High Proof Tequila: Perfect for CocktailsBy Stephanie Moreno
Spirits in the US are required to be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof (40% alcohol-by-volume or ABV). Exactly why this now-standard proof exists in the US is a post for another day (law, tradition, cost). Although some spirits are perfectly fine at 80 proof, others would really benefit from being just a touch higher. This is especially true for making cocktails. Because when a spirit’s proof is lowered, so is its flavor. And yes, so is that oomph that comes with an increase in alcohol.
If you’re a whiskey drinker, you’ve no doubt tried barrel proof or cask strength whiskeys. These high proof spirits are packed with flavor. When you’re making a cocktail like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, higher proof whiskeys can stand up to the other ingredients and the dilution from the ice. This is also true for the navy-strength gins and overproof rums used at your favorite watering hole. They sure seem to make drinks pop, and with good reason. The proof is in the pudding, er cocktail.
Mezcal is often bottled at still strength, meaning water isn’t added prior to bottling. Selling mezcals at this higher proof is more traditional, but not so with tequila. Typically, tequilas are bottled at the standard 80 proof (76 proof in Mexico). Fortunately, tequila producers are slowly but surely correcting this oversight. Let’s hope that high proof tequilas are a continuing trend.
Try in your traditional tequila cocktails like a Margarita or Paloma, but feel free to try in all drink creations. You’ll definitely notice the difference. But don’t be afraid to sip them neat to get the full effect.
Like its standard 80 proof version, this high proof tequila is produced at Distileria Cascahuin. The lowland area where the distillery is located is known for its mineral-rich agaves grown in volcanic soils. The agaves are slow-roasted for up to 72 hours and shredded multiple times for optimal use of its sugars. Bagasse (agave fiber) is added during the fermentation process which yields a greater agave flavor. It is bottled at still proof of 92 proof.
Dulce Vida actually has two proofs for each of its tequila marques: a standard 80-proof and this 100-proof version. The brand uses organic agaves from Los Altos near Nayarit. The piñas are autoclaved (cooked using a pressure cooker) for 20 hours after which they are crushed and shredded. The fibers are separated from the aguamiel (honey water) which is then fermented with proprietary yeast. The high proof tequila displays grassy vegetal notes and minty freshness.
Tequila Tapatio is a collaboration between Marko Karakasevic of Charbay Distillery and Winery in Napa, Calif. and Carlos Camarena, whose family has a long tradition of distilling in Mexico. Bottling this high proof tequila captures the truest essence of the agave without watering it down. Flavors of bell peppers, grapefruit and cinnamon are present on the palate.
Located in Los Altos of Jalisco, Gran Dovejo produces only single-estate tequilas. Its agaves are grown by a fifth-generation grower. After the piñas are harvested by hand, they are then roasted in clay ovens for 36 hours. Next the piñas are shredded and the juices are extracted and fermented. This high proof tequila is bottled immediately after double-distillation at 98 proof.
Distilled at Casa San Mantias in Jalisco, this high proof tequila clocks in at 104 proof. This 100% agave tequila uses native and a proprietary yeast during the fermentation process. You’ll discover bold agave flavors and a pleasant minerality on the palate.
Fortaleza Blanco Still Strength is bottled at or near the proof coming off the still. The tequila is produced in a traditional manner using brick ovens to cook the agaves which are then crushed with a tahona (large stone wheel). They are then allowed to naturally ferment in open air wooden tanks. It is twice distilled and bottled with no additives at 92 proof.
El Luchador, from tequilero David Ravandi, is a bold, 110-proof spirit named for the famed masked wrestlers of Mexico. This powerhouse of a tequila was born at 4,200 feet in what you could say are the highest of the lowlands in Jalisco, with agave grown using certified organic practices and harvested at 12 years. It is unaged, bottled fresh off the still. Roasted pineapple, vegetal agave notes, and even savory meaty flavors are to be found.
Arette Fuerte Blanco Tequila is bottled at 101 proof, hence the name—fuerte means “strong”. The agaves are sourced from a single practicing organic estate in the Tequila Valley of Jalisco. The agaves are cooked in an autoclave and shredded using a roller mill. Fuerte is double-distilled in a stainless still by 5th generation tequila maker Eduardo Orendain.
At 100 proof, Don Fulano Fuerte is the highest proof tequila in the brand’s product line. This silver tequila is bottled unaged following a dual-distillation method, where both a column-still and a traditional copper pot-still are utilized.
Astral Tequila is produced from 100% agave grown from a single high-altitude organic estate in the western edge of the tequila producing area in Mexico. The agave is roasted in a traditional stone oven before being crushed. The tequila is fermented using local yeast and the solids are left in the fermenting mixture to enhance the flavor. Finally the tequila is pot distilled twice before being bottled and distributed.
Founded in 2011 by third-generation tequila maker Felipe Camarena, Terralta Tequila is named for the “high land” where El Pandillo Distillery is located. Terralta Tequila Blanco 110 is the high proof tequila bottling in the brand’s portfolio. Camarena invented “Igor” his mechanical agave shredder and “Frankenstein” his mechanical replacement for a traditional stone tahona used to crush the cooked agaves. The water used in the production comes from a 450-foot deep well with a complex mineral content.
Launched in fall 2018, this high proof tequila (110 proof) is made using 100% organic blue weber sourced from Los Altos in Jalisco. The agaves are cooked, shredded and then fermented for up to nine days with proprietary yeast. It is double distilled and then rested in stainless steel for four months before bottling.