For most people the particular spirit they like best is a matter of taste, but if you gathered around a couple dozen tequila fans and asked them for their favorites, Reserva de la Familia would get mentioned more often than not. It’s rare to see a top-10 list that doesn’t have this one on there somewhere.
This is despite the fact that Jose Cuervo is the largest and most commercial distillery there is, with their most heavily marketed product (Jose Cuervo Gold) being the prime reason tequila has had such a bad reputation in the past. I’ve beaten that dead horse enough though, so let’s talk about what the company does right, which is a lot. They also make the very good Centenario and 1800 brands, which are 100% blue agave. I’ve been sipping from a bottle of the 1800 añejo after loving it during a tasting session when I took the Cuervo Express train to Tequila and the distillery recently.
The crown jewel I tasted there again though, the bottle at the top of the pyramid, is Reserva de la Familia. It was launched in 1995, on the company’s 200th anniversary. It’s a proprietary blend of barrels aged an average of 3 years, but blended with some as old as 30 years. The master distiller creates a surprisingly consistent taste profile from year to year. Whichever year you buy, you can expect a whole mouthful of complimentary flavors. The most dominant are spicy agave softened by oak of course, but these give way to caramel, vanilla, banana, and then a range of spice overtones, especially black pepper and sage. This is a complex and deeply satisfying extra añejo and you’d be hard-pressed to ever call it boring at one end or unbalanced on the other.
It’s hard to find fault with this añejo and if you’re going to introduce someone who likes Scotch, Rum, or Bourbon to fine tequila, you’ll have a good chance of converting them by picking this one. Because of the marketing muscle behind it, you’re likely to find it on the top shelf of most great bars around the world, especially in business hotels. Hopefully you get to put it on an expense account, because with it frequently retailing for more than $120, a bar pour in a snifter is going to set you back a bit of cash.
If you try it and like it though, it’s worth springing for a bottle to bring home or give as a gift. That’s because each year the company commissions a different Mexican artist to create the box. This is a prestigious honor that creates some heavy competition. So while the liquor inside is very consistent from year to year, the wooden box it comes in is going to be radically different. If you visit the distillery in the town of Tequila, you can see the whole collection of them from the start, arranged in order by year.
Last year the label changed, with the company name smaller and off to the side, with “Reserva de la Familia” front and center. That’s a good move because this brand is in a class of its own. With a great presentation on the outside and a refined, well-structured premium aged tequila on the inside, you can feel confident that when you buy Reserva de la Familia you won’t be taking any chances. See more at Cuervo.com.