During the recent Pride Month here in the US, I went down a small rabbit hole of LGBTQ-friendly distilleries and brands. Today’s review, Identity Blanco Tequila, comes from a prestigious distillery, is produced by two individuals with a long lineage in the tequila industry, and donates a portion of proceeds to LGBTQ+ charities to boot. But is it actually good?
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 incredibly transparent and 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 between 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 the blanco edition of this tequila, the end results at this point are directly bottled and shipped.
The 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 bottle is just too large to make it work. For a bartender, it means you’ll need to put it on the back bar, taking up valuable real estate. But that might be the point — because 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. 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. This company 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.
This smells exactly like what you’d expect from a blanco tequila, and without any bells or whistles. I’m getting some bright lemon citrus, a bit of herbal agave, and a hint of black pepper spice. The aromas are well saturated for a raw spirit like this, without any industrial alcohol or unpleasantness coming through.
Interestingly, while all the aromas translate into the flavor, there’s also something extra in here as well. Immediately, I can taste just a touch of vanilla, followed by the herbal agave sweetness. As the flavor develops, the lemon citrus joins the party and finally the black pepper spice brings up the rear and lingers into the finish.
If I must have one minor quibble here, it’s that there’s a bit of bitterness on that black pepper spice attribute on the finish that leaves a slightly rough taste behind.
If there’s one thing I can rely on ice to do in a spirit, it’s get rid of any bitterness or bite. And in this case, that’s exactly what happened. The roughness I saw on the finish is gone, and all that’s left are the flavors.
That said, the flavors do seem to have been a bit diluted. I’m still getting that vanilla note and the raw herbal agave, but the lemon citrus seems to have disappeared. There’s also less saturation and clarity on the flavors this time around, which is making this spirit taste very watery.
Still enough flavors for cocktails, but not necessarily something I’d want to sip on the rocks.
There’s nothing wrong with this margarita, but it really isn’t catching my eye either.
The flavors we’ve seen previously have been so watered down and diminished by this point that they are barely making an appearance. The herbal agave and vanilla might be the only things that can be discerned through the orange liqueur and lime juice — but even then, you need to really stop and squint at the flavors to see it.
I do think that there’s some benefit that the tequila is playing here. The citrus and orange flavors aren’t running away with the show — there’s another element trying to balance things out and make a good cocktail. It just isn’t very clear what that is.
Taken blind as a spirit, this is a fair quality tequila. There’s a bit of bitterness on the finish when taken neat, and the flavors really aren’t well saturated enough to survive a margarita, but it works acceptably well.
The problem I have with this spirit is the price. This is being sold in a very competitive segment of the market, but without anything besides the label to help it stand out. Considering the distillery producing this product has plenty of experience and has previously received accolades producing white label brands, it’s hard not to feel like they are counting on the label to do the legwork selling this particular brand.
I appreciate what they’re doing here, but if I’m being completely honest… I could easily donate my dollars directly to LGBTQ+ organizations and buy something else next time.
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $34.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 2/5
A mediocre tequila being sold for too high a price, hoping the marketing will make up the difference.