In a world continuously wowed by ‘smooth’ alcoholic products, it’s important to remember what makes a spirit taste rich, supple, and soft. With Scotch or bourbon, the extended contact with oak barrel wood passes vanillins into the whisky, which eventually results in a sweeter, more creamy texture – after about ten to fifteen years, that is. So how is it that certain añejo tequilas, spirits of only one to two years old, become full of butterscotch, caramel, and vanilla flavors so quickly? All we can say is that, in some cases, the distillers have an array of tricks up their sleeves.
Enter Jacob Lustig, a former tequila expert for America’s largest distributor of alcohol who set out on his own mission to bring ‘real’ spirits from Mexico to the United States. His label, ArteNOM, works in the same way that an independent bottler in Scotland would. Jacob purchases tequila from a distillery in Mexico for ArteNOM, yet still includes the name of the distillery on the bottle. All three ArteNOM tequilas – the blanco, reposado, and añejo – were each chosen for their particular specialty. The Rancho Buenavista Blanco is incredibly pure and clean. The Felicianos Vivanco Reposado is graceful and elegant in a way that no other tequila (that I have tasted) has ever been. The añejo from Enrique Fonseca is aged in old bourbon casks and yields the barrel spice associated with American whiskey, yet keeps its traditional flavors. All three have nothing extra added – no sugar, no caramel coloring – just agave, yeast, and water.
The ArteNOM tequilas are the three best tequilas I’ve ever tasted, and they’re not expensive. Jacob Lustig isn’t looking to become the world’s next tequila tycoon; he’s simply a fan of booze just like the rest of it. That’s evident in the more than reasonable prices attached to his products, which make it accessible for us to know how good real tequila tastes.
By David Driscoll, K&L Wine Merchants