Dulce Vida Anejo Tequila: the Whiskey Drinker's Tequila

Dulce Vida Anejo Tequila: the Whiskey Drinker's Tequila

By Neal MacDonald, Editor

Bottom line: this is a sipping tequila. We tried it in many different settings in a pretty rigorous test and find that it’s very best showing is all by its lonesome in the glass with a dash of ice. More importantly, this is 100% a whiskey drinkers’ tequila… all the oak-vanilla is received in trade of the vegetal agave. This will be greeted quite warmly by some but a disappointment to others. If you love your oak, then buy this. If you are one who tends to prize reposados because they still taste like agave, this is one to avoid.

Now for the details.

There’s an explosion of new tequila labels on offer. Dulce Vida is an interesting entrant to the market for two reasons: first, it’s offered as an all-organic option (which should please lots of food elitists everywhere) and second, it’s bottled at 100 proof… far higher than the vast majority of tequila at 80 proof.

The proof isn’t just about getting drunk faster. Tequila, when distilled, comes off the still at something at least 100 proof (50% alcohol). Contrast that with vodka that comes off the still at 190 proof (95% alcohol) or even whiskey at around 140 proof (70%) alcohol. It makes one wonder, what’s in that leftover percentage? A chemist would have a heart attack at such an unscientific notion but we’ll go ahead and say that In the case of tequila, it’s “agave “stuff.” That ~50% “agave stuff” is what distinguishes tequila and gives it the flavor. When other companies blend back their distillate with water to bottle at 40 proof (making their tequila go further and themselves more money), they’re also watering back the flavor.

Not Dulce Vida… they bottle at 100 proof presumably leaving their tequila—with all that agave stuff inside of it—ready for the consumer to taste and savor. If you like agave, then it would stand to reason that this is your tequila. It is the equivalent of a single-barrel or single-cask whiskey.

Dulce Vida also believes in the “vertical integration” of their product, controlling every step of the production so that they can control the quality. In theory, that leaves a $45 bottle of tequila where the money is going into the product rather than the marketing. In the case of the anejo, it is aged for 2 years in ex-bourbon barrels… a full year longer than the minimum required to qualify as an anejo. This would suggest a very dark, oak-rich, and intense tequila.

This is a lot of promise for a tequila! Given that, we wanted to test it in a very specific way against very specific products.

  • El Jimador Anejo—a big market, big-value, and generally high-quality anejo brand. Does vertical integration of Dulce Vida match up against the mass-produced El Jimador?  
  • Patron Anejo—Dulce Vida believes in longer aging and higher-proof bottlings over marketing… how does it stand up to a tequila that is generally built upon marketing?  
  • El Tesoro Anejo—El Tesoro is one of the most highly decorated tequilas on the market. If Dulce Vida can stand honorably in the same company as El Tesoro, then it can stand proud indeed.
  • Old Forester Signature Bourbon—anejo tequilas are meant to appeal to the whiskey and brandy connoisseur. Many whiskey drinkers turn their noses up at tequila. Should they? The heavy aging and careful distillation should be a match for a good whiskey and Old Forester qualifies. Can Dulce Vida lure committed bourbon drinkers away?  

So this is it: the Dulce Vida will stand up to the value brand, the marketing brand, and the decorated brand.

Neat in a Tulip Glass

Preparation: pour into the glass, swirl, examine, nose, and sip. Add a bit of water to taste.

No, you don’t shoot this kind of tequila. These are spirits that are meant to be sipped and savored.

El Jimador

Patron

El Tesoro

Old Forester

Dulce Vida

It’s a lot darker than the others… we have to think helped out by some caramel color. Has a touch of menthol or athletic tape on the fade… which sounds more off-putting than it actually is. Nice agave flavor plus a buttery sweetness on the palate. A little water clears up the flavors up a bit—definitely drink with a touch of water.

***

The aroma is markedly different—a kind of wine, spearmint, to go with the agave and vanilla oak. The flavor profile is very nice but the distillation is flawed: a lot of needle and heat. The finish bites. Water should help a lot to smooth out the defective distillate and watered back it’s a lot better. The finish turns a bit bitter. Overpriced.

