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.

AquaRiva Tasting Notes

AquaRiva

Everyone loves a celebrity endorsement and drink brands are no exception. Ciroc vodka have P Diddy, Atlantico rum have Enrique Inglesias and Cointreau have Dita Von Teese, but on the odd occasion, brands are created or have significant input into a liquid. Crystal Head is a collaboration involving Dan Aykroyd, Manchester band Elbow created their own ale and now Cleo Rocos has got in on the act with her AquaRiva tequila.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Cleo when she ventured my way last month, and I experienced first hand her tequila range and why her collaboration with business parter Stewart Freeman of The Tequila Society is making waves in the tequila business.

But first, a little about how AquaRiva came about.

Wanting to make tequilas that were interesting and complex, and would work well in cocktails, Cleo sought out master blender Carlos Perez to help create a hand crafted, premium tequila. Spending 10 months to perfect the Blanco, Reposado and Premium Reposado, they decided on using hand selected 8 yr blue agaves as well as volcanic spring water from the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico.

The label itself gives credit to a 17 yr art student named Jamie who Cleo met on the London Underground. After seeing his work, Cleo commissioned Jamie to create a distinctive label for her tequila, and so came an oil painting of Jamie and his girlfriend embracing on the wing of a plane.

Back to the tequila and the AquaRiva range. Cleo describes the Blanco and Reposado (which is aged for 3-6 months) as ‘bar’ tequilas i.e tequilas that are great for Cleo’s perfect Margarita recipe (see below). The Premium Reposado however is created by being aged for a minimum of 6 months and is there sipping tequila, although there is nothing against having the full range neat.

So how do the range fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on each –

Cleo Rocos and Stuart Freeman
Cleo Rocos and Stuart Freeman

AquaRiva Blanco – 38%

Soft on the nose with aromas of white chocolate and butter blending well. Nip of spice on the palate with peppery flavours creating a lingering after-taste.

AquaRiva Reposado – 38%

Very soft with a corn aroma on the nose with a slight scent of smoke following. Ripe fruit and soft caramel flavours on the palate with a slight hint of spice at the end. Short.

AquaRiva Premium Reposado – 40%

Notes of cream and butter on the nose producing a soft mix. Spice start on the palate with flavours of pepper, citrus and nuts developing a lingering finish. A rather dry ending.

A great range and one to really try all three on their own. But if this takes your fancy –

Cleo’s Perfect Margarita

Glass – 

Rocks

Ingredients – 

35 ml AquaRiva Blanco or Reposado
25 ml Fresh lime juice
15 ml AquaRiva Organic Agave syrup

Cleo's Perfect Margarita
Cleo’s Perfect Margarita

Method – 

Lots of ice, shake well and pour into a rocks glass. Rim the glass with an orange zest and salt if you like.

Another reason to give AquaRiva a try is the fact that it is now an award-winning brand, awarded a MASTERS Medal in a blind judging with The Spirits Business in February 2012.

They also produce a AquaRiva Organic Agave syrup which is gluten-free and a healthy alternative to sugar. Even this has won itself an award as it was voted best Blue Weber Agave Syrup / Nectar by The Spirits Business.

Don’t just take my word for it though, purchase yourself a bottle, have a sip and then create yourself a Margarita that Cleo herself has said you won’t get a hangover from. What more can I say!

You can purchase the range here and the organic agave syrup here.

Check out the rest of the photos, taken at The Liquorists #22 Redbank, 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.

Calle 23 Tasting Notes

Drinks Enthusiast has lately been expanding out into the category of Tequila, with Calle 23 the first to grace the pages.

Not many consumers choose tequila as their drink of choice, unless it’s mixed in a margarita or tequila sunrise, and it probably gives many glimpses of nightmare sessions from their youth with lemon and salt, and to be fair I can put my hand up and admit to be a part of that. But these days? Well I only go for the 100% stuff – which means in English ‘the good stuff’!

So a little about tequila and Calle 23 then.

Calle 23 tequila is produced in the Mexican state of Jalisco and more specifically the Highland (or Los Altos region) town of Zapotlanejo. Agaves from the fields between Arandas and Tepatitlan are harvested for their fruitier characteristics compared to the Lowland areas of Mexico which produce more earthy, powerful herbaceous flavours.

