider; if you wouldn’t treat tequila like the bullet train to Drunkville by slammin shots by the box car, you wouldn’t need it to be your fall guy. Tequila is a complex spirit with distinction and heritage. It deserves your respect and a new outlook on how you drink it.
Over the past decade, dozens of premium tequilas have hit the market. Now there are more than 1,000 registered brands, many of which are high quality sought by aficionados. A relatively new one is Republic Tequila, made in Jalisco, Mexico and marketed in Austin, TX. I wrote about Republic Tequila previously, and think it’s worth reviewing all three of its products.
Ken MacKenzie, COO of Republic Tequila, poured me a few snifters of tequila and gave me a run-down of how it’s made. Republic makes its tequila from 100% organic, estate grown Blue Weber agave at La Quemada distillery, using traditional methods with no funny business. He explained the process for making their Plata, Reposado and Añejo tequila lines.
There are 300 varieties of agave. Republic uses Blue Weber because it is controlled by the Mexican government. Every agave plant has a GPS chip implanted in it to monitor it during the entire decade or more of its maturation. That control means its quality won’t be compromised.
To prepare agave for fermentation you have to cook it either in natural ovens or in autoclaves, which are pressure cooker. The difference between the two methods is like the difference between baking a potato in a convection oven versus a microwave. What takes 36 hours in a natural oven can be done in 4 -6 hours in an autoclave. Like a microwave it’s faster, but it also makes it taste differently.
Sebastian Melendrez, Republic Tequila Master Distiller, takes a natural approach to fermentation too by introducing a natural strain of yeast derived from the agave. Sebastian lets it take its sweet time to ferment for 4 to 6 days and ferment without accelerants. He then artfully distills it twice, eliminating the heads and tales to get to the core zone of distillate for pure tequila. Double distillation gets to real tequila. The more you distill it, the more you get away from the core ingredients.
Finally, Republic Tequila rests in open air steel tanks for five days. Why? To get a taste as pure and smooth as a Texas drawl. Now it’s ready for bottling as Plata in the distinctive Texas-shaped bottles.
Let’s get to the tasting.
|Look||Clear as your thoughts before you drink, with velvet viscosity and slow tears rolling down the snifter.|
|Smell||Ken had me tip the glass to smell the complexity of the tequila in the bottom, middle and top of the glass. Each smelled discernably different. The bottom of the glass smelled of strong alcohol and pepper, the middle was rich with sweet and spiced agave and the top smelled of mild spring grass and lemon zest.|
|Taste||Plata comes on with a rush of alcohol, followed by salty, sweet corn and agave. It has a hot, thick mouthfeel with a mid-length finish.|
To make the Reposado, the Plata tequila is aged for 8 months in American Oak. These are Jack Daniels barrels, charred medium, to bring the natural sugars to the surface. Jack only ages its whiskey for one cycle in a barrel, so there is plenty of life left in them to age other liquors. The barrels gives off some sweetness, vanilla and caramel flavors. By law, Reposado has to be aged for 2 months to 12 months. Republic Tequila chose 8 months because they find it is the right amount of time to let the agave flavors in the Plata to come through yet with additional complexity and flavor from aging.
|Look||Golden sun, like an aged Chardonnay, with the tight legs of a distance runner.|
|Smell||When I smelled the bottom of the glass, I thought Ken had swapped the snifter for Cognac, because it was warm with caramel and oak. The middle smelled of sweet cherries and agave and the top smelled of gentle butter and caramelized brown sugar.|
|Taste||The Reposado starts with a burst of pepper and eases into smoky agave, caramel and orange peel. It has a long finish of oak and mint.|
Republic Tequila lets the añejo see 20 months in American Oak Jack Daniels barrels. They don’t add any additional color with wood chips, so the color is natural and somewhat similar to the Reposado.
|Look||Late afternoon sun, orange tinged straw, warm and full. The thick viscosity showed in slow tears.|
|Smell||The first whiff of the bottom of the liquor smelled of ripe bananas, cherries and vanilla. Mid glass was delicate and oaky followed by sweet chocolate on the top.|
|Taste||The aging doesn’t mask the initial heat of alcohol, but it’s well balanced with pepper, orange peel and vanilla. It has smooth mouthfeel with a long finish with oak and bakers chocolate.|
With tequilas this good, it would be a waste to slam back shots surrounded by salt and lime sucking. These tequilas should be savored straight up in a snifter or mixed in a delicious cocktail. Ken is a big fan of sangrita. He enjoys the custom and the flavor of it with tequila. He also recommends simple cocktails like Añejo with Soda, Reposado with tonic and Plata with fruit juices. Republic Tequila makes a line of organic Spirit Blends and has several cocktail recipes on its website.
How do you like to drink your tequila?
Samples of Plata, Reposado and Anejo were provided by Republic Tequila for this review.