**

Wonderful aroma… it’s like lightly battered agave served on the belly of a beautiful geisha or Olympic diver depending upon your preference. There’s a rose tinge to the taste a warmth just verging on a scorch on the finish. A tiny bit of water really brought the aroma out and settled down the finish… but the flavors are so delicate that they can very swiftly get diluted in water. The water does bring out the oak finish

****

Big corn aroma with a big hot finish. Not a lot of barrel neat but with a bit of cold water, a touch of vanilla and sweetness comes out. The water also calms the finish.

***

The agave aromas are subtle and the oak does indeed come out a bit more with the extra aging. There’s an orange candy / Pez aroma and flavor. Unusual. At 100 proof, it’s quite hot but not as hot as it could be. Some ice and water bring out the vanilla and the flavor becomes very whiskey-like. The flavor profile is consistent with water… it stands up against dilution. Whiskey drinkers might adore it but tequila fans might prefer the reposado. It becomes creamy.  

***½

 

What have we learned? First, price doesn’t seem to matter much in the world of tequila. But as quality goes, The El Tesoro and the Dulce Vida are definitely the class of the bunch. Opinions in our group began to diverge with some preferring one over the other. But the overall finding is that Dulce Vida had some exciting flavors to offer even if it couldn’t quite match the Tesoro. Our prediction is that the Dulce Vida will stand up better in cocktails… for those brave enough to mix a $50 anejo tequila.

Madras

Preparation: 1¼ ounce tequila, 4 ounces cranberry juice, 1 ounce orange juice, serve on the rocks.  

A lot of people are scared to make cocktails out of expensive, aged spirits. And yeah, it does feel weird to mix something that can be so expensive. But strong flavors and high proofs should shine in cocktails and we wanted to put it to the test. The Madras seemed a good way to test the tequila in citrus. (Note: the folks at Dulce Vida recommended the blanco or the reposado where we used the more oak-driven anejo).

El Jimador

Patron

El Tesoro

Old Forester

Dulce Vida

This is fruit punch all the way. We can, dimly recognize that tequila is in it but we’d never guess anejo is in there. It’s good; but it’s like drinking a Hawaiian punch.

**½

Still big time fruit punch… no agave aroma but we can pick up some tequila on the finish. Again, could hope to name the quality, the age, or the brand. But the drink is nice.

**

We were horrified at putting all this stuff in the Tesoro but amazingly, the Tesoro made the drink better. The agave was there, the tequila was on the finish. Again, we’d never know that it was Tesoro but the drink was far better with the Tesoro in it. High props from us for something we called “delicate” a few minutes ago. Damned expensive way to get a drink, though.

****

n/a

Astonishingly for the age and the bold flavors we saw earlier, the Dulce Vida absolutely vanished in this drink. Gone. We wouldn’t know if we were drinking rum or tequila in this drink. It’s good… better than some of the others… but absolutely without distinction.

 

What did we learn? The fact that the tequila flavors evaporated away for a 2yr old anejo with so much dedication to the agave was shocking and partially horrifying. Of all the tequilas, the Dulce Vida came out having by far the weakest tequila flavor. Again: not bad. If you’re looking to get unwitting tourists drunk, this is a good way to go. But if you love tequila and you’re looking for a cocktail, you’d be profoundly disappointed.

Ginger Sunrise

Preparation: 1½ ounce tequila, 1 ounce ginger liqueur (we used Domaine de Canton), 2 ounces grapefruit juice, ¼ ounce lime juice, ¼ ounce agave grenadine, ginger ale. Combine ingredient on ice and top with a splash of ginger ale over ice.

Note that this is a “splash” and not “topped by” indicating it’s a bit of flavor and sweet rather than a big, tall, cooler sort of affair. Here we get a combination of citrus and spice as opposed to the citrus of the madras. We used real, honest, hand squeezed grapefruit and lime.

El Jimador

Patron

El Tesoro

Old Forester

Dulce Vida

The drink had interesting flavors… citrus and ginger make for an exotic combination. One thing, the agave came out cleanly in this drink, though the age is hard to pick out.

