How to Taste Tequila Like a Catador…

…Or, at least, how to act like one

Color, legs and tears, taste tequila

Color, legs and tears.

There are two official schools in Mexico that train people to be certified catadores (tequila tasters).  One is actually a faction of the original school established in 2000 and known as the Academia Mexicana del Tequila (Mexican Tequila Academy).

After a bitter falling out between the founders, another school was initiated in 2006 known as the Academia Mexicana de Catadores de Vino y Mezcal.

Below are the official guidelines of tequila tasting as set forth by the Mexican Tequila Academy and translated from their website here.

1.)  Durante todo el proceso de cata, no debe haber communicación entre los catadores.

(During the entire tasting, there should be no communication among the tasters

Covered tequila samples, taste tequila

Covered tequila samples.

[judges]).

2)  Recuerde que un gesto o cualquier otra actitud de aprobación o desaprobación, puede influir en la opinión de los otros participantes. Su opinión, sea cual fuere, debe ser reflejada en la cédula de cata, y si tuviera opiniones o comentarios extra-calificación, es importante que utilice el reverso de la cédula correspondiente a la muestra que está evaluando.

(Keep in mind that any gesture of approval or disapproval can influence the opinion of the other judges.  Whatever your opinion, it should be reflected on the scoring sheet and if you have opinions or extra comments (ratings), it’s important to use the reverse side of the scoring sheet of the sample you are evaluating.)

3.)  Antes y durante el transcurrir de la cata no es conveniente fumar, ya que el tabaco disminuye la capacidad de percepción sensorial y sus apreciaciones podrían estar afectadas y el humo afectará a los otros catadores.

(Before and during the course of the tasting, it is not convenient to smoke since tobacco diminishes one’s sensorial capacities and perceptions.  Your assessments may be affected and the smoke will affect the other tasters [judges].)

4.)  Se recomienda que el día del catado se evite el uso de lociones o perfumes.

Agave, up close, taste tequila

Agave, up close.

(It is recommended that on the day of the tasting that you avoid the use of lotions or perfumes.)

5.)  De preferencia el día de la cata se debe tomar un desayuno ligero, entre las 8:00 y las 9:00 hrs. si la cata se inicia a las 11:00.

(It is preferred that on the day of the tasting that you have a light breakfast at 8 or 9 AM if the tasting is to start at 11AM.)

6.)  Antes de iniciar el catado, ponga en su boca un pequeño sorbo de un destilado neutro (se recomienda vodka simple) páselo por toda la boca y finalmente elimínelo, este ejercicio hará que su boca quede limpia de sabores extraños o anteriores y la preparará para una mejor percepción.

(Before the inception of the tasting, place a small sip of a neutral [grain] spirit (plain vodka is recommended), swish it around in your mouth and spit it out.  This practice cleanses your mouth of strange or previous flavors and prepares

Vodka, soda crackers, water and scoring sheets.

Vodka, soda crackers, water and scoring sheets.

you for a better perception [evaluation]).

7.)  Antes de calificar el sabor de la primera muestra, se recomienda poner en la boca un primer sorbo y moverlo por toda ella, eliminarlo y con un segundo sorbo emitir su calificación sobre el sabor.

(Before scoring the first sample on its flavor, it is recommended to take the first sip and swish it inside your entire mouth and spit it out.  With the second sip, express (record) your score on the flavor.)

8.)  Tómese el tiempo necesario para evaluar cada muestra, no lo haga apresuradamente, y sobre todo concéntrese en la muestra en turno. ¡CONCENTRACIÓN ES EL NOMBRE DEL JUEGO!

(Take the time necessary to evaluate each sample.  Don’t be in a hurry, and above all, concentrate on the current sample.  CONCENTRATION IS THE NAME OF THE GAME!)

9.)  Recuerde que es su percepción y opinión, sobre la muestra en turno, la que vale y no el qué o cómo pudiere parecerle a otra persona.

