On a recent weeknight, the Dishing team headed to a chic event space in the Imperial Hotel for a special tequila dinner, hosted by Casa Noble Tequila and Riverhorse on Main. Located at 221 Main, the dinner took place one floor up from Riverhorse’s more casual deli and market space, Park City Provisions.
Over the course of the night, David Yan, a brand rep for Casa Noble, educated guests on how to best appreciate this spirit. (Casa Noble is owned by Constellation Brands, who also owns High West Distillery.)
As we tasted four varieties of Casa Noble tequila — all of which are certified organic — we learned more than we’d ever expected to know about tequila. Here’s what we found out.
1. Tequila is the most highly regulated liquor in the world.
According to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, “tequila is an alcohol beverage distilled from the agave plant and has been given worldwide recognition as a distinctive product of Mexico.”
Translation: You know how Champagne can technically only come from the Champagne region of France? Similarly, tequila can only come from the Tequila region of Mexico. Specifically, tequila must be produced in one of five Mexican states: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas.
Tequila must also only come from the blue agave plant. While both tequila and mezcal come from the agave plant, tequila can only be made from the blue varietal. The separation between the two began with the regulation of tequila back in the 1940s. Casa Noble in particular produces only 100 percent agave tequila — a.k.a pure tequila, sans sugars or any other additives.
2. The proper way to taste tequila is much different than wine.
If you’re like me, your first instinct is to put your nose in the glass, swirl it around and take a sniff, before taking a slow sip of the drink. That’s not the right way to taste tequila, we learned.
“Tasting is an act of learning through your senses,” Casa Noble’s David Yan told us during dinner. First step: Observe the color, and take a sniff. Next: You want to “kiss” the tequila — whet your lips with the liquor, as if you’re French-kissing your glass. (Graphic, but accurate!)
Then, take a big inhale before you take your first sip. Once you have the tequila in your mouth, swallow and then exhale hard over your tongue to really excite and enliven your taste buds and experience all the flavor profiles. (In fact, tequila has more than twice the identifiable flavor profiles of a big red wine: wine has approximately 300 flavor profiles, while tequila has 630.)
3. Tequila changes color and taste depending on how long it’s aged.
Tequilas are typically categorized as blanco, gold, reposado, anejo or extra anejo. These are differentiated by the color, tasting notes and, most importantly, the amount of time they spend aging in the barrel. Gold, reposado and anejo will vary in tones from golden tawny to caramel, while blanco — the youngest variety — is typically clear.
Casa Noble’s award-winning anejo tequila, for example, is aged for two years, while others are aged for less than two years. Their reposado tequila just barely missed the cutoff: It’s aged for exactly 364 days so it’s bottled one day before it’d qualify as anejo.