Kevin Hart seems to be doing very well for himself by using his celebrity status to endorse products. From credit cards to satellite radio, the man has his name and face on just about everything — and the spirits industry is no exception. Today, we’re looking at Mr. Hart’s entry into the liquor business: Gran Coramino Cristalino Tequila.
Gran Coramino is a brand of tequila founded and owned by entertainer Kevin Hart which launched its first product in early 2022. According to Hart:
“Gran Coramino is about people coming together and building a community that everyone can be part of. As someone who loves tequila, I’ve spent the past two years working with Juan Domingo to create a brand and product of the highest possible quality that is accessible to my fans.”https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/kevin-hart-introduces-gran-coramino-a-new-ultra-premium-tequila-brand-at-the-cornerstone-of-passion-and-hard-work-301537193.html
The spirits for Gran Coramino are produced by Proximo Spirits, a private alcoholic beverage import company based in Jersey City, New Jersey. Founded in 2007 by the Beckmann family, Proximo Spirits owns and operates the famous Jose Cuervo tequila brand, among others. Juan Domingo Beckmann created the cristalino category of tequila about ten years ago and remains a champion of those spirits.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
Sadly, there’s less information than usual available about this spirit. With labels like “blanco” or “anejo” there are at least some legal requirements that we can use to guess at the production process, but the “cristalino” appellation isn’t even codified at this point.
Cristalino is a new category of tequila that has been appearing more frequently in recent years. The concept behind these spirits is that they take an aged tequila (like a reposado or an anejo) that has spent some time in an oak barrel — but then filter out all the color. In theory, this should leave behind a crystal clear tequila that retains some of the interesting flavors from the barrel aging process, and one that is smoother than you can make a blanco tequila.
All tequila is an agave based spirit. In the case of this bottle, 100% of the sugar content for the alcohol comes from blue agave plants (as opposed to cheaper “mixto” tequilas which add sugar to increase the alcoholic yield). Those plants mature for about seven years before they are harvested and cooked in brick ovens, converting the fibrous materials in the hearts of the agave plants into a sugary liquid and creating interesting flavors. The sugary liquid is then extracted from the cores (probably through mechanical shredding, but we can’t be sure here) before being mixed with water and yeast for fermentation.
Once fermented, the mildly alcoholic liquid is distilled twice in copper pot stills to create the raw alcohol. That spirit is then placed into “Eastern European oak barrels” for a period of between two to twelve months (there are some indications that this is a filtered reposado tequila, and 2 – 12 months is the maturation period for that category of tequila). For this specific bottling, the spirit is then further rested in Cabernet Sauvignon casks from Kevin Hart’s native Napa Valley wine region in California.
Once matured, the spirit is then aggressively filtered to remove any trace of color and bottled.
I think I see where all the money went in this product, because the bottle is amazing.
The body is a stretched rectangular form, with a square base and flat walls that does a quarter twist as it becomes slimmer and whisper towards the top. It makes me think of the smoke that comes off a candle after you put it out: laminar flow, twisting in the wind. The bottle is capped off with a wood and cork stopper.
One interesting note here, though: the top of the bottle is also square, which makes it a bit awkward to pour.
As for a label, the only thing obscuring your view of the spirit inside is a tiny sticker on the front of the bottle. Any other labeling or decor is clear, allowing you to see the crystal clear spirit inside. I appreciate that level of transparency in a liquor bottle, and the clarity of the spirit itself is, in fact, impressive.
All of the color might have been filtered out of this spirit, but the aromas certainly seem to have made it through. It smells like a good anejo tequila, with a healthy helping of brown sugar and vanilla combined with the traditional black pepper and herbal agave notes.
Surprisingly, though, the aromas don’t translate all that well into the flavors. I do get some of the brown sugar and caramel notes, but they are well in the background. The flavor that comes up first is black pepper spice with some clove and vanilla, followed by the rest of the barrel aging components, and eventually developing into more of a coffee flavor at the end. That black pepper component also adds a bit of spice to the finish, which lingers in your mouth for a while.
To their credit this is a smooth and interesting spirit when sipped all on its own, with just enough of the maturation components shining through to make it interesting.
What makes an aged tequila interesting (from a cocktail perspective, at least) is the ability of the barrel aged components to linger despite the addition of some ice. Those flavors also tend to add some character and depth to the spirit, resisting the natural tendency of the ice to wipe out everything but the strongest flavors.
Unfortunately, what we have here is a spirit where those barrel aged flavors have completely disappeared once ice is added.
At this point, after the ice goes into the glass the only thing I’m getting is black pepper spice, some herbal agave sweetness, and a hint of caramel way in the background. The flavors seem a bit unbalanced, and I wouldn’t recommend drinking it like this unless you are adding some mixers.
In general, I feel like this is where the cristalino tequilas falter — and this one is sadly no different. You want to use it in a cocktail, since that’s what most clear spirits are for, but there just isn’t enough flavor to make a difference.
As the tequila goes through the maturation process, that the herbal agave and black pepper notes should be continually toned down, with the barrel aging components taking some of the spotlight instead. It’s a trade-off that makes the older tequilas more palatable and complex when taken neat, and the barrel aged components add some delicious depth and complexity to cocktails like a margarita.
In the case of a cristalino tequila, though, the filtration process tends to strip out a lot of those barrel aging components. Flavors derived from barrel aging (much like the color they impart to the spirit) are suspended in the liquid and easily removed. So what you are left with is a clear spirit, with a neutered herbal agave flavor, and easily overpowered barrel aging flavors… basically the worst of all possible worlds.
That said, this isn’t terrible. There’s nothing patently offensive about this margarita, but there’s nothing to really recommend it either. All I’m tasting in this margarita is the Cointreau and lime juice, with a tiny peek of the tequila far in the background. The mixers are far overpowering the spirit, and in this drink that is exactly what you don’t want to see.
I appreciate that they were up front about what this spirit is, and what it isn’t. The press release made a big point to say that this is designed specifically to appeal to Kevin Hart’s fans. And I think that’s the biggest factor working for them — if this were released without Mr. Hart’s endorsement, I feel like this would become just another forgettable tequila in a sea of forgettable tequilas. Instead, this is now selling on shelves at damn near $50 a pop.
Generally speaking, I like the concept behind the cristalino tequila. But I feel like there’s some serious tinkering required to perfect it. That filtration process might make it look beautifully crystal clear — but it also severely cripples the flavor profile, removing most of the barrel aging flavor components that took time and effort to create. It’s like taking a delicious cut of filet mignon and cooking it beyond well done.
We’ve tried other products in this category before and seen it executed much better. In this case, you really are just paying for the bottle and the celebrity name.
|Gran Coramino Cristalino Tequila|
Produced By: Gran CoraminoProduction Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $49.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 1.5/5
They took a good tequila, filtered out the color and the flavor, and slapped a celebrity name on it in a fancy bottle.