As we head into the summer months, my selections from the liquor store aisles have started skewing more towards the gin and tequila section rather than the heavier bourbons and scotches. Caralegre is a brand I’d never heard of before, but the label caught my eye and I figured ‘what’s the worst that could happen’? It turns out… quite a bit, actually.
This specific brand seems to have been invented for retailer Total Wine, which is a pretty common pattern for big retailers of their kind. It appeared on the shelves in 2022 without so much as a backstory or a website.
The spirits in these bottles are produced by Envasadora De Productos Lideres, a legitimate distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, who does all of the production and bottling. Spirits are then imported into the United States by Saranty Imports, which is based in White Plains, New York.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
There’s almost zero information on this bottle besides the legally required information about the type of spirit and production location. But that little bit still gives us enough information to start to make some educated guesses.
As a tequila, we know this starts with blue agave plants which are grown in Mexico for about eight years prior to harvesting. The leaves of the agave plant are shaved off leaving behind the hard center core, which is then processed to create the sugary liquid. Exactly how that agave core is processed is not disclosed, which probably means that the more industrial and expeditious method of using a pressure cooker, a mechanical shredder, and some acid is used to convert the starchy fibers into the sugary liquid.
In this case, since this is a 100% agave tequila, we know that there was no additional sugar added and all of the sugar comes directly from these agave cores.
That sugary liquid is then added to water and allowed to ferment, which creates a mildly alcoholic liquid. From there, the liquid is distilled to concentrate and selectively capture the desired alcohol.
With this blanco version of the tequila, no additives are allowed once the distillation happens beyond some dilution with water. Given that there’s a prominent note on the bottle that the spirit has some vanilla notes, I’m guessing that the tequila takes a quick nap (no more than 2 months) in oak barrels (most likely previously used American bourbon barrels) before being filtered and bottled.
There’s not a lot going on with this labeling and bottle design, but what is there seems to be trying to ape the design of Casamigos.
The bottle is a boring and typical shape, sporting a rounded body that flares from the base to the shoulder, which rounds nicely to a medium length neck. There’s a bit of a bulge in that neck to allow for easier pouring, and the whole thing is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.
Where we really get close to the Casamigos design is in the label. It has the same minimalist concept, with the bare minimum information in a typewriter font listed on the front, and a red lot number printed on the label. This is all pretty much exactly how that more famous spirit does their thing, with the big difference being that the labels each have a different overall shape (Casamigos’ looks like a small sticker, but this thing takes up most of the front of the bottle). That shape difference is probably enough to keep them out of court, but I see exactly what they were trying to do here.
The liquid is crystal clear, and smells exactly like a tequila with a hint of vanilla. There’s a bit of herbal grassy agave, some black pepper, and then something that smells almost exactly like a good vanilla ice cream cone.
Taking a sip, there are some decent flavors in there but the strongest thing I’m getting in this glass is bitterness. There’s some initial herbal grass-like sweet agave that gets some of that black pepper shading — but almost immediately after the black pepper kicks in, it’s like I just took a swig of rubbing alcohol with the bitterant that gets added. That texture is strong and overpowering, and wipes out pretty much anything else that I had started to taste.
Near the end, I get the sense that there’s some vanilla trying to work its way into the mix… but the bitterness overpowers it and lingers well into the finish.
Ice is often the savior of bitter spirits, and in this case I think it is doing a ton of work to save what’s in the glass.
This is still a very bitter sip, but that component of the flavor profile is toned down enough that you can see some of the other notes around the edges. That herbal agave is still immediately front and center, but it doesn’t get instantly overpowered like it did previously. There’s a hint of vanilla that comes in around the edges as the flavor develops, and on the finish there’s now some actual competition between the vanilla and the bitterness for who will win.
My last hope with this spirit was that maybe, just maybe, it will actually make a good margarita. And in some aspects, it does… but nothing here will knock your socks off.
There are certainly some good herbal agave notes coming through with the other components, which is what you want in a good marg. But there’s still a noticeable level of bitterness here, beyond the usual contribution from the lime juice. And I really don’t see anything vanilla-related adding any new tones to the cocktail.
At best, this is a mediocre margarita… and that’s giving it the benefit of the doubt.
When I first started my tasting notes for this spirit, I thought for sure that my taste buds had gone off the rocker. There’s no way that something this bitter could be on sale. But no — after doing a couple control tastes with Casamigos and Tequila 512, I knew it wasn’t me. Don’t let the packaging fool you — at best, this is a mediocre tequila being sold at premium prices.
If I can pontificate for a second, I feel like the bitterness is a clue that the distillery did in fact use the modern method of breaking down agave cores using acid and an autoclave — something which yields more liquid, but can leave exactly this kind of an aftertaste. Since there are no marketing materials for this spirit, we really have no idea how it was made… but to me, it’s pretty clear that there really wasn’t much care or attention paid to this spirit.
|Caralegre Blanco Tequila
Produced By: CaralegreProduction Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $35.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 0/5
A Casamigos imitator that does not even come close to being a passable tequila.