By Neal MacDonald, Editor
First off, the bottom line right at the top: Montejima is, without question, a mixing tequila. It works less well as a shot or a sipper. While it’s way better than any mixto tequila we’re familiar with, there is a distinctive aroma about Montejima that might be appealing to some—and we like distinguishing features—but we find to be dusty and perhaps a bit brackish. The reposado softens the aroma and is much nicer and a worthy opponent to any value purchase on the market in the 100% agave arena. The silver we can’t recommend in any sense but in the most out-of-proportion ratios in frozen Margaritas or similar. It can be purchased safely but hard to justify seeking out specifically.
Now for the details.
Montejima Tequila (note that is all one word and not “Monte Jima”) announces itself in the marketing material as produced for “people who have character and personality” (well, that’s us!). It is for “lovers of luxury and good taste” (us again!). And it is “where luxury prevails” (let’s say that’s an aspirational goal for us). The brand was launched in 2010, so it is relatively recent on the market. It is priced at just around the $20 mark, making it a value purchase in the world of 100% agave tequila; so here, aspirational luxury is probably appropriate.
The bottle itself is designed as a short, trapezoidal, clear bottle. Tequila in general enjoys a striking sense of artistry in their bottles and while this isn’t as standout as some selections, it still manages to distinguish itself from the typical cylindrical bottle. It has great heft when held and feels like something that should be awesome.
The Montejima label is made by La Cofradia, which produces a number of different tequilas in the niche / boutique market. There are several things noteworthy about La Cofradia from a craftsmanship standpoint:
- The agave they use is grown on-site on a 671 hectare farm.
- They use brick ovens to bake their tequila—a somewhat slower process then the steel ovens more frequently used.
- They have special caves for aging in order to temper the humidity and temperature swings; we like the romantic notion of tequila secreted in caves scattered throughout Jalisco.
To assess this tequila, we wanted to compare it against some standards in the market. Having both a blanco and a reposado, we tested it against a market leader mixto in the form of Cuervo Gold (that should be familiar to all college students) but also against value buys in the 100% agave market in Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver and El Jimador Reposado as well as a premium buy in the guise of the absolute class of the business: El Tesoro Reposdo. Expectations going in are:
- It should be way better than the mixto (Cuervo Gold)
- It should be comparable to the Tradicional Silver and El Tesoro Reposado
- It should not be as good as the El Tesoro (if it is, it’s definitely a “must buy” for the price)
Neat out of a Glass (sipping a shot)
Preparation: pour out of a bottle and serve.
A lot of people take tequila this way and the better the tequila the less you have to move fast, lick salt, and suck lime. We treated each tequila as if it were a sipper to test the results.
The Mixto is a hot, harsh mix. It doesn’t really taste completely like tequila, probably because it isn’t. It’s not as deplorable in small doses as college memories might suggest, but neither is it something desirable. It tastes dusty… it scratches the throat as it goes down. In comparison with the other end of the spectrum, the El Tesoro is all wine and honey… it goes down smooth as silk. It’s rated consistently one of the best in the world and it deserves it.
Establishing the extremes, we taste what should be the middle of the bell curve. The Jose Tradicional starts out a little smoother but it tastes of paint thinner and turpentine. But it tastes of tequila with a bit more complexity; maybe designed to be mixed. The El Jimador Reposado is nice… it has the vanilla undertones and nice smoothness. Not robust and huge in the agave department but very nice and an excellent value.
Where does the Montejima fit in? Well, it’s not impressive as a blanco. It approaches hot and acrid and finishes just as harshly. Ice helps it out but doesn’t make it good. The reposado on the other hand is much smoother, nicer, and not nearly as aggressive. Aging helps this tequila considerably, leaving some of the agave but masking some of the aggression. It’s not full of agave flavors like some big-time premium buys but it does have the signature vanilla. Sadly, the finish is a bit short and weak.
In ranking, the mixto is obviously at the bottom. We can pick it out anywhere. Next up, There’s an acid brackishness to the flavor profile of the Montejima Silver but the taste and crafting is significantly better than the Cuervo Gold. The Cuervo Tradicional Silver comes next and then the Montejima reposado is probably better than the Cuervo but maybe just a touch off the El Jimador. Nothing competes with the El Tesoro but one can comfortably move the the Jimador after a few drinks.
You can’t go very far with a tequila without creating a Margarita cocktail… presumably a top shelf Margarita if you’re going to pretend to luxury. So we didn’t stint. We used Cointreau for the orange flavor. Normally we would use real limes but we went a little outside and used Hempnotic mixer, which is an all-natural sweet-and-sour mixture to better represent what you’re likely to get in a restaurant.
