Recently, I’ve been focusing the majority of my reviews on popular tequila brands, trying to find the best tequila out there for every price point. And I’m beginning to suspect that if I really want to find the best, I should probably try what the locals are having: and in Mexico, for tequila, the #1 top seller is a brand called El Jimador.
Tequila production on what would become the Herradura distillery started in the early 19th century, started by a man named Feliciano Romo. In 1870, Félix López took over the property and registered it as a legal distillery named Hacienda San José del Refugio. The distillery remained in the family even after Félix’s death in 1878, operated first by his wife and later by her brother, Aurelio López.
It was Aurelio who would give the distillery its lasting name of Herradura, named after a horseshoe that he found on the property sometime around 1900. Then, the Cristero War broke out in Mexico in 1926, a conflict where secular factions within Mexico sought to eliminate the power of the Catholic church and impose an atheist state. During this, Aurelio provided financial and material support to the Catholics and, in response, the distillery was raided and he was forced with his family into exile, leaving his cousin Don David in charge of the facility. It was David who resisted following the trend in the 1920’s of producing inferior “mixto” tequila, insisting that Herradura always remain 100% blue agave based.
The old distillery was shut down in the 1960’s and replaced with a newer modern facility, but the old buildings were maintained as a museum. In the 1970’s, the company introduced their first aged expressions, expanding beyond blanco tequila for the first time.
In 1994, the company introduced a new brand of tequila designed to offer a premium experience at a reasonable and approachable price point. Named for the workers in the field who cultivate the agave plants (called “jimadores”) El Jimador remains a 100% blue agave based spirit produced to this day.
The company remained family owned and increasingly successful, capturing 30% of the tequila market in the early 2000’s. In 2007, the family decided to sell the company to the American spirits giant Brown-Forman (of Jack Daniel’s fame) for over $700 million. Brown-Forman have since expanded distribution and production of the tequila; however, despite the new ownership, the spirit is still produced at the same facility where it has been since the 1800’s.
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As with all Herradura tequila, this starts as a crop of blue agave plants which are harvested and have their leaves removed. What remains is the tough and fibrous core of the plant, which is cooked in an oven to convert those fibers into sugar. The plants are then crushed to release the fluid, and that fluid is fermented to convert the sugar into alcohol. At this point, it is distilled three times to create the new blanco tequila.
For the blanco version of this tequila, the spirit is immediately bottled without any barrel aging taking place.
Overall, this is pretty solid packaging.
The shape of the bottle itself is interesting, sporting a long slender rectangular body with a couple facets and a portrait of a jimador embossed into the glass itself. It’s a style consistent with some of the tricks that they pull off with their flagship Herradura brand, but this is a much taller version. The bottle is topped off with a metallic screw-on top.
I particularly like the branding here. the label is as small and unobtrusive as possible, wrapping around near the base and leaving the majority of the surface area completely clear and transparent. This might not be quite as important with a blanco tequila as it would with an aged version, but it does help to consumers see the quality and the clarity of the product inside the bottle.
The liquid is nice and crystal clear, like the water from a fresh mountain spring. As for the aroma coming off the glass, it’s spot on for a typical tequila — herbal notes close to fresh cut grass with a bit of lemon citrus to brighten the whole thing up.
Taking a sip, this continues to be a bog-standard-no-frills-tequila when it comes to the flavor. There isn’t a whole lot of saturation on the components, but you can definitely taste the herbal elements and a little bit of lemon citrus in there. After a while, a bit of black pepper spice develops as well… but with it comes an unfortunate touch of bitterness. It isn’t overpowering, but it is present and lingers a bit after the liquid is gone.
Usually, a little bit of ice is a death sentence for flavors that are too light or not well saturated enough to stand up to those harsh conditions. And, sadly, that’s exactly what is going on here.
This is almost down to being just a very flat vodka. The bitterness is gone, which is good, but so are the herbal and citrus flavors, with the exception of a teeny tiny hint of the herbal aspect on the finish. There might be a hint of black pepper spice left as well… but it isn’t very prominent.
Given the poor showing with the ice, I thought for sure that there would be nothing redeeming in the margarita. But I was wrong, there actually is something interesting here.
That said, don’t get too excited — this isn’t the second coming or something — but there is a touch of that herbal note we saw when taken neat that seems to come through here as well. It’s struggling to be seen behind the much louder lime juice and Cointreau, but it does add some unique flavors to the cocktail that otherwise would be missing. And that’s the bare minimum bar for passing this stage of the test.
In general, this ain’t bad. There’s a little bit of bitterness in the spirit when taken neat, but otherwise it’s a solid source of alcohol. The problem is that with so many other spirits in this category and price range, especially spirits with more interesting flavors that withstand ice better, it’s hard to recommend this brand over something else.
|El Jimador Silver Tequila|
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $18.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
Most popular doesn’t always mean ‘the best’, but it at least this isn’t ‘the worst’ either.