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Discovering the Diversity of Tequila and Mezcal at Uncork It Chicago
The world of Tequila and Mezcal is a fascinating exploration of flavor, tradition, and innovation, captivating spirit enthusiasts globally. In this blog, we explore these unique agave-based spirits, contrasting their rich histories and diverse flavor profiles with common misconceptions and generic spirits. With a spotlight on renowned regions like Jalisco and Oaxaca, known for their exceptional production of Tequila and Mezcal, we delve into the geographical and cultural significance of these spirits. At Uncork It Chicago, located at 393 East Illinois Street, Chicago, IL 60611, we're excited to offer an extensive selection of these refined spirits, from smoky Mezcals to smooth, aged Tequilas. Whether you're a seasoned connoisseur or new to the world of agave spirits, our curated collection at Uncork It Chicago promises to guide you through a journey of taste and tradition.

Background on Agave Spirits

The evolution of Tequila from a local Mexican beverage to a globally recognized spirit is as fascinating as its varied flavors. Originating in the pre-Columbian period, the Aztecs used agave sap to brew a drink called pulque. With the Spanish arrival in the 16th century, distillation techniques were introduced, transforming pulque into the early forms of what is today known as tequila. Initially referred to as "Vino de Mezcal" from the Tequila region, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that it acquired its modern name.

The core of the agave, known as the "piña," is central to tequila production. The traditional process involves harvesting the piña after 8-10 years, baking it in brick ovens or autoclaves, and then crushing it to extract the juice. This juice is fermented and distilled, producing tequila. Every stage of this age-old process contributes to the unique taste profile of the spirit.

At Uncork It Chicago, we cherish this historical narrative. Our collection features tequilas crafted using both age-old and contemporary techniques, providing a blend of tradition and modern flair.

Detailed Exploration of Tequila

The distinct taste of Tequila is greatly influenced by its geographical origin, specifically the Highlands (Los Altos) and the Lowlands (El Valle) of Jalisco, Mexico.

Tequilas from the Highlands, grown in the red clay soil at higher altitudes in Los Altos, typically have a sweeter, more fragrant character. The cooler climate and nutrient-rich soil slow the maturation of the agave, producing flavors that are fruity and floral, often with nuances of citrus and a light sweetness. Brands from this area are celebrated for their elegant, refined flavors.

Conversely, Lowland tequilas, originating from the valley areas near the town of Tequila, exhibit a more herbaceous and earthy profile. Here, the agave matures in volcanic soil in warmer conditions, resulting in a more intense, robust flavor characterized by notes of pepper, spice, and a strong agave essence. These tequilas tend to be bolder and more complex.

At Uncork It Chicago, understanding these regional variances is crucial for appreciating tequila's diversity. We guide our patrons through this flavor spectrum, presenting a variety that spans the lively highland varieties to the deep and earthy lowland selections.

Tequila Aging Categories: Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and Extra Añejo

Tequila is distinguished into four primary aging categories, each offering unique characteristics:
  • Blanco Tequila – Either unaged or aged for less than two months, blanco tequilas emphasize the natural flavors of agave without the added complexity of barrel aging. Casa Dragones Blanco stands as a prime example of blanco tequila, crafted from 100% agave without any additives. This purest form of tequila spirit is produced using select agave from the Jalisco highlands and follows a traditional cooking process.
  • Reposado Tequila – Aged from two months to one year, reposado tequilas acquire amber tones and additional flavors from oak barrels, offering a richer, smoother profile compared to blanco tequila. A notable choice in this category is Cazcanes Reposado No.7, known for its organic quality and appeal to both tequila lovers and bourbon fans.
  • Añejo Tequila – These are aged between one and three years in oak barrels, resulting in mature, complex flavors that are ideal for sipping neat or in premium cocktails. Tequila Ocho Añejo exemplifies this category with its depth and intricate taste profile, perfect for those who appreciate the finer nuances of aged spirits.
  • Extra Añejo Tequila – Representing the zenith of tequila artistry, extra añejo tequilas are aged for a minimum of three years. They are known for their profound complexity and depth. Tequila Ocho Extra Añejo, aged extensively in oak barrels, is a small-batch, high-end spirit with layered flavors comparable to those found in fine cognac or aged whiskey, while still maintaining the distinct notes of agave. The premium price of Tequila Ocho Extra Añejo reflects its exceptional quality and the unparalleled sensory experience it offers, making it a prized possession for tequila connoisseurs.

Diving Deeper Into Quality Spirits:

Casa Dragones Blanco: The Essence of Pure Agave

Casa Dragones Blanco is a small-batch silver tequila, crafted with a focus on purity and clarity. Made from 100% Blue Agave, it delivers a crisp and smooth taste, ideal for savoring on the rocks or in crafted cocktails.

Tasting Experience:
  • Body & Color: Bright crystal hues with a smooth, full body and well-defined legs.
  • Aroma: Fresh, herbaceous notes with a hint of grapefruit and green apple.
  • Taste: A harmonious balance of semi-sweet agave notes, warmed with touches of pepper and cloves.
  • Finish: Light and crisp with subtle almond notes and a bright, lingering aftertaste.
  • Serving Suggestion: Best enjoyed in an old-fashioned glass, on the rocks, with a twist of lime, grapefruit, or lemon.

Cazcanes Reposado No.7: A Rustic Symphony of Flavors

Cazcanes Reposado No.7 represents the rustic charm of old-school tequila. Aged in a blend of American Oak barrels with varying char levels, this reposado features a symphony of butterscotch, vanilla, and sweet agave notes, complemented by a buttery, spicy finish.

