Results: Tequila Masters – Asia 2019

One warm spring day perched above the buzz of Central district in the tasting room of Hong Kong’s Ginsberg+Chan Wine Merchants, seven judges, assembled from different corners of the beverage industry, prepared their palates for the drinks business Hong Kong’s Tequila and Mezcal Masters – Asia 2019.

Mezcal and Tequila have had a steady growth in bars and restaurants in Asia in the past five or so years; Hong Kong has seen some American-style operations curate fuller lists as drinkers’ curiosity continues.

The first flight was three Mezcal, 100% agave, under HK$500 – all unaged, and it produced three Silver medals. Both Gagan Gurung, bar manager at Fang Fang bar and restaurant, who has won awards for his cocktail prowess, and Terry Wong, retail manager and Sommelier at Ginsberg+Chan favoured Verde Momento Mezcal, produced by Mezcal Amores, most highly in this flight, liking its balance.

Alex Ko, bar manager at Tastings Group, also rated this mezcal, citing its smoothness, fruity notes and long, balanced finish. Gurung also enjoyed the same producer’s unaged Mezcal Amaras Cupreata Joven for its fruity and caramel notes that he thought would mix well in cocktails. Ken Man, buyer and fine wine specialist at Ginsberg+Chan and myself both also scored this well, appreciating its complexity.

Of flight two’s all Gold medal-winning Mezcal under HK$1,000, Wong was a fan of Meanwhile Drinks’ Pensador Mezcal, which is aged up to two months, enjoying its perfumed nose and white chocolate notes on the palate, along with good acidity and length. He also commented on the impressive acidity and length of Everlasting Co.’s unaged Ojo Extelar – and this was Gurung’s favourite in the flight, due to its woody sweet vanilla flavour. Ko was keen on this too, as well as on Mezcal Amores’ unaged Mezcal Amaras Louia Cenizo – of which he said, “it’s creamy and very savoury – it almost has a ‘blue cheese thing’ going on, something I’d really enjoy with a cheese plate. This is something a sommelier could really work with.”

Victoria Chow, founder and managing director of The Woods cocktail bar and Tailored by The Woods cocktail events company, was intrigued by the same pour: “It was the most interesting [in this flight],” she said, “it smelled of cheese and [freshwater] crab; very savoury”. Her favourite, though, was Terranova Spirits’ Don Amado Mezcal Largo: “It’s very sweet – so maybe not for everyone – but I really found it well-balanced and easy to drink.”

David Walters, head of spirits at Fine+Rare Wines, Hong Kong favoured Mezcal Amores’ unaged Mezcal Amores Logia, noting its, “creamy mouthfeel, peppery, delicate and a nice long finish.”

For myself, Meanwhile Drinks’ two-month-aged Pensador Mezcal was elegant, with a complex build and delicate length. Man said he also enjoyed this mezcal “for its balance; it’s very smooth and has very good complexity with layers of fruit, rested aromas and a nice finish.”

The flight of Mezcal, 100% agave above HK$1,000 had two spirits, both securing Gold Medals. Mezcal Amores’ Mezcal Amaras Logia Tobala most impressed Wong with its, “complex flavours of melon, peatiness and sweetness”, Gurung with its “lychee and smoked cheese flavours”, Ko with its “grassy nose, notes of ripe mango and green apple; and black pepper on the palate”. Walters enjoyed its full-bodied, smooth and rich mouthfeel, saying the alcohol was very well integrated.

Terranova Spirits’ Don Amado Mezcal Arroqueño piqued my interest with its complexity and big finish, while being very elegant. Man said he found this one very different and, “warming and spicy.”

In the flight of Tequila 100% agave (premium) under HK$500, Wong’s favourite was Silver medal-winner Sesión Blanco from Sesión Tequila, “quite vegetal and nutty – high in alcohol but I love it,” he commented.