Tequila can only be produced from the Agave Tequilana Weber (blue variety) and needs to be between 6 to 9 years to reach full ripeness. From this, there are two options for tequila – the first is tequila mixto which has to contain at least 51% of agave sugars, while the rest can come from another different raw material with sugar cane being the most common. The second is tequila 100% de agave which has to contain 100% of agave sugars and must be not only produced, but also bottled in Mexico. Calle 23 tequila is 100% de agave tequila. There are also three variations of tequila –

The Calle 23 Range

Blanco – usually not aged, ageing time maximum 59 days. Calle 23 Blanco is not aged, to fully express the agave character.

Reposado – ageing time anywhere in between 60 days to 1 year. Calle 23 Reposado is aged for 8 months.

Añejo – ageing time anywhere in between 1 year to max 3 years. Calle 23 Añejo is aged for 16 months.

So after deciding where the tequila should be produced, how does it differ from other productions of spirits?

The whole 100% agave Tequila process has to follow the following steps:

Harvesting – the plants are harvested by skilled “Jimadores”. The process is fully manual, only with the help of a tool called “Coa”.

Cooking – agave plants are slowly cooked, and this can happen either in stone ovens or in stainless steel autoclaves. Calle 23 tequila slowly cooks its agaves in stainless steel autoclaves for 7 hours, then lets the temperature drop down for 3 more hours. This manages to get the heart of the agave cooked and the outside of the plant not overcooked or burned.

Milling – agave plants are milled after the cooking to extract the fermentable juice from them.

Fermenting – the extracted juice is fermented either in wooden tanks or in stainless steel tanks. Calle 23 tequila uses stainless steel tanks and uses different yeasts depending on the style of tequila to achieve: different from Blanco and Añejo, to the Reposado.

Blanco has been created with 2 specific yeasts allowing the agave flavour to express itself the best. For Reposado, one yeast is in common with the Blanco and Añejo, and one yeast is different in order to enhance the balance between agave & spiciness given by the initial tequila, and the slight wood character given by the aging. In the Añejo, wood being a major component of the final tequila, importance has been to focus back on the agave character of the initial tequila put in the barrel, yeasts used are the same as in the Blanco.

Distilling – the fermented juice goes now through a double distillation process. Calle 23 tequila distills in stainless steel pot stills, made with copper serpentine inside the still.

Bottling or Ageing – depending the final tequila to achieve, the distillate can be either bottled or find its place in oak barrels.

Calle 23 Blanco – distilled to aprox. 54% abv and diluted with distillery well water down to 40% abv. and bottled.
Calle 23 Reposado – distilled to aprox. 54% abv and aged in ex bourbon casks for 8 months. When perfect rest is reached, tequila is diluted with distillery well water down to 40% abv. and bottled.
Calle 23 Añejo – distilled to aprox. 54% abv and aged in ex bourbon casks for 16 months. When perfect rest is reached, tequila is diluted with distillery well water down to 40% abv. and bottled.

Calle 23 tequila is the brainchild of Sophie Decobecq, a French-born biochemist, which after her experience in South Africa following and taking care of agave spirit production, fell in love with Mexico, with tequila and with the whole aura of traditions and myths around it. She moved to Mexico 8 years ago, and used her expertise to develop what her and her team define “the tequila they could drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner and goodnight cure”. Having launched in 2009, Calle 23 has already won awards including Double Gold for the Añejo at 2009 San Francisco Spirits Competition, gold medal for the Reposado and bronze medal for the Blanco, Best New Product at CLASS Awards 2010 and ‘Chairman Trophy’ at the US Ultimate Spirits Competition.

So after all that, i give to you my tasting notes on each –

Calle 23 Blanco – 40%

Fresh, subtle and ripe on the nose, but a rather short hit on the palate, yet smooth and velvety is a bolder characteristic to enjoy.

Calle 23 Reposado – 40%

Strong, almost herbal and medicinal notes on the nose, but a smooth palate with a hit of sweetness before a short finish.

Calle 23 Añejo – 40%

Sweet with a slight caramel and fudge aroma on the nose, very smooth and almost creamy on the palate with a short finish.

All three varieties can be sipped over ice, and of course in many a margarita, but have you tried this instead?

Gold Rush

Gold Rush

Glass –

Martini

Ingredients –

50ml Calle 23 Blanco
10ml Galliano L’Autentico
100ml fresh Pineapple juice
20ml fresh lime
12.5ml suagr syrup
1 basil leaf

Method –

Shake vigorously all the ingredients with ice. Double strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with pink grapefruit on the rim.

Check out the Calle 23 website here, and if your in the UK, you can purchase Calle 23 via Amathus.

Take a look at the rest of the photos from my shoot at Dawnvale Leisure Interior Solutions via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. 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.