(Remember that it’s your perception and opinion over the current sample that counts and not how someone else might perceive it.)

10.)  No intente hacer comparaciones; no tiene que conectar la muestra en turno con alguna marca en particular; realice su evaluación como si cada una de las muestras fuera única. Cada una de las muestras tendrá sus propias características, positivas o negativas, sus cualidades, atributos y esos son los que deben contar para usted, de acuerdo con los parámetros de la categoría y clase de la muestra, ya que esto es finalmente lo que se busca.

(Do not attempt to make comparisons.  Do not connect the current sample to a particular brand.  Carry out your evaluations as if each sample were unique.  Each one of the samples will have its own characteristics, positive or negative, its own qualities and attributes, and those are what you should depend (rely) upon in accordance with the parameters of the category and type of the

Scoring tequila samples.

Scoring tequila samples.

sample as that is ultimately what is looked for.)

11.)  Es importante que al pasar de una a otra muestra, elimine el sabor de la anterior con un poco de galleta sin sal y agua.

(It is important that after each sample, you cleanse its flavor [from your palate] with a bit of plain soda cracker and water.)

12.)  Elimine el sorbo de cada muestra evaluada, al final de la cata podrá beber de las muestras que prefiera.

(Eliminate the sip of each sample evaluated.  At the end of the cata (tasting) you’ll be able to drink from the samples you preferred.)

13.)  Es de vital importancia que para evaluar cada categoría y clase de tequila, tome en consideración el parámetro o perfil correspondiente, esas deben ser sus referencias al calificar la categoría y clase.  Al reverso de la ficha, encontrará perfiles generales para la categoría 100% de agave y cada clase.  Al reverso de la cédula encontrará estos perfiles generals.

(It is vitally important that to evaluate each category and type of tequila that you take into consideration the corresponding parameter or profile.  Those should be your references to score the category and type.  On the reverse side of the scoring card you’ll find general descriptions for the category of 100% de agave [tequila] and each type.  On the reverse side of your identification card, you will [also] find these general descriptions.)

14.)  Es indispensable que antes de iniciar el catado, anote en todas sus cédulas su nombre. Y una vez que emita sus calificaciones para cada muestra, realice la suma de puntos total, anotando este resultado en el lugar destinado para ello y que registre esta calificación en su hoja personal de control.

(It is indispensable that before the tasting, you write your names on all of the scoring sheets.  Once you’ve graded each sample, total up the points and write the sum in the space provided and register this evaluation on your personal control sheet.)

15.)  Circule la calificación para cada concepto de evaluación (visual, olfativo, sabor), no palomee, no cruce ni tache los números de la calificación.

(Circle the grade for each component of evaluation (visual, olfaction, flavor).  Do not deliberately “fudge,” cross out or eliminate numbers from the score.)

16.)  Las copas con las muestras, han sido ordenadas de izquierda a derecha en

Covered samples

Covered samples

dos líneas: de la 1 a la 5 y atrás de la 6 a la 10. En esa misma secuencia deberá realizarse la cata, destapando exclusivamente la copa de la muestra que va a evaluar y volviéndola a tapar al pasar a la siguiente.

(The glasses with the samples are in order from left to right in two lines:  from 1 to 5, and in back from 6 to 10.  The tasting should be done in the same sequence, uncovering only the glass of the sample you are evaluating, and then recovering it before moving on to the next one.)

17.)  En general recuerde la capacitación que sobre catado ha recibido. 

(In general, remember the tequila tasting training you have received.)

Considere que su evaluación de cada muestra es en extremo valiosa y que con sus calificaciones estará afectando positiva o negativamente a esa muestra y por tanto a una marca en particular que se expende en el mercado, por lo que se debe realizar con extrema imparcialidad y absoluta honestidad.

(Consider that your evaluation of each sample is extremely valuable.  Your scores will affect, either positively or negatively, that sample and therefore, a particular brand coming onto the retail market.  It should be carried out with extreme impartiality and absolute honesty.)

