Tequila Extra Añejo
Along with the venerated Cuervo and Sauza families, the Orendain clan has been an integral part of the foundation and growth of the tequila industry. In fact it’s not uncommon to find transactions between the three families from the 1880s, where distilleries changed hands from one to the other.
The Orendain family left Spain for Mexico in 1840 and settled in the town of Tequila where they quickly took to the tequila business. The namesake of this brand, Don Roberto Orendain González, began his distilling career in 1924 at the La Arenita distillery. His son Don Roberto Orendain Jr. launched his first commercially successful project with Tequila Virreyes in 1963.
It wasn’t until the company opened Hacienda La Purísima, one of Mexico’s largest distilleries, that Casa Don Roberto was able to catch up with demand and consequently begin expanding globally.
Casa Don Roberto distills its tequila from mostly estate-grown blue agave from the lowlands. There are different thoughts and preferences as to whether the best tequila agave is grown in the lowlands or highlands but I have no desire to get into that argument. I will say, however, that the town of Tequila, for which the spirit is named, is in the lowlands. The funny thing is that the “low lands” are not really so low. The lowland town of Tequila sits at roughly 3,900 feet of elevation and has dark, volcanic soil. The highlands are a little higher at roughly 5,000 feet and the agaves are planted in what can only be described as red clay.
On the palate the differences are noticeable if you know what you’re looking for and the tequilas you’re comparing are of high quality. Lowland tequilas or what some call “valley” tequilas have a noticeable peppery, herbaceous, and earthy quality in the background. In a well-made spirit, these notes are incorporated with the typical crisp agave notes that tequila is broadly known for. Agave grown in “Los Altos,” or the highlands, tend to produce more fruity notes of apple and pear.
If you want to test your palate on this lowland vs highland topic, I would try it on silver expressions rather than with reposado or añejo tequilas. The extra time in the barrel for reposados and añejos introduces too many new characteristics, making it quite difficult to find those nuanced notes among the rich caramel and vanilla typically imparted by the barrel.
If you closed your eyes and nosed the Don Roberto Extra Añejo, you’d think that someone had poured a little Oloroso sherry into your tequila. The bouquet is quite complex with intense dried fruit, the aforementioned sherry, quite a bit of oak, and a touch of raw agave. On the palate the agave comes through much more and is joined by caramel, almond, and more dried fruit.
Cigar Pairing: Oscar Valladares Super Fly Connecticut
The Super Fly by Oscar Valladares is a wonderfully smooth blend with a profile of nuts, cedar, and seat cream balanced by the notes of earth and pepper. The cigar cranks up the viscosity of the Don Roberto giving it a more round, buttery feel while the tequila almost completely wipes away the cigar’s pepper and earth.