The Curious Case of Don Julio 70

October 15, 2011
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A few years ago, I interviewed David Suro-Pinera, a restaurateur and tequila maker; his brand, Siembra Azul, is a very fine tequila with an unfortunately rather limited availability. During the course of our discussion, this tequila evangelist was adamant that “the true essence of tequila is with the blancos.” Personal experience has made a believer out of me; I’ve spent the past three years looking for tequilas that approach Siembra Azul’s vibrancy and flavor, and fortunately met some success. My tequilas of choice: Espolon blanco, a deal at $20/bottle, and Don Julio blanco, which is about $40/bottle, a bit smoother, more floral notes, but perhaps less citrus. I’ve tried the aged versions of all three brands as well, and the blancos, at least for me, outshine the oak-barrel-aged counterparts.

I recently had an opportunity to sample Don Julio 70, created in honor of the 70th anniversary of the year that Don Julio González himself began making tequila. It’s presented as something of a “best of both worlds” tequila, merging characteristics of blanco and anejo all in one through a special filtering. In short, anejo tequila is “specially filtered to bring back the crisp agave flavor typically found in a blanco,” a careful process designed by the company’s modern-day master distiller Enrique de Colsa. The process, according to the company, “restores the citrus and fruity agave flavor notes that are muted during the aging process to a more concentrated strength, resulting in a stronger flavor of the tequila’s raw materials.” And it’s a clear liquid, like a blanco. Don Julio 70 retails for about $70/bottle.

So . . . how is it? It’s not a question that’s easy to give a quick answer to. There’s obvious craftsmanship in Don Julio 70, and it’s certainly not like any tequila I’ve ever tried before. Gone are whatever citrus, vanilla, or woody notes that are found in Don Julio’s blanco and anejo. But that floral note that’s the hallmark of the blanco is there … in spades. In fact, that’s most of what’s there, a very distinct floral note–similar to the Don Julio blanco’s, but times 10–with a hint of a nearly industrial taste during mid-sip that fades away, though the floral taste lingers. The main flavor is one I’d compare to “violet” gum in its cloyingness and intensity and limited complexity. I might describe it as tasting like some perfume smells.

So I realize that doesn’t sound amazingly appealing–but I’ll admit that it’s very interesting, and grows on me the more I drink it. It tends to linger in the throat and on the tongue in a pleasant manner after each sip. It’s amazingly smooth, with even less of  a back-bite than Don Julio’s regular anejo. It’s perhaps much of the flavor minus the fire. I could see some non-tequila drinkers, who feel that tequila is too harsh, enjoying this. Alternately, long-time tequila drinkers may well enjoy it as a unique experience.

I’d encourage people try it, but perhaps by the shot or at someone else’s expense. Paying $70 per bottle for what I’d either call “interesting” or “an acquired taste” is not such a great investment. This is for tequila completists.

(Now where’d that Espolon get to?)

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