Blind tequila neat tasting, using top margarita tequilas
Over the summer I conducted a series of blind tastings to determine, on a preliminary basis, my favorite recipe ratios for a classic margarita, and my favorite blanco tequilas for use in those drinks. The results of the Perect Margarita Blind Tasting Finals Round 1 are here:
Now I want to go back and taste just the tequilas blind, side-by-side. In the margarita finals I was using several strongly-recommended tequilas which I had never tasted neat, most notably Siete Leguas and Corzo. So here goes, a blind tasting of Siete Leguas, Corzo, Patron, Milagro, and Tesoro, the 5 tequilas which found their way into the margarita finals Round 1.
My ultimate goal for this remains to identify my favorite tequila(s) for margaritas, rather than for drinking straight, but I am curious about the flavor differences neat, as these nuances in the end determine how the tequila impacts the flavor of the margaritas. It’s also worth noting at the outset that the best-tasting tequila neat is not necessarily going to be the best candidate for your margarita; it is really the interplay between tequila, orange liqueur, and lime that ultimately determine that.
From my multiple prior tastings, ALL of these tequilas make an interesting margarita, and several of them have actually combined nicely to produce an even more interesting cocktail than either alone.
Actual tasting notes follow:
Teq 1: Mild nose, medium to mild lingering burn. Not unpleasant. I haven’t mastered describing the unique flavors of tequila. But for my purposes, this is relatively clean tasting, mild burn, not particularly “lip smacking” and no particularly describable flavors; mild “cool mint” perhaps, is that on the tequila tasting wheel?.
Teq 2: Stronger flavored, musty-earthy. Mild burn.
Teq 3: Somewhere between 1 and 2. Interesting that the mild burn on this really lingers, almost evolves in the back of my throat… did I mention this lingers? Hints of pepper on the nose and palate.
At this point, 2 has that expansive earthy flavor, vs. 3 which is more sharply focused, like an aggressive “Teq 1”, but with the interesting flavor evolution. I think if I have to drink 2 or 3 neat, I’d probably choose 3 (less earthiness, more flavor evolution). In contrast to 3, Teq 1 just sort of “sits there”, is inoffensive but also somewhat unremarkable. So Teq 3 is probably the winner at this point
Teq 4: Ah, this is an interesting sucker, pretty sure I know which it is (going to guess Tesoro but might be Corzo). By far the most pronounced nose. The initial taste produces an “ugghh” exclamation. Not necessarily in a bad way, but this is bold tequila. There’s pepper and mineral in a very distinct up-front flavor that dissipates fairly rapidly; i.e. not much flavor evolution past the initial impressions. Maybe something lingering there, but not really evolving.
Teq 5: Almost no nose. Mild lemony flavor, inoffensive but perhaps a little boring. Similar to Teq 1. Nothing not to like….
Tasting Teq 1 and 5 side-by-side, they are fairly similar. Thought at first I might like 5 a bit better… yes, I think a bit brighter, not that 1 is bad.
So I’m tentatively saying, of the “clean” tasting tequilas I’m leaning to 5 neat (over 1 by a nose). Of the harsher-flavored, probably 3 given the complexity. If I had to sit in a room and drink this stuff straight I’d probably opt for Teq 5 as a little of 2-3-or 4 goes a long ways… but again, can be incredible in a margarita!
Well probably not going to discover much more, time to find out for sure what I’ve been drinking:
Teq 1: Corzo. Totally didn’t expect that.
Teq 2: Patron.
Teq 3: Siete Leguas
Teq 4: Tesoro… got that one right, with the distinctive pepper is a give-away.
Teq 5: Milagro!! Which has consistently impressed me as a very approachable well-made tequila, easily the best for my palate neat.
So in the coming months I’ll be picking up on the Summer Finals Round 1 and this blind tasting, experimenting with tequila combinations, other orange liqueurs, etc. on my quest for the very ultimate margarita recipe.
