Review: Don Julio Blanco

There’s really only so much that you can do to a blanco tequila. It’s probably the most restrictive of the tequila styles and, as a result, the flavor profile you tends to be rather consistent among the larger brands. So whenever we see a brand charging a price tag well outside the average for a blanco tequila, we sit up and take notice. Either it’s a total ripoff, or they have a truly unique take — which will be the case for Don Julio, who charge damn near $40 a bottle for this stuff?


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History

Don Julio González-Frausto Estrada was born in Jalisco, Mexico in 1925. Very early in his life his father died, leaving the 15 year old son to become the sole breadwinner for his widowed mother and six siblings. He tried his hand at working on a farm but realized that the wages were simply too low to support his family, and so instead started his own business roaming around the country on horseback selling tequila from barrels.

After two years of success selling tequila, Julio took out a 20,000 peso loan and purchased his own distillery (dubbed “La Primavera”) to start producing his very own tequila instead of just selling other people’s products. He spent the next 40 years tinkering with the production process, making some tequila mainly for local consumption, and in 1985 the family owned business decided to launch the Don Julio brand of products for larger scale sale and distribution.

In 1999, the Seagrams corporation invested in the business and helped bring it to the United States. That ownership stake would eventually be purchased by the British spirits giant Diageo, who continues to own the brand to this day.

Product

As a tequila, this starts with a crop of agave plants — specifically, blue agave plants that are grown on the family estate in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. The plants are harvested and have their leaves shaved, which leaves behind only the hard fibrous core. Don Julio uses only 100% blue weber agave plants for their production and does not add other sugars, as is common with cheaper production methods.

Don Julio uses a more traditional method of processing these cores: the company cuts them into smaller chunks and loads them into brick ovens for a couple days to roast. This softens the hard core, converts the fructans into fermentable sugars, and adds some unique flavors to the material. Once properly cooked, the agave cores are crushed to release the sugary juice, which is then mixed with water and fermented to create an alcoholic liquid.

The alcoholic liquid is distilled into tequila, and for the blanco version of their spirit it is proofed down with water and shipped out the door without any other additives.

Packaging

This is a pretty neat looking bottle — almost a rounder version of a Patron tequila bottle.

I like that this isn’t a typical spirits bottle shape, and that it’s shaped more like an agave core (which has been shaved of all its leaves) with a round base and flat sides for the labels. I also appreciate the shorter neck with a flared lip, as that works pretty nicely when I go to pour myself a drop.

Also eye-catching is the blue coloring on the bottle. This is a 100% blue agave based spirit, and the blue color seems to be a nod to that raw material. (Not to mention the fact that it’s just a great color.) Typically, a blanco tequila is white (as you’d expect) so giving this a little bit of color is a good call and ensures it stands out on the shelf.

Neat

This smells bright and cheerful, just like you’d expect from a good tequila, with well saturated aromas that are clear and distinct in the glass. The lemon citrus is the first thing that comes across, followed by the herbal cut grass like agave notes, and finally a bit of ground black pepper.

What’s a little disappointing is that those flavors don’t exactly come across with the same intensity in the actual flavor of the spirit. They are all present… but about as muted as you could possibly get while still registering. The lemon citrus is the first thing to arrive, more like a lime at this point, followed by some of the herbal agave and black pepper. On the finish, there’s just a tiny hint of bitterness way back in the palate — just enough to keep it from getting a clean bill of health, but not really something that will be noticeable enough to annoy.

On Ice

I’m actually a little surprised here. Usually, the addition of some ice causes the flavors to take a nosedive (especially the lighter ones) and disappear. We see it time and again with whiskey. But here, the flavors are almost as strong as they were when taken neat. That’s still to say not very strong, but strong enough to be noticed.

The aroma, on the other hand, has almost given up the ghost. There’s just a wisp of herbal agave and lime in the glass, but that’s it.

Thankfully disappeared, though, is the bitterness. What we’ve got now is something that really does work all on its own as a sipping tequila.

Cocktail (Margarita)

This is exactly what I’m looking for in a margarita.

It’s pretty much the textbook definition of what you should see — there are some great herbal notes from the tequila complimenting and helping to (slightly) balance the orange liqueur and bitter lime juice. It still has a good bite, but there’s some depth and complexity to it, which is entirely thanks to the spirit used.


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Overall Rating

At first glance, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about this spirit. The flavors were a bit muted when taken neat, and that little hint of bitterness was throwing me off. But the power in this spirit is its ability to hold on and make itself known against ice and mixers.

It’s true what they say: it’s the quiet ones you have to look out for, even with a tequila.

Don Julio Blanco
Produced By: Don Julio
Production Location: Mexico
Classification: Tequila
Aging: Blanco
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $37.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 4/5
Surprisingly light flavors with remarkable staying power that make for a really good cocktail.


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