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Is there any spirit that receives more undue flak than tequila? Historically, much of the tequila consumed in the U.S. was, objectively, swill. A half-breed of Mexico’s trademark booze, made taking every shortcut available to the distiller — diffusing machines, additives and the like. What do the pretenders have in common? They’re affordable. Espolòn’s Blanco expression is affordable too, but the people who make it don’t cut corners. Here’s what you need to know.
Cooked low n’ slow
Tequila is made of distilled juices of the agave plant. There are many ways to get those juices out of the plant, but most affordable tequilas use diffusers; extremely large, extremely efficient machines that separate the agave sauce from the agave. Unfortunately, this process usually omits the cooking part of agave prep, which, among many of factors, ultimately makes the tequila sweeter. To balance this, mega-distillers will use additives to sweeter up their tequila post-production, which makes for worse-tasting and worse for you booze. Espolòn Blanco cooks each agave piña for nearly 24 hours in a high-pressure oven (called an autoclave), meaning it doesn’t need to add extra sugar to make the booze half-decent.
Money, money, money
Most sub-$30 tequila is made using the most efficient processes, not processes that are quality friendly. Diffuser-made tequila is only one part of the affordable tequila world; corners may be cut in distillation, fermentation, agave sourcing and so on. Espolòn Blanco isn’t the absolute best blanco tequila you can buy, but, in terms of value, you can’t beat a bottle that’s available everywhere and crafted with care for around $25.
Despite Americans’ view that tequila is a mixing liquor, there is an enormous world of tequila made for sipping in the same way we sip bourbon or scotch. Espolòn Blanco is not one of those tequilas — it’s primarily a mixer that works nights on the rocks with some lime — but it’s a hell of a lot closer than its shelfmates. Because the distiller goes to the trouble of cooking for a protracted period of time and pays attention to smaller detailers (example: Espolòn halves the agave piñas twice — into four pieces — prior to cooking to increase the surface area of the cook, making the end product just that much sweeter), it’s a nice tequila to try over ice and get an idea what the higher-end stuff is all about — sweetness, citrus, vanilla, spices and so on.
This definitive guide to the best tequilas of 2020 explores everything you need to know about the world’s most popular agave spirit, including important tequila terms — such as blanco, reposado and añejo — how to drink it and a list of the best tequila bottles and brands worth tracking down.
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