I really liked the 1800 Silver tequila. I thought it had a good flavor, went down smooth, and generally hit the mark for what I want in a blanco tequila. So, if I liked an unaged version of something, the aged version has to be miles better, right? Turns out… not necessarily.
There is no bigger name in the tequila industry than Jose Cuervo.
In 1758, Don José Antonio de Cuervo was granted a plot of land in the (soon to be Mexican) town of Tequila. Here, he would build a farm with his family where they would cultivate the blue agave plant that was native to the area and, in 1795, the family distilled and produced their first bottle of mezcal (side note for those who don’t quite understand the differentiation: scotch is to whiskey as tequila is to mezcal).
It would take some time for the Cuervo family to embrace their distilling calling, but by 1880 the family had started commercially producing their spirits for sale. Known originally as “mezcal de Tequila” (mezcal from the town of Tequila), the Mexican government eventually — after much lobbying — allowed them to designate their spirits as a unique appellation known simply as “tequila.” The very first bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila rolled off the line in 1906 and a massive new category of distilled spirits was born.
The company would achieve a massive level of success, with roughly 1 out of every 5 bottles of tequila sold worldwide being Jose Cuervo. The business would remain in the family through the years, and by 1966 it was owned by a relative named Juan Beckmann Gallardo. In 1989, the family sold 45% of the business to a distribution company which would eventually be acquired by Diageo, the British spirits giant. Diageo continued to distribute Jose Cuervo tequila and were in talks to acquire the remainder of the business from the family until talks fell through in 2012. Rather than try to find another distribution company, the Beckmann family decided to start their own distribution business called Proximo Spirits to handle the entire process from growing the agave through to stocking shelves on their own.
Proximo Spirits also produces the Kraken Black Spiced Rum, as well as Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. They in turn are owned by the Mexican alcoholic beverage giant Becle.
The 1800 Tequila brand was formed as a subset of Jose Cuervo in 1975. Produced at the same facility and using the same materials as the famous Jose Cuervo tequila, this brand was designed to produce a superior sipping spirit for the higher end market. The 1800 date comes from the first year when oak barrels were first used to age tequila.
Jose Cuervo quite literally set the standard for tequila, and 1800 follows that same process. The spirit starts out with a crop of 100% blue agave plants which are harvested and have their leaves sliced off, leaving the hard core behind. That core is then cooked for about three days in an oven to convert the plant material into sugar, and then placed into large vats to ferment and allow yeast to convert that sugar into alcohol.
Once the fermentation is complete, what remains is a mildly alcoholic liquid that isn’t nearly pure or strong enough to be tequila. The next step in the process is to distill that spirit twice in copper pot stills to concentrate the spirits and raise the alcohol level.
Once the raw spirit has been produced, it is placed in oak barrels to age for a minimum of 12 months, with some longer aged spirits (3+ years) blended in for flavor. The tequila is also artificially colored.
This is a heavily stylized bottle that really stands out on the shelf.
The bottle itself is a four sided pyramid, purposefully designed to be reminiscent of the Mayan stone pyramids, sporting a flat bottom and flat sides that consistently taper to upwards towards the shoulder where it bends inwards quickly to a very short neck. The bottle is capped with a luxurious looking large wooden screw-on cap.
On the bottle is a minimalist labeling scheme, sporting just enough of a front label to telegraph the contents. The main label has the 1800 branding in metallic gold ink against a black background, which is a bit darker and more expensive looking than the silver version.
I like that I can really see the contents of the bottle, and that it isn’t obscured or masked by a giant label. Especially with something this dark and beautiful (artificial coloring notwithstanding), being able to see the spirit through the glass is something I appreciate.
This tequila is suspiciously dark. Usually an anejo tequila maxes out somewhere in the light golden to amber color range, but this is almost a solid brown. It is entirely possible that those older expressions blended in have changed the color, but it’s probable that the artificial coloring is bringing some “unnatural enhancement” to the end result.
The aroma is very similar to the standard silver edition. I get the herbal agave notes and a bit of citrus, which is to be expected, but there are also some of the aromas that are associated with the barrel aging process here. Specifically, I’m getting some caramel and vanilla coming off the glass — but just a hint. It’s decidedly in the background as a supporting character, not the star of the show.
When taking a sip, though, those aged flavors are actually what come through first. They aren’t solid or well saturated, but they set the stage for everything else. A little bit of caramel and vanilla, but just a hint, come first and are followed by the agave and the citrus flavors. It happens unfortunately quickly, almost like everything trying to walk through the door at the same time. Once those flavors arrive, there’s a touch of bitterness that walks in fashionably late and stays throughout the rest of the experience, and the flavor finishes with a bit of black pepper spice.
Ice can be a problem for lighter flavored spirits. Usually it’s the bolder aspects that survive unscathed, which is why the richer and darker spirits make for better cocktails in my opinion. But, on the positive side, ice also counteracts some of the less pleasant aspects as well — such as bitterness.
And all of this is generally the result here. The citrus notes are all but disappeared, there’s not a whole lot of the agave plant aspects, and even the caramel and vanilla has melted even further into the background. However, what hasn’t disappeared as much as I’d hoped is the bitterness, which remains an unfortunate stubborn holdout against the ice.
I really liked the silver version of this spirit in a margarita, and I’ve liked other anejo-based margaritas (for example, El Jimador Anejo). In this case, though… not so much.
I think what’s throwing me off is the excessive bitterness. I know, a margarita is a pretty bitter cocktail as it stands thanks to all that lime juice and citrus. But this is just well past the line of acceptableness. Some of the other flavors of the spirit do make themselves vaguely present in the drink, but it’s really that unbalanced bitter taste taking center stage here.
I’m not quite sure what went wrong here. Usually spirits improve with age, and especially that bitter aspect is typically lessened or softened given the time spent in the barrel. But for some reason, barrel aging has had seemingly only negative effects on this spirit.
Besides than that bitterness, the flavors aren’t very well saturated either. I expect more from my anejo tequila and this frankly doesn’t deliver.
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $39.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Just like me, this tequila is old and bitter.