Sipping Off The Cuff: Titanium Tequila Blanco

titanium_blancoTequila Aficionado’s Alexander Perez and M.A. “Mike” Morales taste and discuss Titanium Tequila Blanco and nominate it for the 2014 Brands of Promise Awards. See why here.

Visit Titanium Tequila online here.

According to Titanium:

OUR LUXURY TEQUILA’S BEGIN WITH THE WORLD’S FINEST 100% TEQUILANA BLUE WEBER AGAVE GROWN IN THE HIGHLANDS OF JALISCO, MEXICO. EACH OF OUR AGAVE PLANTS ARE HAND SELECTED AT THE PEAK OF THEIR MATURITY FULL OF SWEETNESS AND ROBUST FLAVOR. AFTER HARVESTING THE AGAVE OUR JIMADORS CAREFULLY CUT THE AGAVE DOWN TO THE “PIÑA”, OR HEART, LEAVING ONLY THE PUREST PART OF THE AGAVE PLANT FOR OUR TEQUILA’S. OUR AGAVE IS THE HIGHEST QUALITY AGAVE FOUND IN THE WORLD CREATING A TEQUILA LIKE NO OTHER.

OUR PIÑA IS THEN SLOWLY ROASTED IN A STAINLESS STEEL AUTOCLAVE. THIS COOKING PROCESS IS IMPORTANT IN ALLOWING FOR A CONSISTENT, SWEET, AND RICH PIÑA READY FOR FERMENTING AS WELL AS ENSURING A CLEAN OUTCOME MINIMIZING ANY POSSIBLE BACTERIA BUILD UP. AFTER ROASTING THE PIÑA IS THEN SHREDDED AND JUICES EXTRACTED FOR FERMENTING.

NEXT IS THE FERMENTING WHICH IS DONE IN AN OPEN AIR ENVIRONMENT. THIS PROCESS IS UNRUSHED WITH A SPECIAL STRAND OF YEAST ADDED TO CONTROL AND CREATE A CONSISTENTLY HIGH QUALITY SPIRIT. THE RESULT IS A LUXURIOUS, ROBUST TEQUILA READY FOR DISTILLATION. THE TEQUILA IS THEN TWICE DISTILLED IN POT STILLS CREATING THE FINEST SMALL BATCH TEQUILA AVAILABLE TODAY.

Sipping Off The Cuff: Whispering Eye Reposado

whispering_eye_tequila_reposado_0772fe2ea1c8133469afb48b236f855dTequila Aficionado’s Alexander Perez and M.A. “Mike” Morales taste and discuss Whispering Eye Tequila Reposado and nominate it for the 2014 Brands of Promise Awards.

Find Whispering Eye Tequila online here.

Be Featured in Our Next #Tequilachat!

#TequilaChat on Tequila Tuesday

TequilaChat, #tequilachat, tequila aficionadoOn Tuesday, November 18th, we hosted our first Tequila Tuesday #TequilaChat on Twitter with Trianon Tequila.  Turnout was great and the conversation was even better!  Attendees had some great questions for Scotty Mattos and the folks at Trianon and we all learned a little more about this great “old school” tequila brand.

Trianon Tequila – The O.G. Tequila

trianon stack, TequilaChat, #tequilachat, tequila aficionado Trianon Triple, tequila aficionadoIf you missed our Sipping Off The Cuff reviews of Trianon Tequila, you can click on the links below and view them now:

Trianon BlancoTrianon ReposadoTrianon Anejo

Follow us on Twitter here – Follow Trianon on Twitter here.

Be A Featured on an upcoming chat

We’d like to host more of these Tuesday afternoon Twitter chats, so if you’d like your brand to be featured in an upcoming Twitter chat, please fill out the form below to let us know you’re interested.

If you’d like to check out our conversation with Trainon Tequila, you can read it by rewinding our Twubs feed below to November 18th.

