Note that the pun “Shoot Tequila” was not chosen as the headline for this article on tequila. And for good reason.
Please trust your bar person. These chaps and lasses spend most of their waking hours around alcohol, so unless you have the (thankfully, increasingly slim) misfortune to be served by an obtuse ‘tender, they’ll know a thing or two about the lovely liquids in the those shiny bottles.
It was around a decade ago that bartenders started to concentrate a lot more seriously on agave spirits. They stopped shooting it and started sipping it. If they did do a shot today, they’d probably still do tequila. They’d just refuse to let one that wasn’t a 100% agave anywhere near their mouth or back bar. Consumers have been catching on too, but still need an occasional nudge in the right direction.
Enter Kensington Place Restaurant & Bar, the light and airy neighbourhood restaurant that already does gin nights and ‘Fruit Bowl Fridays for the locals, whereupon the patron selects a fruit and entrusts the capable bartender to mix up something tasty. Now the appropriately alliterate ‘Tequila Thursdays’ allow the head bartender to play with – and wax lyrical about – his favourite spirit.
Tonight it is Excellia, dreamt up around six years ago by oenologist, entrepreneur and all-round raconteur, Jean-Sebastien Robicquet. Word has it he was on the plane back to Cognac from Mexico, where he had been hanging out with the respected tequila distilling Camarena family and enjoying the fruits of their labours, when he had a sudden urge to get involved in the agave game. Having successfully broken away from his vinous background to create two non-conformist brands – the grape-based Ciroc vodka and G’vine respectively – he enlisted the help of the Camarenas to create a traditionally produced tequila which then uniquely spends some time in Grand Cru Sauternes casks.
Normally I’m a blanco man myself – as a friend of mine says ‘so much time, love and care has been put into growing the precious agave plant that any ageing can be done in my belly’. In the case of Excellia, though, for me the anejo is where it is at. A full sixteen months in both Sauternes and cognac casks pushes the spirit far beyond the soft and gentle, honeyed vanilla notes of most anejos. Spicy, fruity and chocolatey all at once, the tannins from the casks give this tequila a beautifully balanced complexity and chewy mouthfeel.
It is innovations like barrel experimentation, innovators like Jean-Sebastien and innovative thinking from bars like Kensington Place that are keeping the agave category invigorated. Inevitably this also means we can expect to see a growth in sales of the luxury category, not to mention a decrease of luxury tequila at my bar due to an increase of it in my mouth. So you better get down to your local purveyor ‘Andale, arriba arriba!’ as Mexican cultural stereotype and hero of all alacritous vermin, Speedy Gonzales, would no doubt tell you. If he was real. Which he isn’t. Probably. Wow. Is it me or is this tequila particularly strong? JULIAN DE FERAL
Visit the Excellia website www.excelliatequila.com for more info.