Tequila aficionados who contend blanco tequilas are the surest measure of a distiller's skill and artistry make a valid point. While barrel-aged reposados and añejos are indeed things of beauty, resting for months or years in charred oak barrels can mask their imperfections.
Such is not the case with unaged blanco tequilas. These transparent spirits greet the world exactly as they came out of the still—clear, vibrant and unadulterated. Whereas production flaws like off-flavors and aromas are readily apparent in silver tequilas, they may go undetected in an aged expression. At the same time, blanco tequilas better showcase the character of the agave, which for enthusiasts is fundamentally important. No, if you really want to ascertain whether you'll like a particular range of tequilas, start the process by first sampling the cornerstone of the portfolio—the silver expression.
The Tragos Amargos Silver is an unblemished gem. The tequila is crafted at Destileria Santa Lucia [NOM 1173] in the town of Tesistan. The agaves used in production are cultivated in the semiarid region of the Lowlands. After harvesting, they are brought to the distillery and slowly cooked in highly efficient autoclaves. The steamed agaves are milled to extract their sugar-rich juice and then transferred to vats where it is fermented over the course 3 days. Naturally occurring airborne yeast is used to precipitate fermentation. Unlike most tequilas that are double distilled, Tragos Amargos Silver is passed through the still a third time to create a irresistibly light bodied tequila. It is bottled at 40% alcohol (80 proof).
Tragos Amargos Silver possesses every characteristic you'd want in a world-class blanco tequila. Bottled fresh from the still, the crystal clear tequila has a generous bouquet laced with the aromas of citrus zest, baking spices, black pepper and tropical fruit. Its aromatics contribute greatly to the overall appeal of the tequila. The entry raises nary a trace of heat as it quickly expands filling the mouth with the flavors of lemon zest, black pepper, cinnamon, baked agave and fresh, ruby red grapefruit. The finish is long and spicy.
In 2016, Tragos Amargos Silver was awarded a gold medal from the judges at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. As one of those judges, I'm pleased that we got that call right-on.
The Tragos Amargos Reposado is aged 9 months in charred, American white oak barrels once used to age bourbon. The great thing about this sensational spirit is that the extended aging did little to obscure the character of the agave, all the while delivering on the promise barrel aging. The reposado has a pale gold/amber color, a medium-weight body and a citrus, spice and fruit bouquet. Its palate is a rich collection of long lasting flavors, including brewed coffee, citrus, dark chocolate and cinnamon with hints of smoke and pepper on the lingering finish.
Equally impressive is the elder statesman of the portfolio—Tragos Amargos Añejo 100% de Agave. This elegant tequila is matured for 18 months in French Limousin oak. During that time it develops a copper/amber appearance, a velvety textured, a medium-weight body and a fetching bouquet saturated with herbal, floral and fruity flavors. Its palate is brimming with the flavors of baking spice, citrus, caramel, vanilla, roasted coffee and cinnamon with a hint of smoke on the long, sophisticated finish. It is an excellent tequila for sipping after dinner.
"The hallmark of a great tequila is can be found in the quality of the agave used to make it. As we say, you can make bad wine from good grapes, but you can't make good wine from bad grapes," contends Jaime Juarez, president of importer 3 Crowns Distributors and Importers. "We're honored by the critical acclaim Tragos Amargos Tequila is attracting. Its success will not go to our heads. I can assure you of that. No shortcuts, no additives and no artificial flavors. Just great tequila."
Tragos Amargos —great tequila at a reasonable price.