Judging at The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine

In mid-August of 2014, the organizers of the 6th Annual Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, which took place on October 11, 2014, graciously asked Tequila Aficionado Media CEO, Mike Morales, to participate as a judge.  Their unique, take-at-home blind tequila tasting competition used the Tequila Matchmaker smartphone application to score and bestow awards.  You can review the results of the tasting competition here.

Take-Home Test

I dreaded tests and pop quizzes in school.  I never did well on them no matter how long I studied.  The only answer for someone like me to improve his grade was to do extra credit work.  Often, that meant the blessing of the occasional take-home test.

The entire text book, notes and other related materials was at my disposal.  In addition, the stress of competing against my smarter classmates was lifted, as well as any pressure about time limits.

Really, it was a license to cheat!  How could I go wrong?

That’s why the concept of the take-home cata made the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine’s tasting competition so intriguing for me.

 Matchmaker, Matchmaker,

Make Me A Match…

Grover Sanschagrin, co-founder of TasteTequila.com, is the designer of Tequila Matchmaker, the only smartphone application to date that aids tequila

TasteTequila

TasteTequila

aficionados in finding tequilas that are suitable to their taste preferences.  It also allows enthusiasts to rate and grade brands on a sliding numerical scale.

Grover has introduced Tequila Matchmaker in some of the leading and trending tequila bars in the US.  The Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine is the first event to exclusively use the Tequila Matchmaker app for its blind tasting competition.

Grover Sanschagrin of TasteTequila.com.

Grover Sanschagrin of TasteTequila.com.

In this Facebook interview, Grover shares some of his thoughts on the aftermath of the competition.

TA:  So…did the results amaze you?

GS:  Not really.  I wish there were more brands involved so we could get a better comparison.

Last year, when we announced the results, several brands were in the room.  They immediately asked questions about the judges.  This gave me the idea to “test” the judges as a way of giving the brands an idea of who they were dealing with.
So, duplicating a tequila as a way to “judge the judges” was my answer.  A total experiment.  Not totally scientific, but definitely interesting.

TA:  Did they know who the judges were this time around?

GS:  No, we didn’t disclose which judges gave which scores.  Also, all of the judges, except for one, did well.

TA:  Did they know the names of the judges on the roster?
GS:  I believe so.

Also, rating these tequilas from home is a totally different method than rating them with all of the judges in the same room.  Not that any one is better than the other, just

Freddy the Cat judging añejos.

Freddy the Cat judging añejos.

that they are different.

I would actually like to try an experiment where the same judges rate things at home, and then again, together (like the SOM [Spirits of Mexico competition] format) and then see the differences.
Grover continues…
GS:  I also want to experiment with the order of the selection.  We can actually use our app to create a random order for each person, so nobody will have the same [order].
Ready to judge for Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine.

Ready to judge for Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine.

TA:  That would be a cool variable.

GS:  For me at SOM [Grover was a judge at 2014’s contest], palate fatigue is an issue, so it would be interesting to see if tequilas at the end of the line tend to do better.  I am fascinated by blind ratings, so I’m having a blast trying all these new experiments.
TA:  I think [for me] tequilas at the beginning of the line may also suffer from palate “under work.”

GS:  In our blind tasting tour, we found just the opposite.  The tequilas in slots 1 and 2 tended to score higher that 3-6.  No idea why, really – but it was clear in the comparison of the events.

Beginning of the line for blanco category.

Beginning of the line for blanco category.

TA:  Did the time of day also make a difference?
GS:  It was mid afternoon for all of the events.
TA:  So time of day was pretty consistent?
GS:  I know that the SOM guys insist that spirits must be evaluated in the morning, but that seems a little odd to me.  I think the judge needs to be consistent, but should be able to choose when they drink.  I don’t usually drink in the morning. usually. :-).  There’s an element of “real life” that isn’t present when you drink Tapatio 110 at 9am.

TA:  Did the certified catador do better than was expected?

GS:  Nope.

Rant Alert!

Before I go into my pros and cons of rating tequilas using the Tequila Matchmaker app for the Monterey Bay Tequila & Cuisine, let me get a few pet peeves off my chest.

