We recently reviewed the blanco version of Socorro, and found it to be closer to what you’d expect from an anejo (or at least a cristalino) tequila… but the flavors seemed out of place in a blanco. But it’s actually made us hopeful for this bottle of their anejo — if they went to great lengths to get those flavors into somewhere they didn’t belong, surely they must do a better job when it’s a standard and expected part of the flavor profile… right?
Launched in April of 2020, Socorro Tequila is a brand of spirits produced by I&A Agave Spirits. The I and A in that company name represent founders Josh Irving and Pablo Antinori, two Texans who got their start distributing spirits and decided to take a chance launching their own brands.
Irving graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, and after college he started working as a caddy at local golf clubs. While there, he met some well-connected individuals who helped him obtain a position working for an alcohol distributor where he began to learn more about the liquor business. He fell in love with tequila, and during the course of his business he met Antinori, who was a distributor for Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits. Together, the pair decided to go into business for themselves, designing their own spirits and selling them in the United States.
They raised a combined $1.265 million from their friends and family in December of 2019 and started their first brand, Socorro Tequila, in April of 2020. The goal was to make a tequila that was affordable for everyone while still being a quality product, and one that also gave back to others. The name “Socorro” translates to “help, aid, and assist” which is what the company does — for every case of tequila they sell, they donate a case of water to an orphanage or nursing home in Mexico that needs it.
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There’s a lot of information on the website about the concept and the brand of this tequila, but there’s remarkably little information about what’s actually in the bottle.
As you might expect from a pair of distributors that went into the production business, this tequila isn’t actually made by them — this spirit is made under contract by Casa Tequilera Dinastía Arandina S.A. de C.V. (NOM 1610), a manufacturer in Mexico who caters specifically to companies like I&A by doing everything from production to bottling, even branding and marketing as a service. There don’t seem to be any other major brands associated with this distillery.
What little information we can get about how this tequila is made comes from the label itself, and based on some of the words they use (and their legal definitions), we can make some guesses about what’s inside.
According to the label, this is a tequila made from 100% agave which means that the sole source of sugar for their fermentation process is the blue weber agave plants. These agave plants are grown for about seven years before they are harvested and brought to the distillery for processing.
At this point, the agave cores need to be cooked to convert their starchy fibers into sugar. The modern way of doing that is by putting them in an industrial autoclave with some acid, but the label here says that these plants were instead cooked in traditional ovens (which is a slower and less efficient process, but one that imparts more flavor and character into the finished product).
The cores are then shredded to extract the sugary liquid inside, and fermented to turn that sugary liquid into alcohol. After fermentation the liquid is distilled to concentrate the alcohol and select just the right components that they want to put into the bottle.
For anejo tequila, the legal requirement is that the newly made spirit be rested in oak barrels for a period of at least one year. Typically, that’s done in previously-used American bourbon barrels, which are cheap and plentiful; but the exact details are not disclosed here. However it’s aged, that aged spirit is then bottled and shipped for sale.
This bottle is a design we’ve seen time and again, probably done best in the tequila space by Tequila 512. (Interestingly, while 512 didn’t change much between their blanco and anejo expressions, Socorro seems to have changed their whole vibe.)
The bottle it a tall and slender shape, with a cylindrical skinny body, gently rounded shoulder, and a long neck. That package is capped off with a wood and synthetic stopper.
On their blanco version of this bottle, the label was a light and airy melange of pastel colors and thin lines. It was vaguely “millennial aesthetic”. For their anejo edition, they took the Rolling Stones approach and just changed the color palate to white lines on a black background. It seems a bit jarring and strange, not something I’d pick up all by itself. But I suppose this is a brand extension, a bottle that someone would pick up because they are already familiar with the blanco version and want a different take on it.
Personally, it seems a little boring and doesn’t stand out on its own. The white lines are too thin to be noticed, and the end result is a big black square on the shelf with barely any distinction or differentiation.
The aroma of brown sugar and vanilla is pronounced in this spirit, with a little bit of lemon citrus adding just enough of a difference to make it distinguishable from a bourbon. There are also some baking spices in the aroma, some nutmeg and cinnamon that give it a little extra kick.
Taking a sip, the first flavors I get are a good bit of brown sugar and baking spices, which are flavors you’d absolutely expect from a spirit that spent at least a year in an oak barrel. From there, though, things get a little weird. There’s an unnatural sweetness and syrupy texture, almost like someone added some corn syrup to the barrel. It makes me a little suspicious that not all the flavors were obtained naturally, and some (if not all) of this is artificially enhanced.
On the finish, I finally get a bit of lemon but it quickly shifts into a bitterness that lingers an unfortunately long time.
When you add some ice to a spirit, the lighter and less saturated components usually disappear and the deeper and more heavily saturated elements are accentuated. In practice, that means the elements from the distillation process tend to be suppressed while any maturation flavors (i.e., flavors resulting from barrel aging) are highlighted.
In this case, the aroma on the rocks has completely lost the lemon citrus component. This smells like any other bourbon, and doesn’t offer anything interesting to recommend it.
Even worse, the same thing has happened to the flavor. There’s the brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, and baking spices… but nothing else. None of the black pepper, herbal agave, or hint of lemon to be found anywhere. This is all barrel aging flavors that you can get anywhere, and nothing you specifically need an anejo tequila to experience.
Even in a cocktail where the lime juice and Cointreau are supposed to be the dominant components, somehow the brown sugar and vanilla from the anejo are still the primary things I’m smelling in this glass.
The flavor of a good margarita is supposed to be slightly off balance towards the sour side, but with interesting and complimentary flavors. In this case, while it remains sour, the flavors are an unpleasant and disjointed chorus of competing voices all trying to be heard. It really isn’t enjoyable.
This is an example of an anejo tequila where technically all of the components exist… but they just aren’t put together in a coherent and enjoyable manner. The barrel aging flavors are present, but they overpower everything else in the bottle and generally make for a less-than-ideal experience even when added to some of the strongest mixers you can find (lime juice and Cointreau).
The art of making a good tequila is about more than just checking boxes. There’s a balance that needs to be struck — and while you can absolutely experiment with that formula, at the end of the day I’m grabbing a tequila because I want certain specific flavor components in my cocktail.
And if I wanted a bourbon, I would have grabbed a bourbon.
|Socorro Anejo Tequila|
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $37.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 1/5
Brown sugar, caramel, baking spices, suspiciously unnatural sweetness, and none of the usual flavors you would expect from a tequila.