Everyone has a bad story or two when it comes to tequila. People remember the times they got smashed after taking one too many shots of the cheap variety. But times are changing and people are discovering that tequila can be enjoyed like any fine wine or single-malt whisky. And to appreciate tequila better I joined the Casa Noble Night at A’Toda Madre tequila bar.
Casa Noble is the latest premium tequila brand to arrive in the Philippines and the Casa Noble Night is a tequila tasting event exclusively featuring tequilas from the brand. It is one of the many tequila tasting events held at A’Toda Madre together with the Mexican Embassy during the month of September to commemorate the Mexican National Day.
The evening began with a background of Casa Noble by Aljor who is one of the owners of A’Toda Madre. He also talked a bit about his visit to the distillery seeing first hand how they made their tequilas. It was followed by a video of Carlos Santana touring the distillery where Casa Noble tequila is made. Carlos Santana owns 30% of the brand and is also its brand ambassador. You can watch that same video below.
There are four types of tequila based on the amount of aging they undergo: blanco, reposado, añejo and the recently introduced extra añejo. It is this same order that the tequila tasting and food pairing will follow.
The blanco is considered the purest expression of the blue agave plant and is un-aged. It is clear, sweet with hints of smoke that remind me of black pepper. The smell of alcohol is strong and gives a tingly feeling as it goes down the back of the throat. It was paired with a small serving of sangrita, chilled tanigue ceviche as well as corn chips and salsa. The sangrita complements the blanco with its own citrus and pepper taste while the freshness and vegetables of the ceviche is highlighted by the tequila’s vegetal flavors.
The word reposado literally means “rested” in Spanish and is the second tequila we tasted. It has been aged just shy of one year or 364 days in French white oak barrels. This aging has mellowed the flavors, gave it a medium body and removed the harshness of the alcohol. It is sweet from start to finish with notes of vanilla, caramel and cinnamon in aroma, taste and finish. The reposado was paired with Monterey Jack cheese, chicken chipotle tostaditas and chile verde tostaditas. The sweetness of the tequila balances the mild, tart flavors in the food.
The third tequila we tasted was the añejo. The word añejo comes from the Spanish word año which means “year” and is the minimum number of years required for a tequila to be called such. Casa Noble’s añejo is aged for exactly two years resulting in a heavy body with a sweetness that remind me of chocolate, coffee and honey. The añejo was paired with blue cheese, steak tostaditas and chorizo tacos. The blue cheese and añejo pairing was surprising, quite wonderful and is probably the most memorable of the evening.
The fourth and last tequila was what made the evening extra special: an extra añejo from Casa Noble’s single barrel program. The importers of Casa Noble in the Philippines selected one barrel from the program to produce 28 bottles of single barrel extra añejo. An extra añejo is required to be aged a minimum of five years before it can be bottled and the one we sampled was aged for five and a half years. This single barrel makes this extra añejo unique because it is not blended and therefore will taste differently from other barrels.
The addition of years has reduced the extra añejo to a very heavy body and smells like a combination of leather and coffee. The sweetness reminds me of vanilla but mellowed down. I can taste notes of dark chocolate, lightly charred oak and nuts. The harshness of the alcohol is almost gone and is replaced by a long oak finish. It was paired with dark chocolate mexican flan, candied apple slices and a spicy dark chocolate bar. The sweet, nutty and pepper notes of the tequila complements the dark, nutty and bitter flavors of the food.
The tequila tasting was over and one by one the other guests left. I lingered a while longer chatting with Aljor and friends who arrived late when the topic of why they named their tequila bar “A’Toda Madre” came up. Aljor recalled a time when he was living in the U.S. and people would ask him “How was last night?” He would always reply with muy bien or “very well” in Spanish. This is when his Mexican friends taught him to say a’toda madre instead of muy bien. The words a’toda madre literally translate to “all the mothers” but in street slang means “totally awesome”. The context is a bit hard to convey but when you’ve enjoyed the fine tequilas of Casa Noble and Mexican fare at A’Toda Madre you’re sure to tell your friends the next morning “A’toda madre!”