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Espolon Reposado Tequila

Review: Espolon Reposado Tequila   (88.5/100)
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted June 11, 2016

Espolon is a tequila brand created by Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza. This is a premium tequila made in a small batch process from ‘hand-selected 100% Blue Weber agave, grown in the rich red clay and cool climate of the Highlands of Jalisco, Mexico. At that facility piñas of the hand selected agave are cooked for 18 to 20 hours prior to their fermentation. They apparently use a slower distillation technique than is in use at most other facilities, and when the spirit is finished, their Espolon Reposado Tequila is aged in new American Oak barrels for 6 months, filtered and then bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

The Espolon website tells us that the company likes to play rock music at their facilities to ‘inspire’ the agave. I did a little follow-up research and found a question and answer session with Cirilo Oropeza on the Campari America (the brand owner) website (see here) where the Espolon Master Distiller admits he actually prefers to play classical music instead. This is because (according to Oropeza when referring to classical music), “it’s not so fast, not so crazy, it’s gentler for the yeast.” 

Although the Espolon website does not specify the exact distillery which produces this agave spirit, I did notice that the identified NOM on the bottom of the label 1440 CRT. This NOM identifier is required by the Mexican Government to be placed on the label of each bottle of tequila to verify that it is produced legally from agave sourced in the Tequila region of Mexico. Each distillery has its own NOM, and thus we can trace the distillery of origin. In this case it is Destiladora San Nicolas S.A DE C.V who incidentally also produce heavy metal musician Sammy Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Tequila. (I suspect that we now can decipher why at least sometimes the ‘music’ that is played in the Distiladora San Nicholas is rock music rather than classical.)

Espolon Repo

In the Bottle 4/5

The bottle presentation for the Espolon Reposado is shown to the left. According to the Espolon Website, the label is “inspired by the work of a 19th century Mexican artist” and is said to “showcase some pretty revolutionary stuff”. According to my research the artist they are referring to is most probably Printmaker and Draughtsman, José Guadalupe Posada whose political prints and drawings often satirized then President Porfirio Díaz while at the same time celebrated the popular revolutionaries, Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Madero.

As you can see Posada’s work used whimsical skeletal motifs to carry his political message. This style of drawing struck a chord with the Mexican populace and has remained a popular art form to this day.

Personally, I am not a fan of skeletal imagery associated with liquor. However, even I have to admit that the skeletal scene depicted is humourous and light-hearted and not macabre. In fact, I was going to award a perfect score for presentation until I opened my bottle of Espolon Blanco. Unfortunately, as I did so, the topper sealing my bottle came apart. The wooden top was not sufficiently affixed to the synthetic cork (see photo below right). The topper for the Reposado is of the same construction and it is reasonable to assume that the same problem will affect some of those bottles as well. I hate toppers that break apart especially if it is only the first time they are used, and I deducted a full point for this lack of attention to detail.

In the Glass  9/10

Espolon Topper SAM_2568

Broken Topper

The reposado spirit shows a pale straw colour in the glass indicating a very short time in oak. When I give my glass a little tilt and twirl I see that the spirit imparts long slender legs on the inside of my glencairn. The initial aroma of is slightly aggressive. Laid back fruity agave notes rise into the air with light butterscotch notes alongside and some spicy citrus zest and white pepper. There is an ever so light indication of milk chocolate and a mild but persistent impression of vanilla and almond. Perhaps we also can find a vague indication of tea leaves and wood spice. The aroma although somewhat aggressive is also quite nice, and the breezes above the glass entice me to take my first sip.

In the Mouth  53/60

The first sip brings a slight coolness to the palate as we have a light menthol-like flavour melded into the soft agave and peppery spice of the highland tequila. A mild but firm impression of sweetness comes through as well resembling light butterscotch lying alongside the agave. There is a gentle vanilla presence, hints of cinnamon and milk chocolate and a scattering of sandalwood spice. The overall effect is quite nice and the tequila is easy to sip.

The spirit mixes quite nicely into my favourite cocktails as well. I began with a Margarita, and I would not hesitate to make another. The agave and highland spice pushed right through the cocktail. I decided to mix a gimlet style recipe of mine, The Lonely Silver Rain (see recipe below), and again I would not hesitate to mix another. The Espolon Reposado like its younger sibling, the Espolon Blanco appears to be a tequila well suited to both sipping and mixing. It is a real winner!

In the Throat  13.5/15

The Reposado Tequila is spicy and fresh in the throat and on the back of the palate. The agave note ends quickly but is replaced by a wonderful ebbing chocolate flavour which lingers with the peppery highland spice. I taste no irregular bitterness or any off notes.

The Afterburn 9/10

The Espolon Reposado Tequila is a great example of a traditional highland agave spirit. It has a soft agave presence couple with a lightly sharp peppery bite which is exactly  what we expect from a tequila from the Los Altos (Highlands) region. A bit of softness is imparted by the resting period (6 months) in oak, and everything remains in balance. It is a winner!

You may read some of my other Tequila Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Lonely Silver Rain SAM_2572The The Lonely Silver Rain is the last of 21 novels in the Travis McGee series written by American author John D. MacDonald. All 21 stories have a color descriptor in the title, and when I began to make my cocktail recipes, I concluded that most of those catchy titles would also serve as great names for bar drinks. So I decided to create a series of Tequila based cocktails based upon those Travis McGee Titles. This particular cocktail is called, the Lonely Silver Rain.

The Lonely Silver Rain

2 oz Espolon Reposado Tequila
1 oz fresh Grapefruit Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3/8 oz Agave Syrup
splash of Sparkling Water
Lemon Slice

Add the first four ingredients into a metal shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain into a tall cocktail glass
add a splash of soda
Garnish with fresh lemon or grapefruit
Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


You may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing Tequila.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, (we are probably still cocktail in territory).
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing delicious cocktails!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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