Tequila makers are in the habit of using bourbon barrels for aging. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but following conventional wisdom isn’t how you create an unparalleled spirit.
Rather than picking up barrels from Kentucky distilleries, Casa Noble went to the Cognac and Bordeaux regions of France. Yes, Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, the founder of Casa Noble, actually went to France, walked into the forest and chose the specific trees to use for their barrels.
Hermosillo is the person most qualified to explain why they chose French white oak. “I find French oak’s small pores and light toast to be ideal for tequila, since we start with a spirit that already has so much.” The key point is that the white oak doesn’t overwhelm the spirit but still allows for complexity.
Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo with the signature French white oak barrels
So why isn’t every tequila copying Casa Noble? If the tequila is as good as its many advocates claim, wouldn’t every brand be rushing to replace its bourbon barrels with French white oak? The truth is that blending Casa Noble’s tequila into the complex yet balanced final product is a painstaking task.
The history of the barrel, combined with how it’s positioned, gives the tequila in each barrel different notes. This creates a level of variety among the barrels that results in unparalleled tequila or pretty much any spirit outside of cognac. There can be up to 80 samples to taste and mix, and the blenders at Casa Noble have to find the perfect way to bring them all together.
Hermosillo also takes a hands-on approach to blending Casa Noble tequila.
The blending process is broken into two major steps. First, the blenders need to narrow down the samples to get a beautiful base. Second, they need to start adding from the other barrels to give the tequila what it needs, whether that’s fruit characteristics, floral notes, spices, vanilla or chocolate. This process keeps going until the blenders are happy with the balance.
Of course, it all comes back to the French white oak. Casa Noble wouldn’t have such a wide variety of rich flavors to blend without the specific character and makeup of the wood. The tequila is made in Mexico but owes much of its signature to France.