The Camarena family are well known within the tequila world. They started producing tequila way back in 1937 and are now three generations in, still producing it the traditional ‘slow’ way. The family grow their own agave, the base ingredient of all tequila, which in itself is a rare choice to opt for. When Master Distiller Carlos Camarena asked Tomas Estes if he wished to collaborate with him on the creation of Ocho, the man who has run Mexican bars and restaurants since 1976 and helped raise the profile of tequila as a whole jumped at the chance.
So what have they done?
Ocho uses the exploration of terroir (the use of natural elements to effect agriculture) to determine the optimum places to grow their agave. They produce batches of tequila from single fields (ranchos) instead of the two main regions (Tequila Valley and Los Altos) that many other tequila producers use. Arandas is the are used, naming the ranchos as El Carrizal, Las Pomez and Los Corrales. One they have their over-riped agave, or piñas, after 7-10 years of growth, they are taken to the distillery and placed within brick ovens. They are slowly cooked for around 48 hours at a temperature of 80-85 degrees centigrade, then rest in the oven for 24 hours to cool. The first 8 hours of juice from the piñas is removed as this is seen as too bitter. Once cooled, it is then transported to the milling machine where each piña is pressed to release all the juices. The resulting liquid is added to natural spring water from the distillery.
Once added, it is then put within a 3000 litre capacity pine vat to ferment in the open air. Natural yeast is used over a 4-5 day period. Once fermented it is distilled twice, first within a stainless steel 3,500 litre pot still, then through a 300 litre copper pot still. This process is done slowly and takes off less of the ‘heads and tails’ than usual (the heads and tails are where most of the flavours are kept, i.e. the start of the process and the end of the process). Once distilled, the liquid is aged within ex 200 litre bourbon barrels for a designated amount of time (depending on the expression to be created), and then bottled and labelled by hand.
And why the number 8 on the bottle? The tequila is made from the eighth sample created by the Camarenas for Tomas Estes!
So how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on my experiences of the range so far –
Ocho Blanco – 40%
Light on the nose with grass and agave aromas coming through. Slight honey sweetness develops too. Very light on the palate, again with a slight sweetness. The agave dominates a good finish.
Ocho prides itself on being versatile too –
50 ml Ocho Blanco
25 ml Lime
10 ml Fresh ginger syrup (1 part ginger juice : 1 part simple syrup)
10 ml Crème de Cassis
Top with Ginger Ale
Shake and strain into ice filled glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Ocho have a variety of expressions within their portfolio, including the Curado, Resposado, Anejo and Extra Anejo. I’m looking forward to experiencing these wen I can, and I hope you would be too, because if the Camarena family can create brands such as Excellia, the rest of the Ocho will be spot on.
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