Barnaby Monk 1:14 p.m., June 19
Gina, the gracious woman administering the tasting, implored me to first smell a drop of the tequila that had been swirled in a wine glass. The scent of the tequila was surprisingly deep for a white liquor; not botanical like gin or cleanly alcoholic like vodka. The sweet smell of the agave was down there, underneath the alcohol, for sure.
I tried the blanco tequila first. Gina explained that it was a triple-distilled, 100% agave spirit. Because of this, it hasn't got the volatile chemicals that give the reposado tequila its color and complicated flavor. The blanco was very smooth and a little sweet, almost like a good, white rum. I was impressed that it wasn't at all vicious, that is to say that there was no hint of "paint thinner" qualities to this clear liquor.
The reposado tequila is only distilled twice and then aged 3-5 months in new oak barrels. Its color is darker and the flavor profile much more complicated because a greater number of volatiles have been imparted to the spirit during the aging process. It was much more robust than the blanco and did a better job of taking my breath away.
I preferred the blanco to the reposado, all things considered, but I'm not a tequila expert so I deferred to the knowledgeable-seeming girl next to me at the table. Edith was a practiced tequila drinker who usually prefers reposado tequilas. We talked for a bit and she agreed with me that the blanco from Baluarte was particularly good, especially considering it wasn't her usual style. She found the reposado to be "OK," but overall the blanco was a better exemplar of its style.
While it may not have been the most extensive tasting ever held, I certainly learned a little bit about tequila and I think that this contrast between the two styles was a great place to start.