The word “terroir” is usually associated with the wine world. So in 2007, when the team behind the newly formed Ocho Tequila, announced that they going to create the world’s first terroir-driven, single field tequila, they were laughed out of the room. 11 years on and Ocho is considered one of the world’s bestselling tequilas. We check-in with Brand Ambassador Jesse Estes at London Mezcal Week to learn more about this impressive brand.
“They said, ‘Terroir and tequila? What are you talking about?!’” Jesse recalls of Ocho’s early doubters. “Terroir and spirits weren’t even considered. Now we see Patrón single estate and single estate rye vodkas, so now we’re being validated in some way.” As he sits onstage at London Mezcal Week, surrounded by fellow agave spirits greats, including Carlos Mendes, maker of QuiQuiRiQui mezcal and Curado Tequila’s Jorge Balbontin, it certainly seems like Ocho has done something right.
Ocho is the first single estate tequila of its kind, designed to showcase the agave plant’s ability to convey different flavours depending on the type of land it is grown on. In the same way as limestone or clay soil gives grapes and their subsequent wines certain characteristics, tastes and textures, the ground agave roots itself in lends unique properties to spirits produced from it.
Each vintage of Ocho is sourced from diverse fields around the Mexican state of Jalisco. Jesse tells us that to date, 21 different fields have been harvested, each yielding a noticeably different spirit thanks to its terroir. Whilst some producers of tequila and mezcal try and control the production and consistency of their spirit, Ocho celebrate the plant’s changeability.
In my humble opinion, I do not think that agave spirits lend themselves to consistency or what I call the “Big Mac approach”. If I have a Big Mac in Oxford Circus, then go to Beijing tomorrow and have one, they’re going to taste very similar. That’s not the way that nature works. Nature does not express itself in the way of mass production and uniformity.
Whilst a wonderful statement for smaller artisanal producers, how does a lack of consistency work for a brand like Ocho that was proven to be the second bestselling tequila in the Drinks International Brands Report 2019? If there is no homogeneity, how can a spirit be branded as Ocho Tequila?
Jesse poetically posits,
If you take different bottles of [a good agave spirit] and look at the lot number, [the liquid] is going to have changed slightly but it still has what I call “the hand of the maker”. To me, [tequila] has some science to it but it’s very much an art and you can give your own touch, your own flavour to it and that’s what gives it consistency. The yeast will change, the wood might change slightly, but [the maker’s] hand is what’s giving it that taste you recognise.
With that in mind, time to see if Ocho lives up to Jesse’s impassioned words.
Tasting Notes: Ocho Tequila
Ocho Blanco Tequila 2018 (Las Presas)
This single estate Blanco has been created using 100% Blue Agave from their Las Presas plot. The crop is cooked in stone ovens and fermented in open-air wooden tanks, before being double distilled in copper pot stills and brought down to 40% ABV for bottling.
Light and vegetal with carmalised herbaceousness and a gentle pepper spice. Hint of dried coffee grounds an zesty pomelo or grapefruit pith come through after a bit of nosing.
Smooth and robing with a savoury vegetal body and delicate sweetness. Juicy yet tart citrus adds freshness to the dried spice and delicious herbal greenery.
Use freely in any of your favourite tequila cocktails, or try your hand at:
Ocho’s Alteña Spritz
30ml Ocho Blanco
- 20ml freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
- 2 lemon wedges
- 10ml passion fruit syrup
- 5ml Campari
- 75ml sparkling wine
- 50l soda water
- Rosemary sprig and grapefruit zest, for garnish
Add all ingredients to a wine glass over cubed ice and stir to combine. Garnish with long grapefruit zest and rosemary sprig
£22.45. Buy it at The Whisky Exchange
Ocho Reposado Tequila 2018 (Las Presas)
Born of the same field, using the same Blue Agave and process as the Blanco, the Reposado is then aged for eight weeks and eight days in ex-Bourbon barrels.
Fuller and warmer on the nose than the Blanco with a whisper of smoke, good spice and dry woodiness.
A beautifully rich and smooth palate with an engulfing, deliberate but reserved character of caramelised nuts, eucalyptus, spice, biscotti and smoke.
A perfect slow-sipper to be enjoyed neat. However, it also lends itself to cocktails. Why not try:
Ocho & Sekforde
50ml Ocho Reposado
- Sekforde Tequila & Mezcal mixer
- Apple slices or pear, for garnish
Add ingredients to a tall glass with cubed ice. Add apple slices or pear to garnish
£23.45. Buy it at The Whisky Exchange