Villa Lobos

Villa Lobos

A range of tequila expressions that have floated around the UK market over the last few years has found footing on some major stepping-stones coming in the next few months, placing itself within the highly respected Instil Spirits portfolio to certify that it’s not just a one-trick-pony.

So what is Villa Lobos?

Villa Lobos is the result of a friendship and close collaboration with two of the world’s most respected and trusted authorities on tequila: Carlos Camarena and Dale Sklar. Carlos Camarena is the brainchild behind the likes of Ocho, Tapatio and Casco Viejo tequila’s, whilst Dale Sklar is the Managing Director and founder of importers Wine and Spirit International. Question is though, what makes Villa Lobos stand out to the rest of Carlo’s brands?

The agave used for Villa Lobos comes straight from the agave plantation owned by the Camarena family in Los Altos, but by chance Carlos had created too much for his usual requirements and began storing it within open steel tanks. A year later, he tried the agave to make sure it was still suitable, but with the extra oxidation it became ‘more feminine and silky’, he couldn’t use the agave for his usual brands, so instead he went in a different direction and Villa Lobos was born.

The four expressions are your usual suspects, and below, I give to you my tasting notes on the core three –

Villa Lobos Blanco – 40%

Double distilled. A good kick of dry oak on the nose, with light agave notes and soft sweetness coming through.A tender kick of agave hits the palate, developing into a wet spice and soft smoke aroma that gives a fresh, light and lingering finish.

Villa Lobos Reposado – 40%

Spends at least 6 months resting in tanks before being aged in American oak for 11 months. Very light, subtle notes of agave, with licks of oak and earthy aromas on the nose. Raw oak flavours are hit with a good kick of dry agave and plenty of course soil to give a lingering, slightly harsh finish.

Villa Lobos Añejo – 40%

Spends at least 6 months resting in tanks before being aged in American oak for 24 months. Soft, slightly coarse aromas of earth and agave blending well on the nose. Licks of smoke give off plenty of oak flavours, with kicks of raw agave coming through. A long, heavy feeling smoked finish.

Villa Lobos
Villa Lobos Los Hombres
– 40%

Created to celebrate the friendship between Carlos and Dale, this is a 2000 bottle release, aged for 10 years within American oak barrels.
Soft earthy butter notes upon the nose, with slight ripe banana and papaya coming through. Thick butterscotch hits the palate early, developing into a lively cracked black pepper and dry oak. A long finish with plenty of roasted red pepper lingering.

Some very interesting expressions here, with a fifth, the Extra Añejo also available and aged for 48 months. One’s for enjoying straight, even the Blanco, which at a push could make a good cocktail base if you had some good ingredients to match it with.
Although created by accident perhaps, the year in open air tanks makes a pleasant difference to many other tequila names, especially Carlos’ other brands. Perhaps one for your drinks cabinet at home, or to impress your friends with on a night out if you happen to come across it in your favourite bar.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Ocho

Ocho

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 –

El Diablo
El Diablo

El Diablo

Glass – 

Highball

Ingredients – 

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

Method – 

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.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Excellia Tasting Notes

Excellia

One category that I’ve been enjoying a lot of lately is tequila. I’ve been surrounded by many brands lately and I’ve never once complained. Excellia is one of them.

Excellia is the result of a partnership between two men – Jean-Sebastien Robicquet, founder of EWG Spirits & Wine, ground-breaking brand creator and producer (G’Vine gin and Esprit de June liqueur) and Carlos Camarena, precursor and award-winning tequila master-distiller (Tapatio and El Tesoro tequilas) and the origin of the “Extra-Anejo” category. To create something different, the two gentleman brought together three different regions – 

Los Altos (Jalisco, Mexico) – A hot and dry climate followed by a heavy rainy season and the rich red clay soil rich in minerals of the highlands generate sweet, soft and fruity agaves.

Sauternes region (France) – A micro-climate with foggy mornings, sunny afternoons by the river and botrytis create the Grand Cru of dessert wine with delicate notes of dried fruits and flowers and a perfect balance between acidity and sugar.

Cognac region (France) – A lot of sun with the right amount of rain, mild temperatures all year-long thanks to the ocean’s influence and the region’s chalky soil contribute to the finest brandy and its so specific rancio character.

Jalisco is also the region where Excellia is handcrafted and made using 100% agave Tequilana Weber Blue that is cut by hand after 8-10 years of maturity. Once the agave is considered ripe and ready (showcased by red marks on the piña), the long leaves are cut and separate the piñas (the core of the agave) from the plant. The piñas are then transported to the distillery La Alteña and cut into quarters. It’s steam cooked slowly for 36 hours using traditional bricks and stone ovens, being shredded and crushed straight after and then fermented in wooden vats for 7 to 10 days before being distilled twice within copper stills. Once distilled, the tequila is aged within Grand Cru Sauternes wine casks and in Cognac barrels. The Sauternes wine casks have been used to produce only one vintage, meaning two or three years. It is then aged within Cognac casks that have been used for more than 20 years to age renowned cognacs. Once aged, the master blender marries the two different aged tequilas and creates the different recipes for the Blanco, Reposado and Añejo,

The three strong portfolio is the result, with each below named alongside my tasting notes –

Excellia Blanco – 40%

Rested a few weeks in Grand Cru Sauternes wine casks and Cognac barrels. Light notes of oak and cloves, with a developing spice on the palate. Slight vanilla and ripe fruit blend well and create a lingering finish with a slight warmth.

Exellia Reposado – 40%

Nine months ageing in Grand Cru Sauternes wine casks and Cognac barrels. Plenty of dried herbs on the nose with a slight honey aroma. Rich, ripe fruits on the palate with a slight honey and caramel feel, followed by a long, slightly spicy finish that becomes a little dry.

Excellia Añejo – 40%

Aged eighteen months. Light apricot and grape aromas on the nose with a slight oak scent. A bold flavour of fresh wood and sweetness on the palate, developing into a mellow finish of soft spice.

A fantastic range, with the Reposado going fantastic with this –

Mexpresso Martini
Mexpresso Martini

Mexpresso Martini

Glass – 

Martini

Ingredients – 

40 ml Excellia Reposado
25 ml Coffee liqueur
45 ml Espresso coffee
5 ml Sugar syrup

Method –

Shake the ingredients hard with ice. Strain into a frozen Martini glass. Garnish with three coffee beans.

A great twist, and it makes it that little bit better knowing that the Reposado is also an award-winner, winning Double Gold in the Best Reposado Tequila category at the San Francisco International World Spirits Competition 2011. The Blanco too also won a Gold medal at the same awards, with the Añejo winning Double Gold as well.

A great range on offer, versatile within cocktails and on its own. Grab a bottle and marvel at the Mexican / French relationship.

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Circle 360, via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.