It hurts to put a mixto or a super-premium tequila in a Margarita for very different reasons. So we didn’t. No one should do it.
With the remaining value/premium tequilas, the blancos as a group weren’t super impressive and they wouldn’t be considered “top shelf Margaritas” in our opinion. But of the two, the brackish smell of the Montejima persisted but was softened by the flavors. The taste is much better. But the Jose Cuervo beats it out by a by a hair by being that much more drinkable.
The reposados performed much, much better as a group. The Montejima reposado was soft and smooth and light. An extra shot in the drink improved the taste even more for a nicely balanced cocktail with the vanilla nuances coming through. But the brackish smell identified it… one has to get past that aroma in order to enjoy the taste. For that reason, despite being a weaker overall drinking experience, the Jimador made the better margarita.
We feel this is an under-appreciated drink and we often use it in taste tests. We use 3 parts orange juice to one part tequila with a dash of grenadine for color. Pour on ice. It’s beautiful looking and it’s elegant-tasting. Few drinks are better in the heat.
Sadly, the blancos were once again unimpressive and occasionally undrinkable. In this classic cocktail, the Jose Cuervo Tradicional had a harshness that needed to be combatted and overcome by the sweeter flavors of orange and pomegranate in the grenadine (er, corn syrup) rather than the two allying and complementing each other. Battle inside the mouth is seldom a good thing. Neither was anything we’d want to repeat. If there was a winner, it was the Jose Cuervo because of a worse mortality rate in taste buds from the Montejima.
And once again, the reposados were much, much better. Both drinks turned out well. As a mixing tequila, we’re finding that the Montejima reposado is showcasing and strutting. It has a slightly more robust flavor than the Cuervo Tradicional reposado. Here in the tequila sunrise, there’s enough citrus and flavor to overcome the brackish aroma we noted above and leave behind all the nice (and now unencumbered) flavors of the tequila itself. This is a worthwhile mix and the first win for Montejima in our tasting.
This is a layered shot, very pretty, and appropriate since shooting tequila is so popular. This calls for a layering of first grenadine, then crème de menthe, then tequila. They should stay separated in the glass so pour slowly and gently.
This is an awfully fun drink to make and even more impressive to look at. The liquors separate very nicely so even if the bartender screws it up one just has to wait a while. Unlike many layered drinks, this actually tastes good. The sweet of the mint and grenadine finishes off even the harshest tequila. This is often a safe shot (from a tasting standpoint if not the morning after standpoint).
Dealing with the silver tequilas, the shot perfectly disguised any disenchanting qualities that might otherwise be betrayed. The shot was enjoyable and the tequila does its job.
The reposados were different. They were better. They were cleaner and brighter in the very instant the drink first hits the tongue before being obliterated by the pursuing liquids. Is it better? Yes. Is it dollars-per-shot better? No. As a winner, we go with the Montejima reposado but the difference is small. Still, if you’re celebrating—and what is more celebratory than a tequila shooter called Mexican Flag—it might be worth the stretch.
There are a lot of new coffee flavored tequilas on the market so we sought out a cocktail that celebrated coffee. We used a hybrid version of the classic. The classic calls for a lot of coffee, some Kahlua, and whipped cream. We used equal parts tequila and Kahlua with half part of Rumchata. Serve on ice.
This actually turned out to be an excellent, crowd-pleasing drink. It has a Christmas party quality with the cinnamon. It’s a long way from the fruit/citrus-forward cocktails up to this point and was a good point of departure to measure the tequilas.
Of the silver, there was a lot less curdling in the cream, which was nice from a texture standpoint. The drink was nice but with the Montejima the brackish smell does come through. The finish is probably better so you have to decide if you want a better flavor or better nose. We’ll call it a statistical tie.
The reposados, once again, were much superior. Here, the gentling offered by the barrels really complements the cream and coffee. The vanilla from the barrel is particularly nice. Both tequilas showed well but the aggressive Montejima, which we liked in the Margarita and Tequila Sunrise, was overly aggressive here. The Jimador wins by a thin margin.
In summary, we feel the Montejima Reposado is a very decent mixing tequila and can be safely purchased for most settings. We think those who like more tequila-forward cocktails—those who want a little burn and a little yelp on drinking—will prefer the Montejima profile. The Silver, much less so.
[Disclosures: we received a 750ml bottle each of the silver and reposado Montejima; the Hempnotic was provided as a testing sample roughly 18 months before this writing. All other items mentioned were purchased on our own.]