Identity is a new-ish tequila brand designed to appeal specifically to millennials, produced by a distillery that historically has only contracted for white label products, bottled in such a way that you can’t even see the contents. But all those red flags are sometimes what makes a spirit interesting, which is why I picked up this bottle of Identity Anejo Tequila.
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 lifetime of 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.
Identity Tequila is a brand designed specifically to target millennials, and also supports the LGBTQ community by providing a portion of the sale of each bottle to LGBTQ charities.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
The folks at Casa Maestri are thankfully very specific about the process used to produce their spirits.
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 up the fibers and converting the carbohydrates in the 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 manual shredding machine to extract the liquid inside.
Once the sugary liquid has been extracted, it is fermented with yeast for between 48 and 60 hours, a moderately long period that allows for some more interesting flavors to develop in the liquid. That fermentation creates a mildly alcoholic liquid that 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 get by using column stills (which are faster and more efficient, but can create a less characterful spirit than the pot stills).
For this anejo edition of this tequila, the resulting spirit is placed into previously-used American whiskey barrels to age for a period of 12 months.
Identity tequila comes packaged in a completely painted glass bottle, with the brand and legal information marked in paint on the outside.
The bottle design is unique, with a more modern vibe than we usually see. The body is cylindrical, but flared from the base to the shoulder. At the shoulder it takes a sharp turn for a flat shoulder that leads up to the medium length neck. The bottle is topped off with a synthetic stopper.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the bottle doesn’t seem to fit in a speed well or in a typical bottle container. This thing is just too pudgy to make it work. For a bartender, this means you’ll need to put it on the back bar, taking up valuable real estate. But that might be the point — because placement on the back bar is more likely to get it noticed.
As for the label… on the one hand, this is pretty much the definition of what I don’t like. The entire surface of the bottle is covered, therefore obscuring the contents inside. For this brand, each different variety of spirit has its own color to denote what is inside. (In this case, a shade of orange for anejo. For the blanco we previously reviewed, it was white.) I like the different-color concept — but what I like even more is being able to see the contents of the bottle.
For me, the reason I go back and purchase a second bottle of something is because I really like the contents the first time around. The contents should be the star of the show in all cases, and I feel like this is a prime example of when a product is trying to be sold solely on the packaging.
One thing I really do like is the logo. Identity uses a fingerprint logo with some of the lines of the fingerprint colored like a rainbow, and the lines are actually all tiny little fuzzy textiles that are glued onto the side. It makes for an interesting texture and an attractive logo, and I appreciate the message of inclusiveness.
At first glance, this is pretty light for an anejo tequila. The warmer temperature and wilder swings between day to night tend to mature spirits more rapidly in places like Texas or Mexico compared to places like Scotland — but this has that same straw or gold color you’d expect from a light scotch whisky. I do get many of those barrel maturation aromas coming off the glass, though (specifically: toasted brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, and a touch of herbal agave).
The flavors in this glass are a bit more simple than I expected. Really, the only thing I can taste is the toasted brown sugar, and then a bit of the herbal agave. There might be a bit of vanilla in there as well — but it is mixed in with that brown sugar sweetness so well that it is hard to tell the two apart. On the finish, there’s some black pepper spice that kicks in, which is great for adding some texture but also leaves a touch of bitterness behind.
There’s some good news here, in that the slight bitterness has subsided.
The even-better news is that not only have the flavors remained largely unchanged, they also seem to have improved. What I’m tasting at this point is almost identical to how I remember a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch: heavy on the sugar, a good bit of cinnamon, and some vanilla. There’s also a hint of agave near the finish tor remind you what you are drinking.
I don’t know if this is something I’d want to sip on the rocks on a regular basis. There’s too much brown sugar in here at this point in my opinion, which just isn’t my own personal preference.
I think this actually works very nicely as a margarita. There are some interesting dynamics going on here thanks to that extra aging, and the herbal agave note makes a solid reappearance in the mix.
For the flavors, the brown sugar and vanilla are doing a great job balancing with the lime juice and orange. Not only do they tone those bright components down and make it a more manageable profile, but the depth and richness of those new flavors make for a very well balanced cocktail.
If there’s one gripe I have, it’s that the black pepper spice isn’t coming through as clearly as I’d like. Having that texture at the finish would really kick this up a notch, and without it the flavor feels a bit flat.
Usually when I see flashy branding and a marketing campaign specifically targeted at millennials you get something truly terrible. In my opinion, the contents of the product should speak for itself — and when we have packaging that completely obscures said contents, that’s usually a red flag. But with this bottle I don’t think the product is actually all that bad… I just don’t think this is worth the price they are asking.
In this same price range, you’ve got a ton of great anejo tequilas to choose from, ranging from Casamigos to Patron. This is a fine anejo tequila, but it isn’t on the same level as those other guys. Taken neat there’s a bit of bitterness, and otherwise the flavor profile is very one note. It works, but not nearly as well as it’s competition.
|Identity Anejo Tequila|
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $49.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
A tequila that tastes like Cinnamon Toast Crunch: a simple flavor profile that simply cannot stand up to the competition.