Premier in Berlin – The 2014 Agave Spirits Awards
Among the many parties, events and the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS featured at the Bar Convent Berlin fair, this year’s BCB also witnessed the debut of the Agave Spirits Awards. Here we take a closer look at the idea behind the awards and at some of the world’s very best tequilas and mezcals.
Granted, the number of tasting competitions already seems endless as it is. Virtually every category of spirit has its own festive competition event where gold, silver and bronze medals are showered on practically every bottled liquid on the market.
Now tequila and mezcal have also joined the ranks. These agave distillates have skyrocketed in popularity anyway in recent years to the extent that ripe agave hearts can hardly be grown fast enough to keep up with demand. Some producers are already predicting shortages.
Production in Mexico is booming at a level similar to the production of gin here, while agave prices are rising and demand is increasing for ever-greater quality. One mashing operation is equally responsible for large international brands and smaller family-run operations. But the smaller brands often suffer from a lack of international profile and acclaim outside of agave’s home region of Jalisco.
From Mexico to Sweden
This was only one of the reasons motivating Björn Kjellberg and Claes Puebla Smith to create the Agave Spirits Awards. Kjellberg explains, “These awards are not designed just to be a tasting competition. We want to grow over the years, adding more brands and a more broadly representative jury to become a platform for agave fans and the manufacturers of these magnificent spirits”.
The event has an unmistakably strict focus on agave distillates and their Mexican origins. The premier competition, the first of its kind in Europe, was held this past August at the Stockholm offices of Pro Mexico with a jury of four experts: Michel Jamais (Livets Goda), Arvid Rosengren (Wine, etc.), Bernhard Schäfer (IWSC, spirits consultant and author) and Alexandre Vingtier (spirits consultant and author).
Over the course of a six-hour marathon the jurors worked their way through 61 participating brands, selecting the winners of the coveted awards in 20 categories including the best tequila and mezcal per region, the top products according to the degree of maturity and the best products from each of the different agave varieties.
Gold, Silver and Bronze awards
The award ceremony for the medals and the gold, silver and bronze quality certifications was held early this past October in Berlin at the Bar Convent fair. Kjellberg and Smith handed the awards out to the proud winning distillers and also offered the 9,400 Bar Convent attendees a sip or two of each of the winning spirits.
French jury member Alexandre Vingtier views the ceremony as an important milestone and he greatly appreciated the opportunity to reach a large audience of industry pros. His hope is “…that this event helps people understand the strict controls these products are subjected to and how much passion and hard manual work goes into the production of each variety”.
The prize winners
Arette Reposado was crowned as the competition’s best overall tequila. Arette Reposado has been marketed internationally since 2007 and has rapidly become a bartender favorite, particularly in the UK. The story is similar with other Arette products receiving Gold and Bronze Medals in a range of different categories in the 2014 Agave Spirit Awards.
The 575 US dollar entry fee also paid off for the boutique mezcal distilled by El Jolgorio. The company took home six medals, three of them gold, much to the pleasure of the youngest member of the family-run company’s management team Asis Cortés.
Cortés brimmed, “This is a fantastic result”, and the Agave Spirits Awards are no less a major acknowledgment for small producers still manufacturing their distillates by hand in small batches as family-run businesses. In recognition of this fact Cortés graciously noted, “This award is for all of us”. On top of the other Gold Medals, we also congratulate Asis and his family for taking home the competition’s best mezcal award for its El Jolgorio Mexicano.
Here is an overview of all the winners in each of the categories:
Tequila – Gold Medal
Arette Extra Añejo
Puebla Viejo Añejo
Tequila – Silver Medal
8 Mesas Blanco
Don Julio Blanco
El Jimador Reposado
Fortaleza Extra Añejo
Herencia Historico 5 años Extra Añejo
Olmeca Altos Blanco
Olmeca Altos Reposado
Puebla Viejo Blanco
Rey Sol Extra Añejo
San Matias Gran Reserva Extra Añejo
Tequila – Bronze Medal
8 Mesas Reposado
Don Julio 1942 Añejo
Puebla Viejo Reposado
Tesoro de mi Tierra Blanco
Mezcal – Gold Medal
Bruxo No. 2
El Jolgorio Barril
El Jolgorio Mexicano
El Jolgorio Pachuga
Mezcal – Silver Medal
Bruxo No. 1
El Jolgorio Cuixe
Nuestra Soledad Stgo Matatlán
Mezcal – Bronze Medal
Bruxo No. 5
El Jolgorio Madrecuixe
El Jolgorio Tobalá
Nuestra Soledad La Compañía, Ejutla
Nuestra Soledad San Baltazar Guel
Original article by Christian Kopp. Translated by Jeff Collier.
Foto: Agave Spirits 2014