It’s easy even for the relatively uninitiated to quickly discern truly good tequila. If it can be enjoyably sipped straight without wincing and reaching for a chaser, then you have the real deal on your hands. Even more rare is the tequila in this class that isn’t confined to being a bottle-a- year treat…meaning that it can be purchased for about $30 a bottle.
The Familia Camarena Tequila story begins with 100% agave azul grown at 8,000 feet in Jalisco Mexico’s Altos highlands. It is here that the rich red earth and long mild growing season produces a distinctly refined flavor. It can take as long as a decade for the agave to reach its optimal size and flavor. The Camarena family, now in its 6th generation, has been cultivating blue agave for 150 years. Camarena not only practices sustainable farming but has also invented a system of recycling the vinazas (organic by-products) by using it to fertilize the crops.
When it comes to crafting the tequila, they don’t rush the process. Traditional methods are used from field to finish like hand pruning the agave and slow roasting with a lengthy fermentation to capture the most fragrant aromas and delicate flavors. As the blue agave begins to blossom, highly trained jimadores cut each plant’s flowering shoot by hand redirecting the plant’s energy toward the piña (central core of the agave). At harvest, the plant’s spiky leaves are removed by hand leaving a piña that typically weighs more than 100 pounds.
In the distillery, the piñas are slow roasted in traditional volcanic stone hornos for several days. Every batch is distilled twice in small alembic pots. The first distillation draws out the characteristic aromas and flavors. The second distillation refines its character.
I tasted their Reposado which rests in American oak barrels for 60 days before bottling giving it a touch of soft spice to the agave’s natural sweetness. Beyond sipping neat, here is a recipe to get you started just in time for the Holidays:
1 1/2 oz Camarena Tequila
1/4 oz New Amsterdam Gin
1 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Agave Nectar
Muddle cranberries in a mixing glass. Add tequila, lime juice, agave nectar, gin and ice. Shake and strain into a bucket glass with ice. Garnish with a skewer of cranberries.
Coverage made possible courtesy of a complimentary sampling