Sunday, 3 January 2010

Tequila Flights

Iron Cactus
10001 Stonelake Blvd 
Texas 78759

Never mind flights "of fancy" - the only flights that matter can be found at one of Austin's Iron Cactus tequila bars. The menu presented me with a bewildering choice of silver, reposado (rested) and anejo (aged) varieties from more than a dozen distilleries. These could be bought individually in two-ounce pours, or as flights of three smaller half-ounce pours, ordered by distillery or by mixing and matching more randomly.

To start I went for a Milagro flight ($8.75). I'd never tried any of its tequilas previously, having been slightly put off by its tacky packaging, but it was one of our waitress's recommendations, and I decided it's just not right to judge a tequila by its bottle. The three Milagro shots (if these were half-ounce pours they were generous ones) arrived on  a metal tray with lime wedges and (nice touch, this) a flip chart describing the drinks laid before me (pictured right). They truly know the way to a drink geek's heart/wallet.

My own sipping notes recall Milagro's silver as smooth and sweet with noticeable vanilla as well as agave flavours. The reposado - aged for six months in oak - retained the character of the silver while adding even more smoothness. My brief note on the anejo (aged for 18 months) was "woody - but not Scotch". This was in response to an unfortunate flip chart claim that Milagro's aged tequila gave "a sense of a fine Scotch or Cognac", a comparison that did the drink few favours since it reminded me that when it comes to depth and complexity, tequila - at least the ones I've tried - is still the immature sibling to a decent single malt. Nevertheless, taken as they are, Milagro's tequilas are fine spirits, and I want some more.

Next, I decided to mix it up a bit, ordering reposados from three distilleries - El Tesoro, Don Julio and Patron (total cost about $10). I have a bottle of El Tesoro's silver at home and like how the spicy taste of the agave plant really comes through. The reposado retained most of this intensity while adding oak and vanilla - a top drink. The Don Julio was a big surprise, since it tasted strongly of chocolate (a decent dessert tequila?) and the Patron - one of the most mainstream of premium tequilas - was frankly boring.

The only downer on our visit to the Iron Cactus - one of five across Texas - was our poor timing: we arrived just as the karaoke night was starting up. Luckily, it takes more than dreadful singing to spoil good tequila.

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