I am confident that the ultimate marg will have a tequila base of both a 1-5 “clean” tequila, and one or more of the 2-3-4 more complex ones. So, for example, I might go (on the tequila portion), 40% Milagro, 40% Siete, and 20% Tesoro for that peppery kick. Until next time….
I love straight (100% Agave) silver Tequila. But I also like Rum Agricole, cachacha, straight corn whiskey, and even unaged rye. I love all of the botanical, grassy plant like notes that usually get obliterated by barrel aging. The unique spicy notes that come from Agave are wonderful in my book.
Try my "Dry" Marg recipe if you like.
Fill a tumbler with ice, add a decent squeeze of lime (say 1/4 of what you would normally put in a marg) and then add just a thimble full of cointreau, maybe two. Stir.
I sometimes call it a dry marg. You get some of the softening that the lime and the cointreau provide, but the agave still comes through.
Awesome Stripe, thanks for the tip... I actually have found myself making something akin to that.... I'll get a wild hare to try some straight blanco, then add a bit of whatever orange liqueur is within reach and a splash of lime... so the ratios are skewed towards the tequila like you say...
... and sometimes I go in reverse, I might be sipping a Citronge and add a splash of tequila to give it some extra ummph...
.... the beautiful thing about these drinks is that they can be completely titrated to match your palate at the time...
So it sounds as though your opinion of tequila has changed from what you posted a while back - "What silver tequila is so luscious to drink straight that you don't find it (honestly) shudderingly vile? Frankly any silver tequila reminds me of one-off from aguardiente if you've ever been to Colombia..."
You still seem to be favoring the milder ones, but a taste for agave sometimes takes a while to develop (if it ever does). What you would call "harsh" Tequila lovers would likely call "robust", which is how I would describe Siete Leguas.
El Tesoro has an unusual taste I had a hard time describing at first, until I saw someone call it "green olive" and "briney" - which clicked for me.
Interesting question... yes, it's changed somewhat for "well made" products, I definitely appreciate them more even if I don't have a strong hankering to have them neat. But garden-variety tequila is still generally not appealing to me straight and bottom-shelf tequila on my palate is still about as vile as it gets...
I mainly taste them neat because a good margarita is one of my favorite cocktails I'm curious about the taste of the tequila and will try it straight...
...that said any straight tequila, even any of these 5 is way down my list of stuff I like to drink right out of the bottle. For spirits I suppose a great aged scotch or irish whiskey would probably be near the top (16 or 21-y.o. Bushmills) .... but for something right out of the bottle I'd take a great microbrewed craft beer, a great wine or liqueur anyday.
I'm pretty sure if I ever developed a true attraction for straight tequila it would probably end up being a repo or anejo, but I definitely prefer silver in a margarita based on my limited tastings.
So here's a question, for someone like me is there some minor modification, like a squeeze of lime perhaps (?) or a splash of some mixer that makes pure tequila more tasty to some palates? In alot of settings I'll order scotch with a splash of water rather than neat, is there an equivalent in the tequila world?
Some folks who did an extensive margarita project found that to their average palate there was a relationship between the softness or harshness of the tequila and that of the orange liqueur. It was something like match harsh with harsh and soft with soft, or vice versa... i.e. certain triple secs work with certain tequilas while others don't.
I suspect that's true, I'm glad I've at least been able to start to distinguish the silver tequila taste spectrum...
What do you mean by "garden variety" tequila? Tequila that tastes like tequila?
I tend to add water to most spirits I drink. Sipping on a liquid of 40% alcohol or higher is simply rough on the tongue, no matter how smooth the product. There are cases where I feel that spirits just can't take water without the flavor suffering, but those are rare cases for me, so why not try adding water to your tequila? If you want to get geeky about, buy an eye dropper so you can really get picky about your dilution.
re: The Big Crunch
There is a lot of tasty stuff in the mid-shelf stuff. Milagro is very much so in that category, and while I find it a bit on the dull side, it's certainly not bad. El Ultimo is also pretty chreap and really good. Cazzadores also makes some decent tequilas for around the mid twenty dollar range in my area.