Whenever I see something at my local liquor store that I’ve never heard of before and is prominently being pushed by the store as their “top pick”, I get a little suspicious. Is it being promoted because it’s actually a good product… or is it just a good product for the store’s bottom line? This was exactly the mystery that I set out to solve with this bottle of El Padrino Blanco Tequila.
El Padrino is a brand of tequila created by Casa Maestri.
Michael & Celia V. Maestri are the second generation of their families to go into the distilling business. Michael comes from the family that brought us the Frank-Lin Distilled Products Co., and we’ve reviewed one or two of their products before. Celia’s family founded the Veracruz Liquor Distillery in Veracruz, Mexico that opened in the 1950’s. Together, the couple moved to Jalisco, Mexico and used their vast experience in the spirits industry to found the Destiladora del Valle de Tequila Distillery (or more simply, the Casa Maestri).
Casa Maestri is a white label distillery, meaning that they primarily produce spirits on contract for other clients who then bottle and label them as their own. Recently, though, they have been building their own brands as well, such as Identity Tequila. Thanks to the large number of brands that they supply (over 128), in addition to the quality of their spirits, the distillery claims the current title of the most awarded distillery in Mexico.
This particular brand is named in honor of Pedro Barragán, a well known ranch owner in the small community of Santa Inez. There is no described connection between that historical figure and this spirit.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
The folks at Casa Maestri are thankfully very specific about the process used to produce their spirits, and that seems to be consistently used for this product as well.
All of the tequila in this bottle starts out as a blue agave plant, which grows for between 6 and 12 years before being harvested by hand. The leaves of the agave are shaved, leaving behind only the hard fibrous core.
Those agave cores are converted into a sugary liquid by two different methods at this distillery. Roughly half of the agaves are placed into a traditional brick oven and roasted for 36 to 54 hours, softening the fibers and converting the carbohydrates in those agave fibers into sugar. The other half are placed into massive autoclaves that apply heat, pressure, and acid to do the same job — only more efficiently and without the associated flavor improvements. Both of those agave cores are then fed into a mechanical shredding machine to extract the liquid inside.
That sugary liquid is then fermented with yeast for between 48 and 60 hours to create the alcoholic liquid, which is longer than usual and allows for some more interesting flavors to develop. The fermentation also takes place in oak casks, which allows some additional flavors to be imparted. The fermented liquid is then distilled twice in pot stills, raising the alcohol content to about 55%. This process typically preserves more of the flavor and character of the spirit than you would if using column stills (which are faster and more efficient, but can create a less characterful spirit than the pot stills).
For this blanco version of this tequila, the raw distillate is proofed down to the proper alcohol concentration and bottled for sale without any further maturation or adulteration.
Let’s call a spade a spade here — this bottle is trying to be Patron, but in a non-copyright-infringing way.
Overall, the bottle is designed like a rough hewn glass vessel with a square shaped cross section, just like Patron. The difference is that where the more famous Patron has gently rounded shoulders, this bottle has a boxy appearance and more defined square shape to the body. The bottle sports a medium length neck that is capped off with a rounded wood and cork stopper.
For the label, there isn’t anything really unique going on here. The format is pretty normal, with the brand information in a large black font and some artistic flourishes above and below. The one thing that actually does tie in with the brand identity is the silhouette of a man (ostensibly the namesake of the brand).
It all just seems like a very “paint by numbers” approach to packaging.
There’s not that much variation in the aromas and the flavors of a blanco tequila, especially when taken neat. But what little variation does exist is always notable. In this case, while I do get the typical aroma combination of lemon zest, herbal agave, and black pepper spice, it’s the black pepper that seems to be a bit stronger than usual. And it’s that pepper giving this glass a touch more earthy characteristic than usual.
The relative strength of the black pepper spice translates from the aroma into the flavor, and is the first thing that you’ll notice on taking a sip. It’s followed quickly by a hint of vanilla (possibly from the oak fermentation vats?) and then a little lemon zest citrus on the finish to keep things light. The herbal agave adds a layer of sweetness throughout that gives the flavors a bit of body and substance as well as some good balance.
I’ll note that the marketing copy describes the aromas and flavors of this spirit as “banana and cinnamon”, but I think that’s just the result of layering vanilla, lemon zest, and black pepper on top of each other. If you only picked two flavors instead of three, that would probably encompass all of the data points pretty well.
With a little bit of ice, the black pepper spice takes more of a backseat in this spirit. It’s still there, but the herbal agave flavor and the lemon zest are now the stars of this show.
One thing that is a bit surprising is that not only is the vanilla still present and identifiable, but there’s still a good bit of sweetness in the spirit from that agave component. Normally, those kinds of pre-fermentation characteristics tend to disappear when you add a bit of ice, leaving behind mostly the maturation notes to provide flavor. In this case, since there are no maturation notes, everything is sticking around and contributing (even if it is just a little bit rearranged).
A margarita is a tough challenge for any spirit. The mixers used for this drink are like the speakers at a rock concert: loud almost to an unbearable level. In order for a spirit to be successful, it needs to make itself known among that cacophony of flavor without disrupting the balance.
In this case, the spirit is visible… but just barely. There’s a tiny hint of herbal agave mixed in among all the other components, but the remainder of the flavors are either masked or overpowered.
It isn’t a bad margarita. In fact, I wouldn’t be mad sipping this. It just isn’t the best example of the style I’ve had.
In general, this is a pretty good blanco tequila. There really aren’t any faults here that I can point out. The biggest problem that you’ll run into is that they have priced themselves on par with a good number of other brands that have the edge when it comes to cocktails, specifically (Teremana is a great example of a similarly priced tequila that brings more character and flavor to the margarita). Even 1800 Silver is a good option here as an improvement.
This is good, but it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the price tag. There just isn’t enough of the flavor coming through in the cocktail portion of the testing to keep it on par with those bottles unfortunately, and the lack of a compelling backstory (as this is just a marketing sub-brand from a larger distillery) means there isn’t much to recommend this over the rest of the pack.
|El Padrino Blanco Tequila|
Produced By: El PadrinoProduction Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Owned By: Casa Maestri
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $29.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
A fine tequila on its own, but one that cannot stack up to the competition.