This was also Gurung’s pick of the two and he liked a maple syrup quality he detected in it. Ko was keen on the same, saying it was earthy with fruit notes such as guava and pineapple. He also said he enjoyed Gold medal-winner Sesión Reposado from the same producer for its “citric explosion and pepper on the palate”, while, for me, the appeal was the lingering sweetness on mid-palate and medium-length finish. Walters preferred this Sesión Reposado, for its agave flavour that shone through; and it struck a note with Man for its, “light, lean, classic vegetal character with some ‘resiny’ notes.” He added it was very smooth and integrated for him.

Next, it was onto the Tequila under HK$1,000 flight. “Peaty, leathery, with a good finish,” is how Wong described Constellation Brands’ Gold medallist Casa Noble Añejo Tequila, aged for two years. This was also Walters’ favourite, and Man’s – who mentioned its green and smoky notes. Gurung veered towards another Gold awardee from the same producer: Casa Noble Reposado Tequila, aged for two to 12 months; “it’s got a beautiful nose, and perfect for sipping,” he said.

I enjoyed Silver medallist Terranova Spirits’ Tequila ArteNom Seleccion de 1579 Blanco, aged up to two months, for its honey, spice and oaky qualities with a good finish. It was the same producer’s Tequila ArteNom Seleccion de 1414 Reposado, aged two to 12 months that scored the panel’s sole Master medal at the tasting.

Gold Medal-winning Padre azul Super Premium Tequila, an Añejo aged for 12 to 36 months from Tradition Mexico, drew comments for its sweetness. Man praised it for its intensity and balance, Wong said he loved its brown pallor and earthiness, and Ko mentioned its notes of caramel.

Of the Ultra Premium Tequila that ranged from under HK$500 to under HK$1,000, Wong mentioned he liked the one Gold medallist: Vikera Tequila Resposado, aged two to 12 months. “I love its green and floral smoothness,” he said. Everlasting’s Laya Tequila Resposado, aged up to six months, and a Silver medal winner, impressed Gurung, particularly with its transparent appearance. “There’s something different about it I like,” he said, “maybe they’re using a charcoal filter.” I was also taken with the layered complexity from this obviously aged and fully-flavoured Tequila, that turned out to be a resposado. Ko enjoyed the Gold medal unaged Blanco by the same producer; “the agave was like green apple on the palate,” he said. Walters confessed to being drawn to the Vikera Tequila 12 to 36 month-aged añejo – awarded a Silver medal – and Everlasting’s Laya Tequila Silver Blanco – a Gold medal winner; “for me they both had sherry characteristics, full-bodied, nutty and rich – very interesting.” Man was also a fan of this one: “It had a very good expression of the oak, malty characteristics and was smooth,” he said.

Chow said that although she didn’t usually like aged Tequilas, she enjoyed Vikera Tequila Resposado; “it was well balanced, it had subtlety to it, was oaky but not overpowered by the wood – it still had lots of nuance of the agave itself,” she said.

Next to last, the Ultra Premium Tequila above HK$1,000 was a flight of three. “Caramelised and nutty, powerful but the length is not too long,” is how Wong described Everlasting’s Laya one year-aged añejo Cristal, receiver of a Gold Medal, and an elegant Tequila that appealed to me, despite a shortish finish. Walters also enjoyed this one, saying it was not overly complex; Man said it was, “quite a classic – with hints of bell pepper, grapefruit and well balanced.” Chow said: “I liked it – it was very well made: as an ultra añejo, it was not too oaky and still very well layered.”

The final one-pour flight was Flavoured Tequila. Sesión Tequila’s Sesión Mocha, a coffee-flavoured sweet liqueur, struck a chord with Gurung who said, “I like espresso martinis with coffee tequila, this should be good for cocktails.” Ko said it could be drunk by itself or as in shooters. It collected a Silver Medal.

In all, Silver medals totalled 10, Gold medals numbered 17 and one Masters Medal was awarded.

Full results can be viewed on the following page.

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