***

Upgrading at twice the price we get an increase of about +15% in flavor. It’s a bit better… but mostly because the ginger comes out rather than the tequila. But the aftertaste was a bit off.

**

Once again, we cringe in mixing this tequila but once again it elevates the drink. Mightily. The agave and the grapefruit and the ginger go together very nicely. It’s a drink we would order again.

****

n/a

Finally, the drink showed off the proof. The agave, alas, vanished a bit but the robust strength of the drink came through. Better. One might’ve guessed whiskey in the drink instead of tequila.

***

 

What have we learned? The better tequilas (Tesoro and Dulce Vida) show better in cocktails with milder proportions of “stuff.” This is completely unsurprising but nice to see validated. But again, the Dulce Vida can’t quite hold up to the Tesoro.

Mariachi Morning

Preparation: 1 ounce tequila, ½ ounce coffee liqueur (we used Kahlua), ¼ ounce agave nectar, 6 ounces of fresh coffee, whipped cream, and orange zest. Combine ingredients and top with whipped cream and orange zest.  

Coffee drinks are rare in the modern era (which is sad, given the predilection of modern youth to mix vile energy concoctions with liquor). Additionally, coffee is as historically linked to Mexico as tequila making the drink very appropriate.

El Jimador

Patron

El Tesoro

Old Forester

Dulce Vida

This is an exciting drink for coffee lovers. There’s a sweet and cream for those who like it loaded with a tequila kick. And it’s actually pretty good… but there may as well be vodka in here. Great morning-after drink, though.

***

Moving up the ranks to Patron we got absolutely no difference whatsoever. None. There’s no way on earth anyone could tell the difference between these two drinks.

***

Maybe a very slight difference. Maybe.

***

n/a

Nothing. We would bet nothing on being able to tell the difference. Nice drink, though.

***

 

What have we learned? Sometimes, cocktails are just good cocktails and it doesn’t matter what you put in them. We think this is one of those drinks. It’s good but there’s no reason whatsoever to put good tequila in this drink.

Freestyle—Russ’ Tequila Sunrise

Preparation: we had calls for a Tequila Sunrise so, why not? Fill a glass with ice, 1½ ounce of tequila, 2 ounces of fresh orange juice, just a float of grenadine (which sinks)… and there’s your nice sunrise effect.

So here

El Jimador

Patron

El Tesoro

Old Forester

Dulce Vida

Oak and orange predominate… not a bad mix. The tequila is there and we guess we can pick up the anejo part. Not sure we’d order it again.

**½

Moving up the marketing glitz one can appreciate it as a better drink. But it’s hard to appreciate it as tequila. These drinks are just too diluted for fair judgment.

***½

The Tesoro makes everything better. It makes a tequila drink definitely tequila. And that’s impressive with the ratios we’re using. But hard to love a drink that needs such an expensive booze to make it taste good.

****

n/a

Big hot alcohol flavors, which is becoming the calling card of the Dulce Vida. Unfortunately, the agave doesn’t come with it.

**

 

What did we learn? Moving from coffee to heavy dilution of citrus, one can find bigger agave in more expensive and up-market tequilas and this generally improves the drink. Alas, the Dulce Vida doesn’t quite have enough agave to hold pace.  

In summary, this is a fascinating adventure in tasting tequilas. Here, Dulce Vida is being compared to the top-selling tequila in premium markets and top-ranked tequila in premium markets. It’s finding its own niche in the sense that it’s a sipping tequila and specifically a sipping tequila for people who may like whiskey a little more than they like agave. The craftsmanship is good, the balance is good, the oak flavors are good… but it’s almost just barely verging on not being quite tequila. Subtle. We find that we sip this but prefer not to mix it; that’s not the case with the other tequilas. We feel this could find a dedicated market among whiskey and brandy enthusiasts if they could be swayed over to the agave line of things.

[Disclosures: we received a 750ml bottle each of Dulce Vida Anejo tequila for review… all other ingredients mentioned were acquired on our own.]


2013-10-30
Published by Proof66.com