We recently reviewed Casa Noble’s blanco tequila, and I mostly enjoyed it. It pulled off some interesting smoky characteristics that you don’t usually see in a blanco tequila, and it made some great cocktails. But, since I’m a whiskey guy first and foremost, I always wonder if any spirit can be improved by being left in a barrel for a while. And thankfully, Casa Noble also has a reposado version that answers that exact question.
Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. His father was a salesman in the construction and hospitality businesses and introduced his son to the business world at an early age. Sadly, his father passed away when Hermosillo was 19, which sparked in him the desire to create something to honor both his father and their Mexican heritage.
Hermosillo would go on to earn a degree in economics from the University of Dallas, and in 1997 he founded the Casa Noble tequila brand. The original concept for the brand was to take something as quintessential as Mexican tequila and create an upscale, quality brand that could counteract the negative perception of the spirit that was common in the late 1990s. He partnered with Carlos Hernandez, who owned an estate in Mexico, and together they started growing, harvesting, and distilling their own spirits.
Carlos Santana visited the distillery in 2011 and invested in the company, and in 2014 the company was acquired by Constellation Brands, a company which also own High West and Nelson’s Green Brier Tennessee Whiskey.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
For their tequila, Casa Noble uses 100% blue agave plants that are grown and harvested on their own private farm. They refer to this as “estate grown”, borrowing a phrase from the Scottish tradition. Agave plants grow for around seven years before they are harvested by hand, have their leaves shaved, and are shipped off to the distillery.
While Casa Noble grows their agave on this estate, they actually use the separate Tequilera Hacienda La Cofradia distillation facility for their spirits. They do disclose that on the label, and I give them some extra points for this level of transparency. According to sources, Casa Noble represents 90% of the tequila made at the facility and is one of the factors that allows them to maintain the high standards they set.
Once at the distillery, the agave cores are placed into brick ovens where they are roasted for between 36 to 40 hours to convert the starchy fibers into sugar and allow the extraction of the sugary liquid within. After roasting, the agave plants are shredded mechanically to release the liquid and then fermented using local yeast strains to create a mildly alcoholic liquid.
One difference Casa Noble makes in their distillation process is that, rather than stopping at two distillations as you would with a typical tequila, they distill the spirits three times in stainless steel pot stills.
For this reposado version, the newly made tequila is placed into new French oak barrels for a period of 364 days — one less day than the legal limit required to technically make it an “anejo” tequila. French oak barrels are used because the company claims that, after much testing and experimentation, these provide a superior flavor compared to the commonly used bourbon barrels.
I think this bottle does a good job balancing the need for branding and marketing while still maintaining a clean, transparent look to showcase the spirit.
Overall, the bottle is roughly rectangular shaped — the body has a square cross section, with a thick solid glass base that ensures it really lights up on an under-lit shelf. The straight walls of the bottle are slipped at the edges to make a faceted jewel-like shape that angles inwards towards the shoulder and sports a short neck. The bottle is capped off in a metal and cork stopper.
What branding they did put on the bottle is small, impactful, and elegant. The label is a small square of paper at the bottom of the bottle with the brand information and the signature of the founder, done as if it was an aged piece of parchment. The logo is actually made of metal and glued onto the front of the bottle, which looks great.
This is definitely a bottle I wouldn’t mind displaying on my liquor shelf.
With the blanco version of this spirit, the herbal agave and the citrus were both readily apparent in the aroma, but I think in this version the barrel aging components are taking center stage. Most of what I can smell is brown sugar, toffee caramel, and vanilla, with just a tiny hint of those citrus and herbal agave notes well in the background.
When taking a sip, the good news is that the smoky characteristic seems to have stuck around. The bad news is that the added time in an oak cask seems to have given it a bit of a bitter twinge. It isn’t terrible, but it is noticeable. The smoke is the first thing you get, followed closely by some brown sugar and caramel that develops with a touch of vanilla. On the finish, the citrus and herbal agave make an appearance, and the black pepper spice adds some interesting texture to the flavor as it lingers a bit in your mouth.
Usually, the addition of a little bit of ice removes the bitterness or bite from a spirit. But in this case, I actually think that the ice might be making the bitterness worse instead.
On the front, I’m getting pretty much just two notes at this point: brown sugar from the barrel aging and the smoke we saw previously. There’s some herbal agave that joins the party as the flavor develops, and these three flavor components are pretty much it until the finish… when the smoke flavor turns a bit bitter. That’s the last impression you get off the spirit, which is especially disappointing as it tends to linger for a few seconds.
This is a pretty good margarita, but I do have some quibbles.
Overall, it’s a more well balanced drink than usual. A margarita tends to be more citrus and sour than anything else, and the addition of the brown sugar and vanilla components from the barrel aging process help balance those strong flavors. They don’t completely overpower everything — there’s still enough sour in there to let you know what you are drinking, just not enough to make it an unpleasant drink. And the herbal agave makes an appearance as well, which is a requirement for this cocktail.
Where this goes off the rails a bit is on the finish. The smoky character that really made this a solid bottle of tequila when taken as a blanco is still just a bit too bitter and tart in this reposado version, creating a bit of an unpleasant finish. It isn’t awful, and really only appears if you are consciously trying to deconstruct the flavors in the drink in your head, but it’s enough that I noticed it. Like I said, a quibble but not a complaint.
This seems to be a tequila that was custom designed for mixing. The barrel aged components do a great job adding balance to a lot of the usual tequila cocktails, and there’s plenty of the original herbal agave and citrus to ensure you still get the typical tequila flavor profile. However, the smoky characteristic that made their blanco version a unique standout is now too dominant and bitter — at this point, it’s almost more of a hinderance than a help.
While I think that, generally speaking, this is a fine reposado tequila… within the context of the tequila market, I do think it misses the mark. There are just much better examples available at a lower price point. It still isn’t a bad choice — but I’ll stick with their blanco over this version any day.
|Casa Noble Reposado Tequila|
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $39.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Herbal agave mixed with barrel aging notes — but with an unfortunate touch of smoke that gets bitter at times.