Friday, January 16, 2015

Circulo Tequila Blanco NOM 1535 (40% Abv.)

First thing first, I'd like to confess that I have always been a huge 1921 Tequila fan albeit it the tequila produced at El Olvido distillery of Agabe Tequilana Productores y Comericalizadores, S.A. de C.V. (NOM 1079) in Jesus Maria, Jalisco. The tahona was even utilized in earlier batches - something many tequila geeks speculate on even to this day. Therefore. I'll save you the trouble of many google searches and say, "if you ever come across a bottle of 1921 (some state 'Stone-Milled' on the back label), Don Alejo, El Olvido (great bargain reposado) or some early lotes of Oro Azul (wax tops), grab it chances are you won't not be disappointed". Fast-forward to today, NOM 1079 doesn't exist but NOM 1580 does - which just so happens to be the same distillery but with a different name, Destiladora El Paraiso. The owner claims that a change was made to distance itself from marcas that were no longer produced at the distillery. The reason why I mention this is when I found out that 1921 tequila was moving to another distillery, Destileria Morales (NOM 1535), I sought out as much 1921 Tequila (NOM 1079) as I could to hoard in my pantry. The rule of thumb in the tequila world has been - label/presentation, owner, or distillery change means production change which equals quality change - usually for the worse. This logic seems to fair well in most cases. Don't get me wrong the new 1921 Tequila from NOM 1535 was good but not NOM 1079 great. Subsequently, the 1921 brand has moved on from Destileria Morales to Casa Tequilera de Arandas (NOM 1499).

Circulo Tequila is produced at Destileria Morales (NOM 1535) in the Los Altos region of Jalisco. Apparently the brand name is inspired by the ancient civilization of Guachimontones. The mature ripe agave is sourced somewhere in the red soils of the Highlands region - assume it's Destileria Morales' estate grown blue agave. Once at the distillery the agave - depending on the size - the pinas are split into halves or quarters then placed inside traditional stone ovens. A slow three phase steam cooking process lasting approximately 72 hours begins - 24 hours of continuous steam cooking; followed by a 24 hour resting period; and finally a 24 hour cooling period with the oven doors open. The lower section of the ovens contain a drainage system in which two types of the liquids drain in to - the first to drain are the bitter juices which are discarded followed by sweet nectar that is collected in a separate container and later used to enrich the juices extracted from the cooked agave. 

Once the the cooking and cooling phase is completed the cooked agave is transported to the shredding machinery where the pieces of cooked agave are broken down into smaller pieces to facilitate the milling phase. Supposedly the five section mill used at Destileria Morales is one of the largest in the tequila industry. The cooked agave fibres pass through and are pressed between rollers - the pressing action is complimented with the injection of water in strategic locations optimizing sugar extraction. The juices of the agave drip down into a channel where it is filtered and transferred to a recollection bin. 

Fermentation takes place in the distillery's large open stainless steel tanks (41700L capacity) - the distillery's 'champagne' yeast is prepared in smaller stainless steel tanks - the yeast is enriched with agave nectar and nutrients. Fermentation tanks are filled proportionately with sweet nectar, agave juices and the prepared yeasts. Two types of fermentation is used the distillery - alcoholic fermentation (3 days) and malolactic fermentation (4 days) both of which are enhanced by classical music audio. The use of classical music during fermentation is a method used by the likes of master tequila distillers Leopoldo Solis and Cirilo Oropeza. **However, it's not known which master distiller is actually involved with this particular brand.**

Once the fermentation is complete the next step is the double distillation process with the distillery's 5 large stainless steel pot and column stills (3500L capacity Alambiques) which contain copper condensing coils. The first distillation of the mosto results in a ordenario with an alcohol concentration of 25-28% - the solid particles, part of the water, some heads and tails are removed - leaving mostly the middle section or the heart of the distillate - the heads and tails goes back to first distillation. In the second distillation the ordenario is distilled reaching an alcohol concentration of 55% - a more refined product as the heads and tails are removed once again - and the heart of the distillate results as the tequila blanco. The distillations are done slowly at temperature controlled conditions - which most likely allow a generous cut of heads and tails to remain in the distillate - most of the flavours reside in the heads and tails. 

The blanco tequila is stored in various stainless steel tanks where it is left to oxygenate naturally for a minimum period of two months. For bottling the blanco is adjusted with purified water to 40% Abv. - the tequila is filtered again through a gravitational filtration system. For the Reposado, the tequila is adjusted to 42% Abv. - filtered and poured into new custom made American white oak barrels for an aging period of two months to a year. Once the Reposado is done aging, the barrels are dumped into the stainless steel tanks, then diluted to desired alcohol proof and filtered prior to bottling. The Circulo tequila information packet mentions an Anejo and an Extra-Anejo - no clue if this is possible future expansion of the brand's lineup.

Appearance: Crystal clear, forming medium uniform slow legs in my Riedel glass. Aroma: Lots of fresh agave, roasted agave/earthiness, hints of floral and mint?, faint fruit (citrus and pear?), spice. and alcohol. Flavour: Cooked agave, earthy, spice (almost jalapeno like) and wavering hints of mint. Semi-oily on entry with some minerality and mild subtle sweetness. Mild numbing sensation on the gums and palate. The spiciness really packs a punch in the back of the mouth. Finish: Nice medium finish with cooked agave and a jalapeno-like spice that lingers, as does some mild alcohol. This is a very very nice sipping tequila. Smooth? No. That's ok with me as I like the old school "fuerte" tequila. Would I mix it in a cocktail? Maybe. I would definitely enjoy this as a sipper first just to enjoy and appreciate the complex flavours this blanco has to offer. Surprised. I may also have to revisit some NOM 1535 products while I'm at it. RECOMMENDED

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