Sauza Hornitos Reposado: 40% abv
Background: In an effort to a have a more confusing brand marketing strategy than General Motors did in the 1990s, Sauza has multiple, indistinguishable lines of tequila, including Sauza, Hornitos, and Tres Generaciones. Sauza also has, within its own brand, three different kinds of unaged tequila. I’ve been able to figure out is that Sauza is double distilled out of 100% agave, Hornitos is double distilled out of 100% BLUE agave, and Tres Generaciones is triple distilled out of 100% blue agave. Hornitos offers three pretty basic tequilas in its range: Plata, Reposado, and Anejo. All of these whiskies are double distilled, and like you might expect, the Plata is a silver tequila which is unaged, the Reposado is aged for two months in a 10,000 gallon wooden vat, and the Anejo spends a year of its life in a bourbon oak barrel. So this tequila, which has spent minimal time in a massive oak vat, sits in front of us to be judged. It has the very uninspired 40% abv, but blessedly it is 100% blue agave to impart some quality. Because of the volume of liquid present in the vats it is aged in, wood influence will not be large. In fact, Hornitos advertises the lack of oak presence, as if it is exciting to know that this tequila has an identity crisis. Now let’s visit the facts.
Nose: The aromas in the nose start off with a soft impression of custard, vanilla and slight caramel. You can still smell agave in the nose, but it hides behind these soft, sweet notes. There is a small presence of berries in the nose, with a little bit of banana coming through as well. This actually smells a little bit like young rum with some tropical notes in it. The agave remains a weak note, while soft fruit and cream notes dance in the foreground. Some green pear notes come through, with even a less prominent sense of green pepper coming through.
Arrival: Not surprisingly, the tequila here tastes sweet and confectionary right in the arrival. There is some vanilla sweetness, and this thing almost tastes like a sugar cookie. What is surprising though, is although the arrival is a short event, as it bleeds into the body, the suggestion of barley malt comes through quite strongly. It does have some grain flavor to the arrival, but at this point you aren’t really seeing anything scream tequila at you.
Body: For a Scotch whisky drinker, it might come as a surprise to see some maltiness in the body of a tequila. I know, I know, this is sort of blasphemy, but it works quite well. The sugar cookie flavor comes through in the body, with a soft maltiness and other sweetness, but again, there is no sign of agave or tequila-like flavors present in this glass. I’m starting to wonder if I poured the wrong bottle…
Finish: After the very short body, you start to get small hints of agave coming through, with some slight spice and burn coming in, but no shortage of the previous flavors found in the tequila. The finish really falls short of having much flavor, but at least a bit of pepper, agave, and pear skin come through at the end. There is even a subtlety of sparkling wine at the end. The whole event is short, as if it’s been engineered to be for shots.
Nose: So far as I can tell, with water, nothing about this smells like tequila. A sense of grain comes through, the sweet, creamy notes have backed off, and the fruit notes continue to sustain themselves. If you think hard enough, you might detect the tiniest aroma of oak coming through after water.
Arrival: The arrival is still sweet, but takes on a more wine-like characteristic, having some white-grape tendencies, some pear and now a little bit of acidity from a tart lemon.
Body: The new lemon tartness carries into the body, and although most of the old notes still apply, it adds a layer of complexity to the whole thing. There is a slight bit of agave coming through, and vanilla complimenting it.
Finish: The finish is still short, custard-like, and holds some agave. By the finish, the tartness fades off and what’s left is this confusing grain flavor.
Final Comments: So here I am, thinking through tequila as I know it. I smell a different bottle of tequila and remember that, ah yes, tequila does have a distinctive smell. But this tequila doesn’t smell or taste much like tequila at all. The identity crisis prevalent in Sauza’s entire brand is present in just one bottle as well. It is not by any means off-putting, it is very drinkable, and it is certainly unique. It is not a complex spirit, but it does make me raise my eyebrows. What scares me about this, at the end of the day, is that I have to answer two questions of why and why not buy this tequila, and probably exactly as they intended it, the only reason I can think of to buy this tequila is to shoot it down. It doesn’t taste much like tequila and therefore I wouldn’t use it for mixing, but it is not that eventful and therefore I would not buy it to drink straight. At the same time, it is a relatively quality bang for the buck…so how to answer…
Why you’d buy it: I’m not sure…but you might?
Why you wouldn’t: You are shopping for tequila.