Cenote Ahumado Tequila

Cenote Ahumado Tequila (Photo by the brand)

Cenote Ahumado Tequila

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited on a tour of the state of Jalisco in Mexico by DISCUS (the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States). We visited nine tequila distilleries in five days, including such famous names as Patron, Cazadores, Don Julio, and Herradura. I got used to the sight and the smell of the piñas, the hearts of the blue agave plants, being traditionally roasted in brick ovens. This differs from how you make mezcal, where the piñas are roasted in underground pits filled with rocks and wood and then sealed with more rocks. The piñas absorb the smoke from the wood, which gives mezcal its typical smoky taste.

However, making tequila using brick ovens is only a tradition, not a regulation. Someone at Cenote Tequila, located at the foot of the Tequila Volcano in Jalisco, wondered what would happen if you roasted the blue agave for tequila in underground pits instead of brick ovens. It’s such an obvious and simple idea, and Patron has also recently brought out a couple of smoky tequilas.

In the footsteps of peated Scotch?

A few weeks ago, I tasted Cenote’s Añejo Tequila, which had everything a good smooth sipping tequila should have – earthy agave, oaky wood, sweet vanilla, a dash of cinnamon spice, a touch of chocolate, and a hint of smokiness. I couldn’t wait to try it when offered a sample of Cenote’s 100% blue agave tequila made using the mezcal method.

Something that had also impressed me about the añejo, beyond what was in the bottle, was the attention to detail in the bottle itself. The stopper was a stylish representation of an agave plant, and the label had some beautiful artwork depicting a cenote. I’ve seen cenotes while visiting the Yucatan. They’re underground pits or sinkholes filled with fresh water and were used by the Mayans as water supplies and occasionally for sacrificial rites.

The bottle for this Cenote Ahumado (‘Smoked’) Tequila outdoes even that one. The top is a black, wooden agave piña, and there’s an elaborate copper opening mechanism, with levers on each side clasping the top. The bottle is also black and ceramic, while the classy artwork on the label shows agave piñas burning underground. There’s a copper seal on the neck of the bottle, and the word CENOTE is embossed down one side. It’s a true work of art intended to be kept and displayed. Little wonder I’ve seen this limited edition tequila selling online at up to four times its recommended price ($75.99).

Tasting Notes

Ah, but you can’t judge a book by its cover, even if it is a collector’s item. So, what’s in the bottle? Taking the top off – a pleasure in itself, opening the levers and popping off the agave piña – the aroma was… well, virtually non-existent. It was only when pouring it into a tasting glass and nosing it there that the magic happened.

The nose has a lovely smoky, charcoal, bonfire aroma that’s delicate but definite. It’s similar to a mezcal but not as in your face, or rather “up your nose.” Swirling it around in the glass, more scents emerge. There’s agave earthiness behind it and a dash of vanilla sweetness.

Tasting it’s more intense than the nose leads you to expect. The smoke is a little stronger, reminding me of an Islay whisky that’s not overly peaty, like Ardbeg’s classic 10-year-old. Some honey and vanilla provide the sweetness, mixed with a clove and cinnamon spiciness. The core agave earthiness, like the finish, reminds us of where it all began. Its fieriness, more forceful than its delicate flavors, seems to go on forever. It’s certainly more-ish, so I had another… purely to confirm my impressions, you understand!!!

If this is a tequila intended to encourage people to try mezcal, it should definitely work, although it’s high priced for someone unsure if they’ll like it. However, the bottle is certainly worth the price, as is the subtle tequila inside. Normally I’d reserve a tequila like this for sipping and say it was sacrilege to mix it, but it’s such an intriguing balance of tequila and mezcal that I’m dying to try using it to make cocktails. Even a simple margarita or paloma will be improved and taste delicately different. And I feel a tequila/mezcal old-fashioned calling me too.

Are you looking for more “smoked” spirits? Check out Mike’s smoked rum article here or these peated Scotch whiskies here and here!