We’ve all seen it and we’ve all done it. We line up shot glasses. We ready our limes. We lick our hands and douse them with salt. We are idiots. Luckily, there is a new movement in tequila. We see great care and pride being taken in the craftsmanship of tequilas. We see the agave spirit being hatched into intricate cocktails. And we see amazing tequilas being treated in the same high regard as a beautiful single malt scotch, sipped and enjoyed with nothing but its own flavor, nose and body pleasuring the drinker. Recently The Savory had the incredible opportunity to sit down with the Co-Founder and CEO of Casa Dragones – a handcrafted sipping tequila – to embark on a tasting experience like no other.
After receiving her master’s degree at Northwestern University, Bertha González Nieves started on what she enthusiastically calls “an incredible adventure.” Knowing her love and interest in the tequila industry, Bertha literally went knocking on doors looking for a way in. When we asked her how she got started, she said one word: “Passion.” Ms. González Nieves was not satisfied with being just a part of the industry – she wanted to revolutionize it. And that she did.
She met business partner and Casa Dragones Co-Founder Bob Pittman at a party and realized that they shared a common vision. They both saw tequila as having all the credentials of luxury, but no one was pointing it in the right direction. Together they decided they wanted to, according to González Nieves, “Push the boundaries to deliver a true sipping tequila and take the experience of sipping farther.” In order to accomplish this González Nieves first managed to bring Maestro Tequilero, Benjamín García, out of retirement to create the most premium product possible. According to Ms. González Nieves, “Often, you will see many different styles of tequila made by distilleries. We decided to focus on one style. We wanted a tequila with a point of view.” For Casa Dragones, they decided on what González Nieves calls an “overlooked style” – joven, a silver tequila blended with an extra-aged tequila.
There is no detail about Casa Dragones that goes ignored. Every bottle is a beautiful old-style crystal decanter, hand-engraved, and made to cut the pour of the tequila perfectly. And this is where the tasting began: with the visual. González Nieves says, “Casa Dragones has an impeccable clarity with a platinum hue. The crystal bottle is like a microscope and your eyes begin the judging of the tequila.” Once poured, the truly small batch tequila (only about 2000 cases are produced a year) has legs longer than a runway model, clinging to the glass for what seems to be an infinite amount of time.
Next we moved on to the nose. If you have ever been to a wine tasting (and if you haven’t, walk away from your computer and get yourself to a wine tasting), you know about the complexity of the wine and the different aromas it produces. Casa Dragones is as complex and intricate as any grape juice. We began by dividing the glass into three sections: bottom, middle and top. When taking in the nose of the bottom of the glass, we smelled sweeter fruity notes. The middle gave off the unique hints of orange zest. And once our nose was plunged in the top of the glass, heavy spice and wood aromas arose.
Finally, much to our excitement, it was time to taste Casa Dragones. Obviously with such a buildup, we had the highest of expectations. And we were not disappointed. Let us start by saying that we are no stranger to premium tequilas. With years of experience in the service industry and working hand-in-hand with luxury brands, we have had our share of quality agave. This was unlike any tequila we have ever had. It was soft and smooth, like liquid velvet. There were subtle hints of pear and vanilla that existed in harmony with the agave. We waited for the sting usually associated with tequilas, but it never came. Instead we were graced with a long, warm finish and an open aftertaste that performed on our palates for (no exaggeration) the rest of the day. González Nieves said their goal was to “deliver a memorable experience for sippers.” Mission accomplished.
The outstanding product that the team at Casa Dragones has delivered has seduced some of the most famous and established palates in the culinary industry. Their website is strewn with accolades from everyone from Bobby Flay to Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey. When I asked Ms. González Nieves about the future of tequila, she gave us the answer that we dream every tequila maker will give: “Tequila has a long way to go in terms of growth. The consumer is asking for more – a better product. Drink less, Drink better. We need to be constantly thinking and constantly changing.” Bravo, Ms. González Nieves. We will be along for the ride.