Great tequilas like Olmeca Altos Plata and Altos Reposado should be sipped with friends.
Tequila is a beverage, like Scotch or sake, inextricably associated with its country of origin. It is enjoyed best when least diluted… not that there is anything at all wrong with a good margarita!
Mexico, like Scotland and Japan, is a country of distinct regional practices in the crafting of fine libations, all tied to the bounty of the local terrain. In areas of Scotland where peat has been used forever as a combustible, whisky producers use it to fire their stills, giving some whiskies their much sought-after smokiness. Japan’s numerous varieties of rice, favored in one region or another, determine the flavor of locally-produced sake. The highlands of Mexico’s Jalisco State produce the agave azul, or blue agave, from which Mexico’s finest tequilas are made, including tequilas from the Olmeca brand.
At realfoodtraveler.com, we recently had the opportunity to review two Olmeca tequilas with friends on a cozy winter night. One ought not to drink alone, after all, and we urged one another on with one goal in mind: how to describe the taste of fine tequila.
Altos Plata: Light and Fruity
The tasting panel consisted of three women and four men, all of whom “like” tequila (and love Mexico!). Some of us, however, had not tasted tequila for years. We first tried the Olmeca Altos Plata, 100% blue agave tequila. Plata, or silver, is the variety of tequila typically bottled just after distillation. ‘Altos’ refers to the altitude (over 2,000 meters above sea level) where the agave for Olmeca’s tequilas is cultivated.
Olmeca’s Plata immediately inspired looks of delight, and comments, such as, “This is so smooth, it reminds me of… sake!”
I smiled at that remark, as I love sake. And, whether through the power of suggestion or because I really did share the sentiment, I said, “It does remind me of sake, and yet that has never occurred to me before.”
At this point, someone innocently asked, “Aren’t we supposed to have salt and lime?”
Of course! I was Johnny-on-the-spot and, while I cut limes, the comments continued. “There is something pleasantly fruity going on here. I haven’t had tequila for years and I don’t think I’ve tasted it straight before. This is really good, but like nothing I know how to describe.”
Now, both of these initial observations came from the two female, non-tequila drinkers: “Tastes like sake.” “Fruity.” Can you be a little more specific, I wondered?
“What I like about sake,” said the first, “is that it does not intrude on one’s senses. This tequila is subtly tasty. Very tasty!”
Even though I hadn’t introduced the lime yet, someone detected citrus notes. “Like a nice, light white wine, such as pinot grigio. In terms of fruit, I’m thinking pear.”
This fruitiness is good news for those who don’t think of themselves as tequila drinkers, but who enjoy sake and white wine ( a category that seems to include more women than men). In particular, we’re talking folks who take their spirits with mixers or not at all. We all agreed that the Olmeca Altos Plata is pleasantly light, fruity in the driest sense and a tequila that can be enjoyed straight as well as in a favorite cocktail.
Altos Reposado: The Essence of Tequila
Having finished cutting the limes and finding some salt, I cracked the Olmeca Altos Reposado, also 100% agave azul. The first pronouncement was, “Now, this is tequila!”
There were nods of approval all around. The real taste of tequila could be found in this bottle. Reposado is tequila that is aged (‘rested’) in oak barrels for two to 10 months.
Olmeca Altos Reposado represents the essence of tequila. The concentrated flavors of the bourbon casks in which this fine reposado is aged come through, whether the tequila is accompanied by salt and lime or not.
One reviewer’s comment, “Sweet and smoky!” drew approving smiles.
Another said, “I’ve not really drank a lot of tequila straight up. I didn’t know tequila could taste this good.”
My question, “Another shot?” was met with resounding, “Yes, please!”
By now, we’d settled into a happy circle of sophisticates, passing around the bottles for close inspection of the labels, and discussion of the meanings of ‘plata’ and ‘reposado’ and ‘alto’ and ‘agave’. The Spanish speakers assisted with translations, the tequila drinkers with comparisons to their favorite tequilas of the past. We soon discovered my wife had slipped away to the kitchen to prepare smoked goose dumplings. Now we were getting somewhere!
Olmeca Altos Plata and Olmeca Altos Reposado are excellent examples of Mexico’s fine tradition of distilling spirits from the agave plant found on the slopes of the Sierra Madre. It turns out that the real treasure of the Sierra Madre range is liquid gold, bottled and arranged on the liquor store shelves! – by Jeff Thomas, RFT Contributor