We’ve done a lot of reviews on this site, and not all of them have been a great experience. At times, we’ve deliberately scraped the bottom of the barrel. But as we get closer to our 300th review, I figured it was time for us to treat ourselves to something I’ve been looking forward to: Clase Azul tequila.
Arturo Lomeli started into the liquor business in 1997. After graduating from college, he started out by opening a bar, but quickly realized that he hated that particular aspect of the business and instead wanted to get into retail liquor products. Along with his business partner, Hugo Luna Vazquez, they produced two monumental flops: a pomegranate punch called La Pinta and a tequila called El Teporocho which never got off the ground.
Lomeli went back to school in 1999 to study marketing, trying to figure out where he was going wrong. He decided that the thing he had missed was the packaging of his product, but when he took the idea to Vazquez, he didn’t think it was worth his time to try again and cashed out of the business altogether.
Undaunted, Lomeli studied pottery and tequila making, finally settling on a high end product that would be bottled in a similarly bespoke ceramic container. He decided on the name for his new product after becoming enamored with the attractive star of a Mexican telenovela called Azul Tequila, and named his new company Clase Azul.
The first bottle of tequila rolled out of the distillery in the year 2000. In 2001, he met up with Tomás Zaldívar who helped create the now iconic bottles. Over the next 20 years, Lomeli would continue to grow the business (sometimes with more risk than reward), but by 2019 he was rejecting $1 billion offers from investors to buy the company. Clase Azul remains an independently owned business to this day.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
All of Clase Azul’s products are made from 100% blue agave plants, which have been cultivated for between 6 and 8 years in Jalisco, Mexico. After being harvested, the plants have their leaves shaved off, leaving behind only the hard inner core behind. That core is roasted for 72 hours in a traditional brick kiln to release the natural sugar and soften the plant before being ground in a traditional process to release the liquid.
The sugary extract is then fermented using a proprietary strain of yeast for at least two days before being distilled twice.
Once the newly produced spirit has been created, it is placed into previously used bourbon barrels for a period of eight months to create this reposado version of their tequila.
This is, by far, the most effort I’ve ever seen put into the packaging for a spirit.
Each and every bottle is hand crafted in a small town named Santa Maria Canchesda in Mexico. The company that produces them is comprised of 80% women on staff, providing well-paying jobs for a typically under-served portion of the Mexican population. Each worker is provided (in addition to their normal salary) two meals per day, transportation, daycare services, and tuition for school.
This ceramic bottle is generally slim and svelte, with a flared base, a small bulge in the middle, and a flared top. The bottle is painted with a white background and blue details, all painted painstakingly by hand. In the center of the bottle is a small depression where a silver agave leaf is glued onto the bottle.
Everything on the bottle is hand created and painted except for the stopper, which is a metal and synthetic construction. And just in case everything else wasn’t enough, the cap is also designed to work as a bell and will ring clearly when tapped.
Right off the bat, this smells pretty great. There’s the sweet agave, with its herbal notes, which is typically present in tequila — but its also accompanied by some caramel, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. This is far more depth and complexity than I’ve seen from any other tequila… and this is only a reposado, not even an anejo!
Taking a sip, the best way I could possibly describe this is as taking a bite of creme brulee with a touch of parsnip as garnish. The biggest and boldest flavors are the caramel, vanilla, and the baking spices that have worked their way into the mix, accompanied by the sweetness from the agave. The herbal notes are there as well, but as more of an accompaniment instead of a prime player. I’m not mad though, they absolutely add some color to the drink and remind you that you are drinking a tequila and not a sweet whiskey.
When the ice drops in, usually you see some other flavors dropping out. Specifically, the lighter flavors tend to make a quick exit, the bolder flavors calm down a touch, and generally the whole thing mellows out. Which is usually unfortunate in a tequila, since almost all of the flavors in tequila are lighter in nature.
What drops out of the mixture here are the baking spices and the herbal notes, leaving behind mostly the caramel and vanilla sweetness. It isn’t nearly as well rounded as it was when taken neat, but it is still delicious. There’s even a hint of the herbal note hanging out in the background adding some uniqueness to the mix.
The mark of a good margarita is the ability to marry all of the disparate components of the cocktail into a coherent and delicious flavor profile. This is a tough job as it is, but the mark of a truly great margarita is the ability to do all that… and then to go one step further by adding something unique and delicious to the glass.
And that’s exactly what we have here. Not only is this a perfectly balanced and delicious margarita containing all of the traditional herbal notes, but the caramel and vanilla flavors from the spirit are shining through and making this a warmer, more delicious, and completely unique version.
This is, by far, the best tasting tequila I’ve ever had. And at this price point, it damn well better be.
What I appreciate is that they haven’t taken the wrong message from the Grey Goose business model. Some companies just put a shiny wrapper on otherwise terrible stuff and try to charge extra for it. But for Clase Azul, not only did they create amazing branding and packaging for their spirits, they also made a truly great tasting spirit to go inside that packaging.
With how delicious their reposado is, I can’t wait until my review budget recovers enough to try their anejo.
|Clase Azul Reposado Tequila
Produced By: Clase AzulProduction Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $149.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 5/5
It’s the total package — literally.