Cocktail Hour: Today's tequila is more refined

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Ari Kolas, owner of Apollo Liquor

Tequila has become one of the fastest growing spirits in America. This is due to two things — the ever-popular margarita (named for the beautiful woman a smart bartender was trying to impress) and the emergence of high-quality tequilas handcrafted to the same degree as a cognac or great whiskey.

Tequila producers have been refining their craft for hundreds of years, but in the last few years there has been an explosion of new high-end, boutique tequilas.

By Mexican law, tequila has to be made with agave plant grown in the Jalisco region of Mexico. Jalisco is in the west-central region of Mexico. There are different growing regions within Jalisco, but in general terms there are highland and lowland agave areas. The highlands produce tequila sweeter in flavor and smell, while the lowlands are more herbaceous or aromatic in flavor.

My favorite tequila is Avion Tequila, made from 100-percent Blue Weber agave in the highlands. Blue Weber is a general term named in 1902 by the famed botanist Frederic Albert Constantin Weber, who described the Agave Tequilana plant. Being a highland tequila, Avion Silver is slightly fruity, with a hint of grapefruit and pineapple.

All true 100-percent agave tequila starts out crystal clear. It is typically distilled twice to remove impurities, but still leaves much of the unique agave flavor. This initial unaged tequila is called blanco, or silver. It is the truest expression of pure agave flavor.


True tequila only gets it golden hue from barrel aging. Inexpensive tequilas that are not 100-percent agave add flavorings and caramel coloring to get a gold color. The key to any tequila label is to look for the 100-percent agave. Anything less, and it's not the real thing.

The first step up in tequila is called reposado, which literally means "rested" on oak barrels. It is, by law, a minimum two months but usually six months to a year in the barrel. Reposado tequilas will have a light golden tinge to them. The barrel will soften the edges and impart a hint of oakiness and other flavors.

Avion Reposado picks up more of caramel/vanilla nuances, but still has a roasted agave tint to the flavor. Some manufacturers use only new barrels, while some use used whiskey barrels. There is no legal restriction to the types or origination of the barrels used.

The third step in tequilas is anejo, or aged tequila. It is, by law, aged a minimum of one year but can be aged up to three years. Any Tequila aged more than three years can use the special term of Extra Anejo, a new term legally put in place in 2006.

Avion Anejo Tequila is aged two years in new barrels. It has a much more varied flavor profile. The extra years in the barrel make it the richest tequila and it flows gently over the tongue, leaving behind flavors of vanilla, caramel, coconut and maple. But at its core it is a 100-percent agave, and that is still the main flavor component.

On top of the award-winning flavors, I love Avion, first featured on the great HBO series "Entourage." That's a slightly inappropriate show, but one of its characters, named Turtle, imported the tequila for the first time and it turned me on to the brand way back when.

There is an "Entourage" movie coming next summer, and supposedly Avion tequila will play a role in the plot. I can't wait! In the meantime, I can sit back and enjoy the finest tequila made.

Enjoy any of the finest 100-percent tequilas neat or over the rocks. I guarantee you will be amazed!


Ari Kolas is co-owner of Apollo Wine & Spirits. To contribute to Cocktail Hour, send email to

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