Review: Jose Cuervo Tradicional Anejo Tequila

The silver edition of Jose Cuervo is… fine. It isn’t really good, per say… but it also doesn’t break the bank. But what happens if you take that same source tequila and put some love and attention into it? Well, as it turns out, eventually someone slaps a black label on it and ships it as Jose Cuervo Tradicional Tequila Anejo.


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History

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 the calling of distilling spirits, 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 under 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, and by 1966 the company was 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 through which they would handle the entire process — from growing the agave to stocking shelves.

Proximo Spirits also produces the Kraken Black Spiced Rum, as well as Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey.

Product

While the standard edition of Jose Cuervo is a “mixto” (which means the agave based spirits are blended with other sources), this version is made from 100% blue agave plants. 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 that spirit twice in copper pot stills, which concentrates the spirits and raises the alcohol level.

After distillation, this tequila is placed into new American oak barrels for a period of 12 months before being transferred to previously used Irish single malt whiskey barrels (possibly Bushmills) for an additional four months.

Packaging

There’s nothing particularly special about this bottle. It’s a little bit taller and slimmer than the usual liquor bottle, but not necessarily out of the ordinary.

One thing I do like here is the labeling. There’s just enough of the label to let you know about the branding and the manufacturer, but it’s still relatively small. It doesn’t completely obscure the contents of the bottle and their beautiful amber color. Additionally, the black color with white font and gold accents is a striking combination with plenty of shelf appeal.

Neat

This looks much closer to an American whiskey, with a rusty amber color to the spirit. It also smells much closer to an American whiskey, with the majority of the notes coming off the glass being those vanilla and caramel tones that are associated with the barrel aging process. But there’s also something interesting going on here that you don’t get in a whiskey — specifically, some of those herbal aspects peeking through and brightening up the profile for an interesting overall effect.

Taking a sip, things happen very quickly. There’s an initial rush of vanilla, caramel, and herbal notes that all come at you at the same time and, if you aren’t deliberately trying to parse them individually, it comes out tasting like honey. But pretty quickly thereafter the black pepper spice starts rolling in, and with it comes some bitterness that lasts well into the finish.

On Ice

Typically, with a little bit of ice, the more unpleasant aspects of a spirit drop out of the running. Any bitterness or “shouty” flavors get toned down — but often at the expense of the quieter voices in the choir also unceremoniously being silenced.

In this case, the aroma remains the same but the flavor has been greatly improved. The black pepper spice at the end is still there, but now it’s a pleasant tingle instead of a harsh bitterness. And while I’d usually expect the barrel aging components to drop out of the flavor profile, in reality they are still present and contributing. If anything, the ice makes the flavors slow down and take their time a little bit, accentuating the caramel flavor with a touch of vanilla behind it instead of having everything all run together.

A legitimate improvement turning this into a downright sippable spirit.

Cocktail (Margarita)

A normal margarita is usually a bit on the bitter and sour side, thanks to all that lime juice. Something I appreciate about anejo tequilas is that the barrel aging components usually add a bit of warmth and sweetness to the cocktail that balance things out much better, and this is no exception.

You’ve got a mean margarita here. It’s more well balanced than a standard margarita, with a good bit of vanilla smoothing out the experience and the tequila itself absolutely contributes to the flavor of the drink.


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Overall Rating

There’s nothing stupendously amazing about this tequila, but the added barrel aging flavors are absolutely worth the extra cost. There’s a little bit of bitterness when taken neat, which is unfortunate; however, with some ice or in a cocktail, that bitterness quickly disappears. In general, it’s a fine anejo — probably not ideal for sipping neat, but worth a try for mixing.

Jose Cuervo Tradicional Anejo Tequila
Produced By: Jose Cuervo
Owned By: Proximo Spirits
Production Location: Jalisco, Mexico
Classification: Anejo Tequila
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $31.49 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:
All reviews are evaluated within the context of their specific spirit classification as specified above. Click here to check out similar spirits we have reviewed.

Overall Rating: 3/5
Setting the benchmark for a decent, affordable anejo.


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