On the Rocks: A Couple of Stiff Drinks

IT MAY STRIKE SOME AS ODD that TSJ’s once resident beer snob is suddenly evaluating hard liquor. The explanation is pretty simple. Between the demands of meetings with the board of my multinational corporation and incessant requests to address various geopolitical summits, I was starting to really neglect my alcoholism. Beer may be my first love, but these days it simply lacks the efficiencies of a tall glass of everclear.

Today’s bender is brought to you by the enablers at Camarena Tequila and Exclusiv Vodca (their spelling, not mine) who graciously provided me with samples to write about. A special thank you also goes out to my Hepatologist who effectively approved this latest venture when he went on record with “It’s your fatty liver–do what you want.”

Camarena Reposado Tequila (80 proof)

Reposado tequila is distinguished from its brethren by a brief barrel aging. I was going to look up what reposado specifically translated to, but the only foreign language dictionary I had on-hand was Klingon-to-English. I know that’s not particularly helpful here, but if you ever need to to say “bloodlust poodle” to a Klingon I’ve got you covered.

“Reposado Tequila.”

Every type of alcohol has a reputation. Wine is seen as a bit snobby. Whisky is the quintessential tough-guy drink. Rum is for date rapists and don’t let rum drinkers tell you any different if they offer you a ride. Tequila’s reputation is a bit more diverse, being equally synonymous with parties of legend and nights best forgotten. To demonstrate this scientifically, I polled 3,000 people (+/- 2,990) for word associations with tequila. In the interest of establishing a baseline, I began by testing associations with unrelated terms. Here are the results for ‘kitten’:

(Hopefully that last guy is a statistical outlier.)

 With our audience sufficiently profiled, I recorded the associations with ‘tequila’:

(I probably should have alerted the authorities about the kitten guy before asking more questions.)

The tequila is light gold in color with a surprisingly mild vanilla and agave aroma. I get hints of oranges, agave nectar and pepper with a mild oily texture. The two months it spent on oak has taken the edge off considerably, but it’s too astringent for an uncompromising sipper.

You’d be hard pressed to find a smoother reposado tequila at this price point. It has enough character and sweetness to make this a monster addition to cocktails, but it’s just shy of a tequila that I would want to sip on without a couple of ice cubes resting within.

Exclusiv Vodca (80 proof)

If I could come up with a pithy way to describe interactions among the vodka snob community, it would be “much ado about nothing.” A less pithy description would be an interminable circle jerk about the desired characteristics of a largely odorless, flavorless spirit.

Mmmmm… Delicious.

Of course, vodka doesn’t strictly taste like nothing. Because vodka can be distilled in a variety of ways from any sugar-bearing agricultural product, there is always going to be some nuance that distinguishes one from another.  Whether or not it’s sufficient to crown a vodka as vastly superior is another thing entirely.

From what I’ve divined in various vodka forums, run-of-the-mill vodkas should be sampled ice cold, while premium vodkas are best enjoyed at room temperature. In short, to complete this I’ll need someone to tell me how good Exclusiv Vodca is first. That should simplify my grading process considerably.

Since I don’t have access to the answer key for this exercise, I’ll be sampling it at both temperatures. And maybe lukewarm as well.  I’ll probably jot down some notes on the mug of hot vodka I’ve been having before bed lately too. Robust testing protocols are very, very important to me.

Pictured above: A strenuous testing protocol.

At room temperature the vodka presented a mild citrus aroma, with notes of honey and grain sweetness. The characteristic vodka burn is pretty restrained which is astonishing given how inexpensive it is. Samples from the freezer have a good deal more substance, with a viscous texture and pronounced smoothness that allow the citrus notes to present themselves. The lemony tang it offers is offset by a nectary sweetness that decidedly nudge this vodka into the sipper category.

I won’t lie. I seldom drink vodka and was more than ready to dismiss this as rubbing alcohol out of hand, but this is pretty tasty. What’s more, at the price point it’s an absolute steal.


Related on The Smoking Jacket:
Beers for Getting it On 
My Vasectomy: A Farewell to Balls