I’ve been a whiskey guy all my life, considering tequila to be something solely for use as a mixer and to make margaritas. But as part of a recent WSET certification class, I was essentially forced to learn about tequila in detail — and, man, I never quite realized the complexity and delicate flavors that are possible in this versatile spirit. A solid, readily available example of a blanco tequila is the 1800 Silver brand, so today we’re going to put it to the test.
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, eventually ending up in 1966 being 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 and 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 Becle, the Mexican alcoholic beverage giant who is the largest producer of tequila in the world.
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 two times in copper pot stills to concentrate the spirits and raise the alcohol level. After distillation the newly produced tequila is “rested” for 15 days in American oak barrels, and then a selection of the best barrels are combined to create the 1800 Silver version.
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 metallic looking screw-on cap that is actually made from plastic and seems to stick a little bit when tightening and opening.
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 silver ink against a blue background, possibly echoing the blue agave plants used for the spirit.
I like that I can really see the contents of the bottle, and that it isn’t obscured or masked. Especially with something this clear and pure, being able to see the spirit through the glass is something I appreciate. So, for me, the use of clear glass and minimalist labeling is a huge plus.
The shiny plastic cap, though, I could live without — at least from an aesthetic perspective. But there’s zero doubt whatsoever that it is super fun to spin when you are unscrewing the cap to pour a new cocktail, and it gets increasingly more fun the more cocktails you make.
The liquid is crystal clear, just like filtered water. But it certainly doesn’t smell like water. The aroma coming off this glass is the very definition of a tequila, with notes of lemon citrus and a bit of newly mowed grass. It’s fresh and clean.
The flavor is very light in intensity and in tone. You have to really squint to see them but, just like with a “white dog” unaged whiskey, it’s there for those who can find it. The flavor starts with a little bit of melon and lemon citrus, develops a touch of sweetness as it sits in the mouth, and ends with a nice black pepper spice for the aftertaste.
It’s a very smooth, delicate spirit. No unpleasantness or unexpected issues. Just pure flavors.
So often I find that when reviewing whiskey, ice is the enemy. The only flavors in whiskey that survive are typically the results of the aging process. But with this tequila everything survives through the ice — all of the aromas, all of the flavors… they are still there and in full force.
If anything, the only change here is that there’s a little more of a smooth, almost malty flavor coming from the tequila.
This is a legitimately great margarita.
What you’re getting from the spirit here are just the highlights of the flavors. The bright lemon and vegetal fresh cut grass notes are a welcome accompaniment to the sweet and sour mixers in the drink and make for a well balanced and interesting experience. The hint of black pepper spice even makes an appearance to add a bit to the depth.
There isn’t really a whole lot that you expect from a blanco tequila. By definition, it’s pretty much just fermented and distilled agave juice without much additional processing, so you are getting the very essence of that spirit. And with the 1800 Silver I especially don’t really get any of the flavors you might expect from the brief stay in the oak barrels.
The differentiating factor here is the smoothness of the spirit, lack of any presence of impurities, and the packaging. In all of these, I think they did a great job — especially at this price point — and this is definitely worth the price.
Classification: Blanco Tequila
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $20.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
A silver medal for the 1800 Silver tequila.