Judging Competitions–What A Concept!

In all my time studying, analyzing and observing the Tequila Industry, not once have I ever known any tequila enthusiast, purist, newbie, connoisseur, collector or consumer (let alone brand owner and/or importer) to be happy with the results of any spirits judging competition.

Whether it’s the venerable San Francisco World Spirits Competition, the respected Beverage Testing Institute, the famed Spirits of Mexico, or any of the smaller, regional tasting events throughout the country, no one has ever been completely happy or agreed entirely with the outcomes.

The older the judging tournaments are, the more importance their annual medal counts are given by an unsuspecting public who only purchase award winning beers, wines and spirits based on their perceived value, instead of trusting its own taste buds.

Those long running competitions become more expensive to enter, forcing smaller more deserving brands out and leaving the larger, transnational corporations with deeper portfolios and bigger budgets to duke it out.

Accusations of alleged backroom negotiations for awards has also been an issue, of late.

And let’s not forget the most lucrative part of the tasting event–

Licensing

Paying for the rights to use the competition’s branded medals and seals in addition to the entry fees per spirits expression submitted.

Yet, spirits brands in general, and tequila brands in particular, continue to allocate hard-earned marketing dollars toward entering these yearly competitions for the privilege of hanging neck tags from their bottles or affixing stickers onto their labels named for precious metals or gemstones.

Double Vibranium, anyone?

Collecting medals and awards have gone the way of tattoos and piercings–

Everyone has them, and the novelty and mystique have worn off.

At the end of the day, it seems like everyone who participated in the competitions scored some sort of hardware and the rest of us are left shaking our heads in dismay or agreement.

Lastly…

Scoring

Monterey Bay blanco category and glassware.

Monterey Bay blanco category and glassware.

I was once told by a very respected spirits writer that a unified scoring system was good for an event should the organizers decide to hold other branded spirits competitions.

Puh-leez!

Whoever said that a templated numerical  scoring method used to grade different kinds of spirits was appropriate for tequila tastings?  Diffusers aside, tequila itself is so unique, it doesn’t compare with the flavor profiles of all other spirits, so why rate them that way?

How about a rating system that’s good for the juice instead of one that’s good for the show?  (BTW…one already exists.)

Pros And Cons

Pro–scoring on the Tequila Matchmaker app is amazingly simple.

Con–There’s no numerical rating for the tequilas’ appearance on the Tequila Matchmaker app.  Takes the whole sensorial feeling out of tequila tasting.  Only your nose and mouth get to have all the fun.

Pro–Shipping two ounce samples is neat and cost effective for the organizers of the show.

Con–See what happens when minis are compromised.  (Warning:  It’s not pretty.)

I particularly found that my sealed reposado samples were extremely alcohol-y even after sitting at room temperature for a couple of days.

Pro–It’s lovely to take your time judging samples at your leisure.  I agree with

You never know who might stop by to help judge tequila.

You never know who might stop by to help judge tequila.

 

Grover that it saves on palate fatigue, too.

 

Con–I miss the camaraderie of other expert judges and learning from them.  It ups your game like playing one-on-one with LeBron James or batting against Clayton Kershaw.

 

Pro–Depending on my schedule, I chose what time of day to judge my samples.

 

Con–According to the guidelines set forth by the original Mexican Tequila Academy, tastings should begin by 11 AM when a catador’s (tequila taster’s) palate is freshest.  [See also their tequila scoring sheet and criteria.]  This article here explains where this custom began.

 

Pro–I knew which glassware and other tips and tools to use to make me, as a judge, more effective.

 

Con–The lack of uniformity and protocol among the judges could have affected the final results.

 

Pro–It was exciting to use Tequila Matchmaker’s breakthrough scoring system.

 

Con–I can’t, in all honesty, say that I was pleased with the awarded outcomes or my graded performance.

 

See!  What did I tell you?  I hate tests.