Cristalino tequila is an appellation of tequila that I haven’t reviewed before. Aged and then filtered, it’s a new category that the Mexican distilleries are trying to popularize. It offers a lot of interesting benefits, not only of the added flavors from the aging process but also the double filtration both from the barrel and then artificially at the end. It’s an opportunity for otherwise poor spirits to shine, which makes me interested to see how the Caralegre that we’ve tried as both a blanco and an anejo fared.
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.
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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 this is a tequila, we know it must start with blue agave plants 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.
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.
Cristalino is a new version of tequila for me, but apparently this is an aged tequila that has been filtered post-aging to be crystal clear and devoid of color. My guess is that this is their anejo tequila that has been filtered, meaning it would have been aged for 1 year in oak barrels before filtration.
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 it really gets 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.
Right off the bat, there’s a pretty big difference from a blanco tequila — while this might be also be a clear and colorless tequila, I’m getting a bunch of vanilla and brown sugar aroma coming off the glass. There’s hardly any herbal agave, which is a shame considering that is the hallmark of a good tequila.
What you get in the aroma is pretty much what you get in the flavor profile, as well. It starts off with some warm vanilla followed by a good bit of brown sugar, and then adds some herbal agave to the mixture as you’d expect from an anejo. I will note: I never get any black pepper or really anything else from the flavors, it’s just those three components mixing together.
On the finish, it is mainly the vanilla and agave… but there is a tiny bit of bitterness that sneaks in at the last second as well.
With added ice, this becomes much more of a traditional blanco tequila.
A lot of the barrel aging components have dropped out, leaving the herbal agave to be the star of the show. There’s some vanilla in there supporting it as the flavor develops, but there really aren’t any other characteristics that make their way to the stage.
Once again, around the edges there’s a slight hint of bitterness… but I will say, its less prominent compared to their blanco. Here, it’s more of a footnote than anything else.
Of all the versions of this Caralegre brand of tequila that I’ve tried, I think this is the best margarita yet.
What you’ve got here is not only a good mixture of flavors and a balance to the citrus components, but the vanilla and brown sugar characteristics from this tequila add some depth and complexity and otherwise is typically missing from a standard margarita. It has a little more meat on its bones compared to other expressions from this brand.
This is probably the best expression of Caralegre tequila I’ve tried, with some solid barrel aging flavors present and a good balance overall. It makes a nice margarita, and isn’t offensive to the palate.
But there is no way that I am paying this much for something where the best praise I can give it is a solid “meh”.
What’s more interesting to me is that this is the first time I have seen this appellation of tequila in use. I think there are some exciting possibilities for this in the future, with the filtration having a positive impact on the end product while still incorporating more barrel aging characteristics in mixing tequila. But I get the sinking feeling that instead this will become a safe haven for otherwise terrible spirits that distilleries attempt to save with barrel aging and heavy filtration.
|Caralegre Cristalino Tequila
Produced By: CaralegreProduction Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $54.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
A mediocre tequila with some vanilla and brown sugar notes that is demanding way too high a price.