The King of Cocktails, Dale DeGroff, talks us through why tequila makes us so happy.
Tequila Ocho is produced in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, the Mexican state where most of the tequila production is centered. Tequila Ocho is a collaboration between Tomas Estes and Tequilero Carlos Camareñas. Tomas has single handedly been responsible for introducing the bounty of Mexican cuisine and the agave spirits of Mexico to Europe and Australia over the last 40 years with his restaurant brands La Perla and Café Pacifico. I have shared many dinners in Café Pacifico, London, with Tomas and our dinner wine was always a 500ml bottle of Tapatio tequila made by Carlos.
Carlos Camareñas and his brother Felipe have deep roots in the Los Altos region and own or lease some of the best Rancho grown agave in the region. The agave is the beginning of the story, grown at the highest altitude of any agave fields in Mexico with hot days but very cool nights. The climate and terroir slows the growth and the agave ripens slowly with harvest often delayed beyond nine years, the resulting tequila has lively acidity and complex aroma and flavor components. The rest of the story is the Camareñas artisanal production methods to process the agave; from the roasting to the crush to the still.
Ocho is a unique experiment in ‘single estate’ and in many cases single vintage Tequila; from 2008 through 2013 part or all the harvest from 11 different Ranchos located in a triangle defined by the towns of Arañdas, Atotoniclo and Jesus Maria was used to produce the Rancho Single estate Ocho Tequila.
Ocho is tequila at it’s best. From one of the leading families in the production of tequila ‘puro’, tequila made and bottled in Mexico from 100 percent Weber Blue agave plants. Frederic Albert Constantin Weber was the botanist who first classified Agave Tequilana, the variety used to produce tequila and was rewarded with the appellation Weber Blue Agave.
Carlos Camarenas produces other easier to find artisanal Tequila brands that are also among my favorites, Tequila Tapatio, Excellia, and El Tesoro. Most of the Tequila brands I have discussed are produced in three and sometimes four different bottlings that are classified by age, time in barrel. Silver or blanco, is unaged or aged under 60 days in oak barrels, reposado (rested), is aged 60 day up to one year, Añejo is age one year up to three years and a recently added category extra añejo is aged over three years. The resulting tequilas are changed in many of the same ways other traditionally aged spirits like cognac or whisky are changed. The barrel imparts colour and of course multiple aromas and flavours that result for the chemical reaction to compounds in the wood leached out and combined with the strong native flavours of the spirit.
Read more about the world’s greatest premium spirits, what’s new, and where to buy them via the pages of the new issue of Matthew Fort’s Drink Hamper magazine. Featuring special cocktail recipes from the Savoy, fine wine expertise from Selfridges, and a feast of fine food recipes from Matthew Fort.
See more: Dale DeGroff’s Tequila Cocktails