A lightly aged tequila that smells, looks and tastes older and more complex than it is, it’s slightly fruity and sweet but with a complex character that pays off.
Classification: reposado tequila
Company: Clase Azul Spirits
Distillery: Casa Tradición, SA de C.V.
Cask: American oak, ex-bourbon
Still Type: copper pot
Proof: 80 (40% ABV)
Aged: eight months
- Elegant yet vibrant and incredibly silky
- Feels longer-aged than most reposados
- The statement bottle makes an attractive addition to any home bar or study.
- The bottle is too tall for regular bar shelves or cabinets.
- The steep price point may deter casual drinkers.
Color: Deep gold
Nose: Cooked agave, vanilla, papaya, banana cream pie and baking spices
Palate: It opens sweet and rich, with notes of cooked agave, vanilla and banana cream pie, much like the nose, but with a hint of clove and soft pepper. On the midpalate, it ‘s medium-bodied; oak, a hint of candied orange and soft pepper sit on the tongue. At the back of the throat, it slips down easily with notes of toasted hazelnut, oak and baking spice.
Finish: A long spice-and-nut finish with the cooked agave and vanilla returning
Clase Azul represents a fascinating study in the current state of luxury tequilas. It’s absolutely authentic in the sense that its founder, Arturo Lomeli, is Mexican, with a deep pride in his country’s culinary and artisan traditions. The brand helps support hundreds of native artists (in addition to the agave growers, harvester and distillery staff), along with helming a charitable foundation, Fundación con Causa Azul, that trains artists to monetize their skills. Agave is slow-baked for 72 hours in traditional masonry ovens, then crushed under a roller mill and the liquid fermented with a proprietary yeast. Yet it also represents a 21st-century culture shift to luxury tequila as a statement piece for nightclubs and moneyed folks. Some aficionados complain the flavor profile is too sweet, with an emphasis on vanilla and baking notes, pandering to a mass audience. Even Lomeli notes his first batch was a tough sell in Mexico because it was “too smooth.” And of course, the high price point (the añejo clocks in at about $500) means it was at the forefront of transforming high-end tequila from an everyday social spirit to something akin to much older single malt scotches.
All that said, the juice inside the fancy bottle is delicious. The company refers to the various expressions as marques, a phrase more commonly found in cognac, and the comparison is not far off. Rather than trending toward the dry oak notes of scotch, as many aged tequilas do, the result here is richer and more candied-fruit-driven, like a cognac or sherry-cask-aged whisky. It’s actually hard to believe this is “only” a reposado and not an añejo—there’s so much depth of character, color and flavor.
If you’re seeking a lightly aged mixer for your Margarita or Paloma, this almost certainly isn’t the tequila you’re seeking. But if you’re scoping out intriguing sippers or a cognac or rum replacement in an Old Fashioned or Sazerac riff, you’ve come to the right place. (Although at this price, you’re probably best sipping it neat or with ice). Though it may seem to some that the tequila is too “sweet,” what it reminds one most of is baked agave straight out of the oven.
The elegant high-profile ceramic decanter is molded and painted by hand, meaning each bottle is unique. Each one takes its artisans about two weeks to create.
The bottom line: Clase Azul tequila reposado is an imaginative lightly aged spirit that more closely hews to a cognac or sherry-aged scotch than to the traditional dry-oak-and-spice model. Sip it slowly, because at this price point you’ll want to make it last.