News filtering through that Don Julio Gonzalez Estrada, creator of the brand of tequila that bears his name, died Wednesday at his home in Atotonilco, Guadalajara.
Perhaps the most prolific series of competitions both in Australia and around the globe, World Class really seems to set the bar in terms of rigor and creativity for those who have chosen life behind the stick as their primary career destination.
It was with more than a little surprise I agreed to fill in one of the judging sheets at the Sydney leg of the finals for the Sangrita Ritual round. Bottles arriving on my doorstep for review were just the beginning. I’m ready for a new career as a cocktailing judge. I’m already designing the business cards.
The ten finalists had been whittled down to three by the time I arrived. While preparations were being made for the formal part of the evening, I got reacquainted with my good friends Dave Spanton, Phil Bayly, Ambassador Josh and Don Julio 1946. It seemed as though there was a hole in the bottle, and soon we were looking for a second and then it was time to head upstairs and get underway.
First up was Elle Wormald, from Eau de Vie. She had chosen the Jose Cuervo Platino as the basis of her Sangrita ritual. The tequila’s which make up the Reserve portfolio all exhibit complex flavor profiles outside of the traditional throaty burn the spirit holds in the mind of many consumers. One of the roles of the Sangrita ritual is to educate the consumer and help them appreciate that taste profile.
Eschewing the traditional shot of spiced or herbed liquid as an accompaniment, Elle set her four Sangrita flavours in jelly blocks. The red and green performed the “expected” role of sangrita, opening up the tequila with spicy flavours. The third block accentuated the chocolate tones in the Platino. The last flavour was the standout for me, aloe, which I used to consume to rectify a hangover while I was living up in China. It cools and cleans the palate, and hinted at the earthy agave flavours at the core of the product.
It was delicious. Like grown up jelly shooters.
Next came Reece, from the Victoria Room. Choosing the Don Julio Reposado with a Sangrita two ways. Reece delivered a spicy counterpoint to the tequila that worked very well. The second serve of Sangrita came in an iceblock. While the technique was great fun and certainly changed the profile of the Sangrita, pulling out some of the body and upping the kick the chillies carried through, sadly the iciness carried away much of the ability to appreciate the tequila itself.
The handsome goblets and the larger than average serve were very much appreciated too.
The four stage Sangrita ritual began with a shot of water, with lime and salt. It acted as a palate cleanser, and as a subtle nod toward the fact that the “Mexican Itch” pretty much removes any ability to taste the tequila at all. Spicy pomegranate, rich kiwifruit and decadent chocolate, each with a small nibbling accompaniment followed. Each was complex and tasty, peeling back the layers of the subtle 1946.
It was, as they say, as if there was a party in my mouth, and everyone was invited.
Phil has promised me his recipes, so hopefully this will jog his memory.
This is harder than it looks. There is no spitting at a tequila contest…