Tasting Experience:
  • Aroma: Rich with butterscotch, vanilla, shortbread cookie, plantain, and a hint of coconut.
  • Taste: Sweet agave, caramel, and vanilla, with subtle grapefruit citrus, creating an ultra-smooth palate.
  • Finish: Sweet and buttery, with a pleasant, spicy linger.
  • Creation Process: Combining tequilas aged 5, 8, and 10 months in low, medium, and heavy char American Oak barrels, using a blend of traditional oven and autoclave cooking methods.

Tequila Ocho Añejo: A Harmony of Tradition and Taste

Tequila Ocho Añejo is a testament to the craft of aged tequila. Aged for one year in ex-American Oak whiskey barrels, this añejo tequila is an embodiment of complexity and tradition.

Tasting Experience:
  • Aroma: Black tea, pepper, and wet tobacco, mingled with dried fruits and powdered sugar.
  • Taste: Rich layers of cooked agave, dark cacao, coffee, nutmeg, dried fruits, and salted caramel.
  • Finish: Long-lasting peppery finish with a buttery mouthfeel.
  • Craftsmanship: Distilled in copper pots, using natural spring water and open-air wood fermentation tanks, Tequila Ocho Añejo is a masterpiece of traditional tequila making.

Tequila Ocho Extra Añejo: The Pinnacle of Aged Agave

Tequila Ocho Extra Añejo is a rare and refined tequila, aged for three years in ex-American Oak whiskey barrels. This extra añejo is a celebration of the subtleties of aged agave, with deep, complex flavors.

Tasting Experience:
  • Aroma: Sweet cooked agave, toffee, black pepper balanced with vanilla.
  • Taste: A complex blend of cooked agave, oak, anise, and dried fruits.
  • Finish: Deep and enduring, with peppery and anise seed notes.
  • Specialty: Crafted from over-ripe 100% Weber Blue Agave, Tequila Ocho Extra Añejo undergoes a 72-hour roasting process, followed by traditional milling, fermentation, and distillation. The extended barrel aging adds layers of oak, vanilla, toffee, and other complexities, making it a sought-after choice for tequila aficionados.

Fortaleza Tequila: The Elusive Spirit

La Historia de Tequila Fortaleza: A Legacy Spanning Over a Century
Fortaleza Tequila, though launched in 2005, traces its origins back over 150 years, to the establishment of La Perseverancia distillery in 1873 by Don Cenobio. A pioneer in the tequila industry, Don Cenobio was the first to export "mezcal de tequila" to the United States, simplified its name to "tequila," and innovated the cooking process of agave using steam. Under his lineage, the tequila further gained prominence, with significant contributions like establishing the Denomination of Origin for Tequila.

This rich heritage continued through generations, with Don Eladio and later Francisco Javier, each leaving a distinct mark on the industry. The latter's grandson, Guillermo, reinvigorated the old distillery, now known as La Fortaleza, maintaining the time-honored methods of tequila making.

The Creation Process: Fortaleza, A Time-Honored Art of Tequila Making
Fortaleza's production mimics the 150-year-old techniques, emphasizing traditional processes over modern efficiency. This includes:
  1. Agave Harvesting: Sourced from Tequila Valley, the agaves are matured for 8 years, known for their sweet, mineral-rich quality.
  2. Cooking: The agaves undergo a slow 36-hour cooking in a stone oven, ensuring deep caramelization.
  3. Crushing: A 2-ton volcanic stone tahona crushes the agaves, a method considered less efficient but crucial for Fortaleza's unique flavor.
  4. Fermentation: Using a family heirloom yeast, the fermentation occurs in open-air wood tanks, devoid of any additives.
  5. Distilling: Double distilled in traditional copper pot stills, Fortaleza retains the rich agave flavor by distilling close to proof.
  6. Aging: The tequila ages in used American oak barrels, with Reposado resting for 7 months and Añejo for 2 years.

Fortaleza's Exquisite Range: A Tribute to Tequila Connoisseurs

  • Fortaleza Blanco: A 100% stone-crushed, double-distilled tequila, embodying aromas of citrus, cooked agave, butter, and olive, with flavors of vanilla and lime. It stands as a pure expression of agave, revered for its complexity and smoothness.
  • Fortaleza Reposado: Aged for 7 months, it boasts notes of caramel, cooked agave, and sage. This tequila is balanced, offering a unique tasting experience with flavors of agave, citrus, and cinnamon.
  • Fortaleza Añejo: Matured for 18 months, this variant exudes aromas of caramel, vanilla, and cooked agave. It's a rich, complex tequila, offering a luxurious mouthfeel with notes of butterscotch, caramel, and citrus.
  • Fortaleza Blanco (Still Strength): A stronger, purer form of the Blanco, offering intensified flavors and aromas, as if directly from the still. It's a true aficionado's choice, reminiscent of a visit to the distillery itself.
Fortaleza Tequila, akin to Pappy Van Winkle in its exclusivity and dedication to craft, represents a journey through tequila's history, capturing the essence of traditional tequila making.

Wrapping Up

Diving into the intricacies of Tequila and Mezcal uncovers a rich tapestry of tastes, traditions, and innovations that define these beloved spirits. This exploration not only broadens your palate but also deepens your appreciation for the cultural heritage and artisanal craftsmanship behind each bottle. Discover more at Uncork It Chicago, your destination for a diverse array of agave spirits, located at 393 East Illinois Street, Chicago, IL 60611. Browse our unique selection online at www.uncorkitchicago.com or reach out to us at (312) 321-9400 for personalized guidance. We warmly invite you to visit our store or website, where you can immerse yourself in the vibrant world of Tequila and Mezcal, finding selections that perfectly match your taste and curiosity.