Cristalino: the next gen tequila?
I'm a tequila connoisseur, not an expert; well maybe an expert at drinking tequila (never with salt and a lime). I've traveled down to Jalisco a number of times to visit my favorite tequila distilleries but it wasn't until a trip to Mexico City where I first discovered Cristalino tequila. My favorite brand of tequila at the time was Don Julio and I had seen a new bottle commemorating their 70th anniversary. I had been so fed up with driving through Mexico City gridlocked traffic, some of the worst of ever I've been in, that when I got out of the car I turned the bottle upside down and took a good chug. It was delicious- a smooth, crisp taste without the bite. I didn't know this Don Julio 70 was a new breed of tequila at the time but I did know it was my new favorite.
Before I get deeper into Cristalino, here's a few important facts to know about tequila -
- Tequila is a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant
- Tequila must come from the Jalisco region of Mexico (much like Champagne must come from the Champagne region of France)
- There are generally 3 types of tequilas that each distiller produces
- Blanco or Silver is bottled immediately after the distillation process in completed
- Reposado is aged less than 1 year in oak barrels
- Añejo is aged 1-3 years in oak barrels
It wasn't until my trip to Tequila Town (outside Guadalajara) in 2015 that I learned about Cristalino or as some brand it, Ultra Añejo. In a simple description- Cristalino is Añejo tequila introduced into an addition distillation process that removes the color and some of the oak barrel flavor and produces a clear ultra smooth tasting tequila. Don Julio created this process for its 70th anniversary and other popular distillers recreated it and added their 'secret' take on it for distinction.
I left Guadalajara with a few bottles that I hadn't yet tried to consume at home. Let's just say they went really fast, and when I went to the liquor stores to buy more, most didn't have any. In the rare case I was able to find some, the only bottle for sale was Don Julio 70. Cristalino just wasn't sold in the US! I had even looked across the country in the NY/NJ area- nothing. In 2017, you can now find Herradura's Ultra Añejo for sale but I have not seen any other brand in the US. Fortunately I visit Mexico quite frequently as I drink Cristalino like water.
I talk to many people in the US that are also connoisseurs of tequila or work at tequila bars and no one seems to know about Cristalino. Over the years I have turned many whiskey and bourbon drinkers into tequila drinkers when I introduce them to Cristalino so I know there's something unique about it. If it does become the next generation of tequila, you heard it here first :D.