We previously reviewed the blanco version of Tequila 512’s eponymous product and discovered that it was a well made, approachable tequila. We only had one minor quibble: it seemed a touch over-filtered. The good news is that they also have an aged version of their tequila available — will this prove more flavorful than the blanco?
Scott Willis had possibly the most quintessential Austin, Texas story. He originally moved to Austin because of the music and nightlife scene, hoping to get his start as a performing artist while working a day job in tech sales. After many years of trying (but unfortunately not much succeeding), he sat down for a re-think. What he really wanted, he realized, was to be a part of the Austin nightlife. Performing hadn’t panned out, but — taking some inspiration from the story of Tito’s Vodka — Willis decided that creating an Austin-focused tequila brand might be a place where he could succeed.
The man had a vision, according to the Austin Chronicle: “no gimmicks, just premium quality tequila, packaged attractively and sold at a reasonable price”.
Together with his then-girlfriend (now wife), he traveled to Tequila, Mexico where they met with the La Cofradia family-operated distillery and worked out an agreement to start bottling their own variety of blanco tequila under the Tequila 512 brand. The first bottles arrived in Austin in 2012, and the branding was updated in 2015 to the current black on yellow design.
Business took off after winning a bunch of accolades from various prestigious competitions, and in 2020 the company was purchased by entrepreneur Nick Matzorkis.
- Learn More: What Is Tequila?
You can read more about tequila in our link just above, but in short: tequila is, by definition, something that can only be produced in certain locations in Mexico. As such, while this is an Austin-based company, the product they are selling actually comes from the aforementioned La Cofradia distillery in Tequila, Mexico.
As you’d expect from a good tequila, this spirit starts as a crop of 100% blue weber agave plants that are grown for seven to ten years before being harvested. The plants have their leaves shaved off, leaving behind only the hard and fibrous core. This core is then roasted in brick ovens, which is a traditional way of converting the fibrous material into sugary liquid for the distillation process. This step usually adds some interesting and beneficial flavors, but is slower and more expensive compared to other industrial manufacturing processes, which is why not many distilleries do it these days.
Once the cooked cores have been shredded, the sugary liquid that they release is then fermented in open tanks which allows some of the natural airborne yeast in the area to grow in the tanks alongside cultured yeast. This yeast is added by the distillery and adds yet more interesting, complex, and unique flavors to the liquid.
That alcoholic liquid is then distilled three times to produce a clear alcohol, all three times in copper pot stills. Usually, a distillery will use a column still to make tequila, which typically results in a higher strength and less flavorful spirit. By using pot stills, though, Tequila 512 can create a more characterful spirit that retains some of those unique flavors and characteristics. Following distillation, the spirit is charcoal filtered (like a Tennessee whiskey) and oxygenated.
For the anejo version of this tequila, the spirit is then rested in charred oak barrels for at least 12 months prior to being proofed down with volcanic spring water and bottled.
I think the marketing department did a great job here and they should be proud. This is a bottle that looks clean and attractive, but also knows its place. It isn’t trying to be super premium, and exudes an air of approachability.
The bottle itself is slender, with straight walls, a thin body, and a long neck. It looks like it is designed to fit neatly into just about any speed well in a bar, and to be a pretty easy pour for the bartender.
The size and transparency of the label didn’t make a ton of difference with the blanco version, given how clear that spirit is — but with this anejo edition, I appreciate that the label about as transparent as you can get. There’s a big yellow bar down the front that acts as the brand identity and lets you clearly identify it on the back bar, and the brand name is arranged in block letters on the front as if stamped onto the bottle. It is a clean, well composed, and easily readable design that lets you see what you’re getting.
With an anejo tequila, you run the risk of overwhelming the tequila flavors with the barrel aging components, but with this aroma I can still clearly see both sides of that coin. There’s a sweet brown sugar and vanilla tone here like you’d expect from something barrel aged, but there’s also plenty of herbal agave, a bit of lemon citrus, and some spicy cayenne pepper.
Surprisingly, though, I don’t actually get a lot of those barrel aging components translating into the flavor. They are prominent in the aroma… but when you taste the spirit, they are definitely more of a supporting character. The first thing I get is herbal agave combined with cayenne pepper, a bit of black pepper spice, and then finally the brown sugar and vanilla linger quietly in the background. On the finish, what I’m primarily getting is that cayenne, black pepper, and vanilla.
Usually, a bit of ice makes things worse — or at least more boring when added to a tequila. But in this case, it’s a rare case of ice actually making the drink more exciting.
There’s a lot more intensity to the spices here: that cayenne and black pepper mixture with a hint of cinnamon as well are front and center in the flavor profile. supporting it is some sweet herbal agave and just a slight hint of vanilla and brown sugar. The barrel aging components here are more for character and roundness, filling out the profile, rather than being prominent flavors. That’s a neat trick I appreciate, letting the spirit itself do the loudest talking.
I think the blanco version of this tequila made for a fantastic margarita, and their anejo just raised the bar.
I’m still getting all the delicious notes I’d expect to find in a nice, cold margarita: there’s the herbal agave adding a unique flavor to the lime juice and Cointreau, a touch of sweetness from the tequila balancing things out nicely… but there’s also more. On the back half of the sip, I’m picking up those spicy pepper notes that are giving this margarita more character and complexity — a uniqueness that almost tastes like you’ve already added some rock salt to the glass.
It’s good. Darn good.
The goal for Tequila 512 seems to be threading that needle of making a tequila that is good quality but for a reasonable price. They aren’t going for spectacular here — just something that you’d be happy purchasing again and again (and able to afford purchasing again and again). In this case, I think they hit the nail on the head.
I love the spicy components that they were able to pull off here, and I appreciate that the barrel aging flavors are more window dressing for the real center of attention: the tequila itself. This type of spirit is all about the earthiness and flavor of the alcohol coming from the agave plant, not about the added flavors from the barrels it is aged in. This company clearly understands that concept — and has been able to execute on it consistently, to boot.
|Tequila 512 Anejo
Produced By: Tequila 512Production Location: Mexico
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $36.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
A delicious, spicy tequila with just enough support from the vanilla and brown sugar barrel aging components to make it interesting.