If you’re like me, the second you see the title of this review you’re going to have a certain country song stuck in your head. Cuervo is one of the most ubiquitous names in tequila — probably because its the single most popular tequila in the world. And since my current margarita addiction has me reviewing lots of tequila, we obviously need to go at least three rounds with Jose Cuervo.
As I said, there is no bigger name in the tequila industry than Jose Cuervo.
In 1758, Don José Antonio de Cuervo was granted a plot of land in the (soon to be Mexican) town of Tequila. Here, he would build a farm with his family where they would cultivate the blue agave plant that was native to the area and, in 1795, the family distilled and produced their first bottle of mezcal (side note for those who don’t quite understand the differentiation: scotch is to whiskey as tequila is to mezcal).
It would take some time for the Cuervo family to embrace their distilling calling, but by 1880 the family had started commercially producing their spirits for sale. Known originally as “mezcal de Tequila” (mezcal from the town of Tequila), the Mexican government eventually — after much lobbying — allowed them to designate their spirits as a unique appellation known simply as “tequila.” The very first bottle of Jose Cuervo Tequila rolled off the line in 1906 and a massive new category of distilled spirits was born.
The company would achieve a massive level of success, with roughly 1 out of every 5 bottles of tequila sold worldwide being Jose Cuervo. The business would remain in the family through the years, eventually ending up in 1966 being owned by a relative named Juan Beckmann Gallardo. In 1989, the family sold 45% of the business to a distribution company which would eventually be acquired by Diageo, the British spirits giant. Diageo continued to distribute Jose Cuervo tequila and were in talks to acquire the remainder of the business from the family until talks fell through in 2012. Rather than try to find another distribution company the Beckmann family decided to start their own distribution business called Proximo Spirits and handle the entire process from growing the agave through to stocking shelves on their own.
Proximo Spirits also produces the Kraken Black Spiced Rum, as well as Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. They in turn are owned by the Mexican alcoholic beverage giant Becle.
This type of tequila is referred to as a “mixto”, which is a lower quality version of tequila that uses a mixture of at least 51% blue agave plants and other sugars. The agave plants are harvested and have their leaves sliced off, leaving the hard core behind. That core is then cooked for about three days in an oven to convert the plant material into sugar, and then placed into large vats to ferment and allow yeast to convert that sugar into alcohol.
Once the fermentation is complete, what remains is a mildly alcoholic liquid that isn’t nearly pure or strong enough to be tequila. The next step in the process is to distill it twice in copper pot stills, which concentrates the spirits and raises the alcohol level. After distillation, the newly produced tequila is mixed with other distilled alcohol to create the final product.
There’s nothing particularly special about this bottle.
The design of the bottle itself is a little interesting in that it’s square instead of round, but it is still designed to fit in a standard speed well of a bar and not necessarily on the back shelf. The bottle is capped off by a metal screw-on cap.
The label on the front of the bottle is, if possible, less exciting than the bottle itself. It’s just a slightly stylized version of the brand name, with a bright blue label at the bottom promoting the fact that this was distilled from blue agave plants. (…but not 100% blue agave plants. A lie of omission, perhaps.)
The majority of what’s coming off this crystal clear glass of liquid is the usual tequila notes you’d expect. There’s a good bit of lemon zest citrus mixed with some herbal elements, like fresh cut grass, that produce the textbook tequila aroma. But there’s also a slight hint of industrial alcohol that’s sneaking in there as well, almost as if someone across the room is using some nail polish remover.
Taking a sip, there’s an unfortunate bitterness that’s present here. It starts slowly, with just a hint of a bite at the beginning… but by the finish, it’s damn near the most prominent aspect of the flavor profile. Which is unfortunate since the other flavors in here are pretty good. The citrus and herbal notes make it through from the aroma to the flavor, and there’s even a touch of that black pepper spice you’d expect. But it’s all overshadowed by that bitterness, which is all you’ll remember.
Usually with a little bit of ice, the more unpleasant aspects of a spirit are significantly toned down. Which is good, because this spirit is more bitter than a snubbed ex-girlfriend. Once the ice cubes are added, the bitterness cools off a bit — not completely, it’s still there in the background… but it isn’t as “shouty” as before.
The trade off is that with the reduced unpleasantness, the lighter and sweeter notes also disappear as well. There’s a touch of the original herbal notes in here still, but the majority of the flavor has simply disappeared. The lemon zest is gone, and the black pepper spice is barely noticeable.
You’re about 90% of the way to being vodka at this point.
This is probably the best (and possibly only good) use for this tequila. The bitterness is completely masked by the mixers and the added ice, and what’s left is just the herbal elements that contribute to the flavor of the cocktail.
I’d say this meets the bare minimum qualifications here, but there’s no flair or uniqueness that it brings to the party. Just mediocre tequila.
With a spirit as light and delicate as tequila, the details matter. You can hide unpleasant flavors much easier in something like a bourbon or even a reposado tequila; however, when it’s just the raw spirit shipped out the door, there is no good way to mask any of the imperfections.
That’s unfortunately what has happened here. The fact that this is a “mixto” tequila that uses a blend of alcohols means you aren’t getting the same quality as the 100% blue agave version, and that additional alcohol is where things go off the rails. As we see with the 1800 Silver, which is pretty much just a pure 100% blue agave version of this, the base tequila is great. The mixing is what kills it.
|Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila|
Classification: Blanco Tequila
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $19.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 1/5
Three rounds of this sounds like three rounds too many.