Think back to the last time you hosted friends or relatives at your place. Would you consider yourself a good host or hostess? Did you perhaps brew them a pot of tea, or serve them a platter of fruits? Whatever the case, I’ll bet you can’t top the Camarena family.
Who’s the Camarena family you ask? They are the family that has owned the La Altena Distillery since its opening in 1937 in Jalisco, Mexico. For a time, they had painstakingly produced and aged a private batch of high-quality Extra Añejo tequila that was never actually meant to be sold, but instead, reserved for the enjoyment of friends and relatives that dropped by to visit them. Talk about being a Hostess with the Mostess!
Inevitably, then, word of this private batch of joy juice spread. Soon, the Camarena family found themselves fielding requests from importers keen to bottle some for sale in the United States. They eventually acquiesced, releasing a first lot of tequila that was aged for four years in virgin American oak casks called Tequila Tapatio Excelencia Extra Añejo.
What bottles were released to market were promptly sold out… which, of course, only increased demand for more.
Eventually, the distillery rolled out a second lot with some slight tweaks. Instead of virgin oak casks, this expression was poured into the same barrels used for the prior batch, before being aged for five years. After that, the tequila was transferred to glass jugs and rested for slightly over a decade, a time intensive process that allowed that flavors imparted from the oak to meld and develop before bottling.
While I myself haven’t tried the first batch, I’m told that the second batch of Tequila Tapatio Excelencia Extra Añejo is an even more improved version of this expression, with a stronger, riper agave influence. Today, I have before me one such bottle from this batch, and I’m excited to try this for myself! The bottle itself is really pretty; note the dancing man and woman on the bottle label, a cool homage to the Jarabe Tapatio, a Mexican hat dance originating in Guadalajara, Jalisco.
A quick note on Tapatio: It was one of the early brands that championed 100% agave tequila when it launched in 1940. Note that official regulations governing tequila production can be a tad misleading, allowing brands to have 2% non-agave sugars in the mix while still qualifying to label their tequila as “100% agave” products. Yet despite this allowance, La Altena Distillery has a respectable commitment to never adding any additives to its Tapatio expressions.
Let’s dig in.
Tequila Tapatio Excelencia Extra Añejo Batch 2 – Review
Matured in American oak barrels. Around US$180 from various online retailers.
Color: Burnished gold, reminding me of pancake syrup.
On the nose: There’s a punchy fruity aroma of pineapples and agave that emerges on the first whiff, but this recedes quickly as stronger notes of caramel and vanilla come to the fore. On the backdrop, a light buttery scent lingers. These aromas integrate well, reminding me of a pineapple upside down cake. Surprisingly, despite the deep vanillic, caramel notes, it still smells very bright and fresh, without as much oakiness as I had come to expect from extra Añejos.
In the mouth: The texture is fairly light-bodied and only slightly oily, yet the flavours are very rich. I get initial sweet notes of vanilla, butter, and honey. There’s also some cinnamon and bittersweet dark chocolate notes. On the first sip, this tasted quite similar to a classic bourbon, but then slowly… slowly… I start to notice this delightfully tingly sensation of black pepper on the tongue that is quite unique. This is complemented by lashings of fruit notes like pineapples, apricots and oranges that weave in at the end.
The bright spiciness of this tequila is remarkably well balanced and harmoniously integrated with the richer, deeper notes of vanilla and butterscotch. It’s nice to see the agave influence still making itself known, and not getting drowned out by the oak’s influence. A truly spectacular tightrope walk!
The finish is long, with the lingering taste of pepper balanced by slight notes of toffee and nuts.
This bottle surprised me with its complexity of flavours, as if they were pulled out from a magician’s hat. Bright crisp fruity notes were remarkably well-juggled against the richer oak-imparted notes of vanilla and caramel. I’ll add that this bottle is certainly on the slightly pricier side relative to the typical mezcal, so I am inclined adjust the score to account for that.