Cazadores reposado is produced on a massive scale for a global audience. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid are fermenting at once, across dozens of tanks, so it’s perhaps best to temper your expectations.
Classification reposado tequila
Company Bacardi Limited
Distillery Tequila Cazadores de Arandas / Bacardi y Compañia, S.A. de C.V.
Cask new American oak
Still Type undisclosed (double distilled)
Released 1973 (in Mexico), 1982 (to the US); ongoing
Aged up to one year
100% agave tequila aged to the fullest extent a reposado can be
Herbaceous and agave-driven
Good for cocktails with bold flavors and mixers
Not overly complex
A medicinal note may be the result of industrial processes.
Color: Bright light gold
Nose: On first sniff, herbaceous agave notes compete with an antiseptic, medical character. As it opens, hints of ripe banana, Band-Aid, and lemon come through.
Palate: Up front, it’s lightly sweet with an agave woodiness. Mid-palate, it is light-to-medium-bodied and bright. The agave comes forward along with orange and lemon notes. At the back of the palate, the bright citrus notes continue, with a follow-up of artichoke, grass, and a bite of oak. As it opens, those same ripe-banana notes appear at the front of the mouth.
Finish: Short and a little brash. There is a lingering agave, slightly medicinal note, but it is not complex and fades fairly quickly.
Every spirit brand has a story that’s undergone at least some embellishment, whether it’s that it was a historical favorite of this queen or that gangster, or that the recipe hasn’t changed one iota in 200 years. The late distiller Dave Pickerell of WhistlePig) called such stories “fluff” and felt they represented a double-edged sword: often harmless entertainment which can add to the drinking experience, but sometimes misleading and inaccurate information designed to sell more bottles.
Tequila Cazadores falls into the former category of harmless entertainment, but it definitely leans into its fluffed-up lore with enthusiasm. According to the brand’s website, Don Jose Maria Bañuelos saw a stag in the agave-filled hills and was inspired to develop a special, “smoother” family tequila. He (or someone) stuck the secret recipe inside the walls of his house for more than 50 years. In 1973, a Don Felix built the Cazadores distillery on the same fields where Bañuelos saw his deer.
There may be a note of truth to the tale, but the tequila we’re talking about here is a bit more down-to-earth in its origins. In 1973, Tequila Cazadores opened its distillery in Arandas, Mexico, about 60 miles east of Guadalajara. In 1982, the brand began distribution in the U.S., one of the small first wave of 100% agave tequilas to pick up steam in the early 1980s here. Bacardi purchased it in 2004, and by 2007 had expanded from the reposado expression to a full range of aged expressions and Cristalino. In 2012, the brand went through a package redesign, which is the bottle you’ll see on shelves today.
Though the company doesn’t go deep into its production process, it does highlight a lengthy seven-to-nine-day double-fermentation process in stainless-steel tanks, and the use of new American oak in its aging (most tequilas use ex-bourbon barrels or a mix with new oak). According to most fan websites, agave piñons are cooked in an autoclave and extraction of the unfermented juice is via diffuser. One cool twist is that maestro tequilero Jesus Susunaga ferments the soon-to-be spirit while classical music fills the warehouse, a technique popular among some wine- and whiskey-makers during the aging process. Here, Susunaga (who’s been at the helm for just a couple of years, replacing longtime master distiller Jesus Reza) feels the music helps relax and encourage the yeast to do its thing. Whether it’s true or not, it’s nice to picture a hard-working crew (and yeast) chilling to Mozart.
Make no mistake: This tequila is produced on a massive scale for a global audience. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of liquid are fermenting at once, across dozens of tanks. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s good to temper your expectations. While it’s clear this is an all-agave tequila (using agave from the high-altitude fields around Arandas), there’s something to it (perhaps in the cuts of the heads and tails, or, as some believe, the effects of using a diffuser instead of a traditional shredder) that calls back to the era of mixtos thrown back as party shots by neophyte drinkers. It’s not overly complex, and there’s a bit of a medicinal note throughout.
Sipping it is probably not the first option here; most likely, you’re going to throw it back a couple of times throughout a celebratory night or incorporate it into cocktails. This is where the reposado shines. Of course it works in a standard Margarita, but the herbaceous profile makes it particularly practical in drinks that feature more pronounced mixer flavors, whether spicy or sweet. My own preference is to drop it into a Spicy Margarita, heavy on the equally herbaceous and unctuous muddled jalapeño.
The product is well priced, but these days it faces stiff competition from a number of well-made, affordable brands. Olmeca Altos, Casamigos, Espolon and others give this brand a run for its money.
“Cazadores” comes from the Spanish word for “hunters,” complementing the image of the elk on the label, and coined by founder Don Jose Maria sometime around 1922, according to the brand.