Tasting Three Espolon Tequila's: Espolon Blanco, Espolon Reposado & Espolon Anejo
Espolon is a pretty accessible Tequila that's at a great price point, availability and with really nice packaging to boot - so what's up with them?
Before we get into tasting them - the real test, let's delve a little into the brand.
Espolon centers its history around Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza, who together with some partners got the brand started in 1996, basing its distillery, the Destileria San Nicolas (NOM 1440 for those purists), up in the high altitude Los Altos region of Jalisco, which is by legal definition the only place Tequila can be produced at (there are a few other smaller municipalities, but Jalisco remains the main area).
Master Distiller Cirilo. (Image Source: Espolon)
Maestro Cirilo, who unfortunately passed away in 2020, had racked up serious experiences across rum, gin and tequila distilleries from around Mexico, and from that he based much of his craft that went into Espolon.
Espolon itself takes its name from the Spanish word for "spur", and is taken to refer to the spurs of the rooster, which is a national symbol of pride in Mexico. In fact you'll find many references to Mexican culture with Espolon, with its two main motifs and inspirations being that of Ramon the Rooster and the historical figure of Jose Guadalupe Posada (featured as a skeleton) who was a notable 19th Century Mexican printmaker who brought to light social injustices of the time.
Espolon blends these motifs into their gorgeous labels, each with an illustration capturing a key aspect of Mexican national pride - on the Blanco you'll see Jose Guadalupe Posada riding atop Ramon the Rooster, charging into battle in Mexico's 1810 revolution; the Reposado features a label where Posada is at a marketplace; whilst finally the Anejo shows Posada dancing in protest post the Mexican Revolution.
Now, all that aside, let's talk about how they make their Tequilas. As with all Tequilas, Espolon uses Blue Weber agave harvested from higher altitudes which is said to give the agave a harder time and thus the stress results in higher sugar content and more intense flavours (if only that applied to me).
After harvesting, the agave is quartered (versus halved which is industry standard) to give it more surface area for cooking. In the agave goes into custom built autoclaves (think of it as an oven) that Espolon says will give a more consistent cooking temperature and pressure for better flavours. The agave is cooked for longer as well, after which the sugars are extracted through roller mills, which is then fermented. Here classical and rock music is played to help the yeast get groovy and do their work - not quite sure if this really works.
Finally it's distilled in a combination of pot and column stills to create a more earthy taste in the former, and a lighter, more fruity flavour in the latter. These two styles are blended and then some of it goes into the Blanco, while the rest are aged in Level 2 charred American oak barrels for aging and then finally bottling is done at another distillery, the Casa San Nicolas (NOM 144).
Phew now that we've covered all our bases, let's get to tasting!
Today we'll taste Espolon's three flagship expressions - the Blanco (unaged), the Reposado (aged for at least 2 months), and finally the Anejo (aged for at least 12 months).
Espolon Blanco Tequila, 40% ABV - Review
Aroma: Very creamy, lots of vanilla cream, and then a gentle fragrant vegetal scent of cut succulents.
Taste: Incredibly smooth, with that same light vegetal fresh cut succulent flavour. It’s lightly sweet, with a mellowed herbaceousness, but more than that, very creamy, with a buttery feel.
Finish: More of that light vegetal quality. Here there’s a faint smokiness to it - almost slightly ashy. Then a lingering super long warmth, with a light clay note.
I liked this very much! Not enough can be said about how mellow and approachable this was, whilst still having a distinctive classic tequila profile. There’s no harshness, it’s not punchy, nor does it come across too confectionary. It’s nice and creamy, has great body, depth and roundedness - that’s what really makes this stand out.
It’s a great starter expression for anyone dipping their toes into tequila and would make a great agave staple. None of that raw, rip your face off heat here.
Espolon Reposado Tequila, 40% ABV - Review
Color: Light Gold
Aroma: Discernibly sweeter, with the vegetal notes more gentle and in the backseat. Also more pronounced vanilla scents here.
Taste: Sweeter and more vanillic on the palate as well - still very creamy, with a gentle herbaceousness and also some light smokiness.
Finish: It grows alittle more herbaceous here, with just a slight charred vegetal bitterness. It ends off on a wisp of light smokiness and some clay like chalkiness.
A pretty enjoyable Reposado - probably what makes this stand out more compared to its peers is how rounded and creamy this is.
Compared to the Blanco, this was definitely sweeter and mellower with more vanilla notes coming through, and the herbaceous vegetal notes taking alittle bit more of a backseat. Here it’s also a touch more tannic.
Nonetheless I still got the same amount of depth and roundedness as the Blanco, and subdued heat as well.
Espolon Anejo Tequila, 40% ABV - Review
Color: Burnt Gold
Aroma: Ooh slightly more punchy here - alittle more boozy too. There’s definitely a clearer, more obvious vegetal note, and then with some caramel in the background.
Taste: Still pretty sweet, even if more punchy. Here’s the caramel, butterscotch, and also a light vegetal herbaceousness. The sweetness is darker and more earthy here by comparison.
Finish: Turns more herbaceous here, and then backed up by caramel. A light hit of pepper at the end.
Of the three (the Espolon Blanco, Reposado and Anejo) this was definitely more punchy, more bold, but also backed up with more sweetness. The herbaceousness was also the most mellow here.
For an Anejo, this was decent, I think the booziness could’ve been kept at bay a little more, but on the whole it was still very rounded and mellow.
The common theme across all three Espolon's was that they were all very mellow and approachable - none of them were hot, punchy or sharp, or had particularly strong edgy flavours that might be difficult to get around. And then more stand out was how rounded they were, whilst also packing some solid depth.
That said, there was certainly a tradeoff with complexity and distinctiveness - they aren't the sort you'd sit around and unpack for hours. These work best in cocktails, as mixers, or if you will, for taking shots. They're easy to drink, tasty, and won't make you regret your entire life.
My personal favourite was the Blanco simply because those mellow, approachable, rounded flavours and depth that I got across all three Espolon's are most unusual for a white unaged Tequila. It was so easy to drink and very enjoyable, it's not what you usually associate with white Tequila's. Therefore, big winner for me!