The ninth-annual Spirits of Mexico Festival celebrated ‘La Vida Agave’ and named the top agave spirits in the world earlier this month in San Diego. The week-long celebration attracted more than 2,000 attendees and featured a record-breaking number of agave-based spirits, totaling 79 brands with 213 expressions.
Cava de Oro Extra Anejo Tequila won the highest award, “Best of Show.”The Best Western Hacienda Hotel in Old Town San Diego was the venue for the IWSC Group’s annual Spirits of Mexico Festival Tasting Competition. Entries included 100 percent de agave tequilas, mezcals, bacanoras and liqueurs as well as new Mexican spirits at this year’s event, raicilla and Mexican rum.
The Tasting Competition was co-hosted by Robert Plotkin of BarMedia and Jack Robertiello of Drinks Ink. Judges included Carlos Camarena, master distiller of tequilas Tapatio, El Tesoro de Don Felipe, Excellia and Ocho; Charlotte Voisey of William Grant & Sons; Courtenay Greenleaf of Richard Sandoval’s La Biblioteca; Eric Hay of Wirtz Beverage Group; Levi Walker of Young’s Market; Phillip Soto Mares, president of El Duende Tequila, Inc.; Thomas ‘Mac’ McFarland Gregory III of Starwood Hotels, and Zack Romaya of Old Town Liquor. The newest judge was Anthony Hill of Aliu-k’et, who won a seat on this year’s panel by entering the competition’s essay contest.
Entries were judged on five key elements including appearance, aromatics, flavor, mouthfeel and finish, with a rating system totaling a maximum possible score of 100 points. The intensive blind-tasting schedule included judging of 113 entries.
A new packaging category was added to the 2012 competition, as Mexican spirits are known for creativity in package design. According to Spirits of Mexico Founder Dori Bryant, no other category of distilled spirit compares with the innovative and often whimsical productions found with agave spirits.
The first-ever Best of Show Packaging Award was given to Apocalypto Tequila. Scoring elements include bottle and label design, utility, innovation, overall package and general appeal.
Winners of the Tasting Competition’s ‘Best of Class’ awards are:
Tequila Blanco (29 entries): Tie – Jose Cuervo Platino and Pura Vida Silver
Tequila Reposado (26 entries): Muerto Tequila
Tequila Anejo (20 entries): El Jimador Anejo
Tequila Extra Anejo (10 entries): Cava De Oro Tequila
Mezcal Anejo: Scorpion Anejo, Tobala Varietal, 3 ½ Years
A total of 35 entries received Gold medals; 46 received Silver medals, 24 received Bronze and 9 did not place. Gold award winners are listed in alphabetical sequence below:
Tequila Blanco: Gran Dovejo, Gran Orendain, Jose Cuervo Platino, Luna Nueva, Montalvo, Muerto and Pura Vida
Tequila Reposado: Apocalypto, Crotalo, EC (El Capote) Charro, Flashbang, Gran Orendain, Luna Nueva, Muerto and Pura Vida
Tequila Anejo: Alderete, Arta, El Destilador, El Jimador, Gran Dovejo, Herradura and Luna Nueva
Tequila Extra Anejo: Cava de Oro, Don Julio 1942, Don Pilar, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia and Pura Vida
Mezcal Joven: Enmascarado 54 Espadin Varietal, Los Siete Misterios Espadin Varietal and Scorpion Tobala Varietal
Mezcal Anejo: Joya Azul and Scorpion Tobala Varietal
Bacanora: Pascola Reposado
Raicilla: La Venenosa Blanco
According to Jack Robertiello, San Diego is the perfect place to hold the Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition each year due to its strong historical and cultural ties to Mexican heritage.
“San Diego is perfectly poised, historically and culturally, to be the proving grounds for agave and other Mexican spirits in the U.S.,” said Robertiello. “We are honored that the world’s best tequilas, bacanoras, raicillas, mezcals and other spirits of Mexico were presented this year. It gave us the opportunity to showcase their history and future.”
On Friday night of festival week, the annual Awards Dinner revealed the “Best of” winners from this year’s competition after which celebrity comedian Mark DeCarlo hosted a live auction benefiting the Sky Ranch Foundation. At the Main Tasting Event the following day, all the agave stars came out to present more than 200 styles of agave-based and other Mexican spirits. Guests attended educational seminars centered on tasting techniques sponsored by Tequilas Jose Cuervo and Don Julio and Mixology, sponsored by Tequila Milagro.
The Spirits of Mexico Festival, North America’s largest event dedicated to agave and other Mexican spirits, is presented by the IWSC Group, a leader in organizing wine and spirit competitions around the globe. The festival made its 2012 national tour in NYC, Chicago and San Diego and received governmental recognition from the State of California, County and City of San Diego and the Manhattan Borough President’s Office. For more information, visit www.thespiritsofmexico.com