I got a special invitation to join MadTree in a session ale tasting and hear a special announcement. What follows part 1 of 2, with part 2 coming at a soon but as of yet undetermined time.
In my continued quest to read everything about booze I just finished reading Adam Rogers’ Proof: The Science of Booze and damn do I love this book!
“I love my unpaid job” was my facebook status last Thursday afternoon. The reason for this love? I had just come from a lunch time tequila tasting that was provided to me because El Arco Tequila reached out to Queen City Drinks to ask if one of their writers would be interested in sampling their tequila and writing a review. Never one to shirk my duty, I bravely stepped forward.
El Arco is a newcomer to the craft tequila market. Arco Ventures LLC, a Cincinnati-based tequila distribution company bought Arco del Cabo Tequila, renamed it El Arco and began selling bottles in 2011 I believe. The change in marketing, branding, and investment seems to have them taking off quickly. When you think Cincinnati you don’t normally think tequila. So when we sat down with the owners, former NFL lineman and St. Xavier graduate, Rocky Boiman and Greg Meyer who is vice chairman of the Commercial Real Estate Council of Greater Cincinnati, we were curious as to how this brand would compare to other tequilas. Despite the owner’s connections to Cincinnati, it is clear that El Arco is a true tequila in every sense of the word. El Arco is produced by the Tres Mujeres Distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. It is made from 100% organic blue agave that grows for at least eight years before it is harvested to be made into the tequila. But how does the final product compare to other tequilas? El Arco advertises its taste rating on tequila.net right on the label, an excellent marketing strategy since both the blanco and the añejo are currently rated higher than other well known craft brands like Patron and Cabo Wabo.
I learned about all of this while sitting at a table with the two pours of tequila sitting in front of me waiting to be tasted so my expectations were pretty high by the time I got to actually try the tequila. I have to admit I was not disappointed. The blanco was smooth and really enjoyable to sip. It had a sweet, grassy flavor on the initial tasting with a spicy, spearmint-like finish. Hints of citrus can also be tasted in the flavor. The añejo is aged for a full two years in an oak barrel before being bottled but other than that it is the same product as the blanco and tasting them side by side was fascinating. If you have ever compared white-dog whiskey to bourbon you will know that the aging process radically changes the flavor of the initial product. With this tequila, you can taste a lot of the same flavors between the two different products. The grass is still there, as well as some lighter citrus but the oak transform the spearmint into more of a cinnamon with a hint of dark chocolate.
Rocky and Greg were also kind enough to make us a margarita using El Arco Blanco. Fresh squeezed lime juice, top shelf ingredients, organic agave nectar; it had to be good right? Unfortunately the one thing they didn’t have was a jigger and the result was not optimal. While I am sure that the blanco makes a delicious margarita the one I got was too heavy on the lime for me to evaluate how well the tequila worked in the cocktail. However, if you want to try one yourself I recommend going to Bakersfield where the blanco is the tequila in the premium margarita, or if you are at the Western and Southern Open this week you will see that El Arco is the chief sponsor of the bar were you can order a pitcher of the El Arco ‘Ace’ Margarita. Either way I am sure you won’t be disappointed.
If you want more detail on El Arco you can listen to the whole tasting and hear Greg and Rocky explain their company philosophy on Episode 26 of Bottoms Up With Ginny and Charlie.
With so many micro-distilleries popping up around the country I thought it would be nice to review a vodka from one of the early success stories from the micro-distilling movement. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is celebrating its 16th year in business. Tito’s was stared by a guy named Tito Beveridge (with a name like that how do you know go into the alcohol business) who started out making vodka infusions as gifts and somehow ended up founding the first legal distillery in Texas. Since winning a double gold medal in the World Spirits Competition they have come to be known as one of the go-to brands of vodka for people who are serious about cocktails but also aware of price. I have even heard of some up-scale bars and restaurants who are using Tito’s as their well vodka so that the taste of their carefully crafted cocktails don’t get ruined by sub-par vodka. This really is the path that every micro-distiller around the country is hoping to follow, although few of them look ready to compete at this point.
Despite having been aware of the brand for many years I had not actually gotten around to buying a bottle until now. Tito’s is a 100% corn vodka and it does have the characteristic sweet and creamy taste that most of the corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have. But the other corn vodka’s I’ve tried also have a lot more of a flavor to them. And when it comes to vodka that is not necessarily a good thing. Tito’s is incredibly smooth, with a creamy mouthfeel and just a hint of sweetness before you do taste the alcohol at the end. But it is not a burning alcohol and you can drink it without making cheap vodka face and coughing. One reason for the difference is that Tito’s microdistilled in an old-fashioned pot stills and so they have more control over the process than with column stills. I would say it is very similar in character and quality to Buckeye Vodka but is a few dollars cheaper per bottle and, in my opinion, slightly better. Don’t be put off by the cheap looking bottle and plastic cap. Part of Tito’s mission statement is keeping their product as affordable as possible and they are clearly not investing too much in bottle. Instead they use quality ingredients, a careful distillation process, and then distill it just enough (six times) to get out the impurities and strong corn flavors but not so much that all that is left is the ethanol flavor. So there you have it. If you want to support local vodka at an affordable price go with Buckeye but if you want a bottom line better vodka for an even better price, go with Tito’s.
If you want to listen to a tasting and review of Tito’s you can hear it on this week’s episode of Bottom Up.