How’s this for authenticity: Not only is there an actual town called Tequila — about forty miles northwest of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco — and not only is Eduardo Orendain, Tres Agaves’ master distiller, from there, he was the mayor.
So by virtue of genealogy alone, this stuff ought to be good. (And it is good — very good. But more on that later.)
Indeed, Tres Agaves prides itself on its pedigree. The company, which is based in Oakland, was founded a couple years ago by a handful of tequila fanatics and alcohol-industry professionals with a combined decades in the business — Barry Angus, formerly of the Sammy Hagar-produced (!) tequila brand Cabo Wabo; Eric Rubin, who founded and ultimately left the insanely popular (and unaffiliated) San Francisco tequila bar and restaurant now known as Tres; and Chris Alvarez, who appears to have worked selling damn near every kind of alcohol under the sun, including Diamond Standard vodka, Jack Daniels, and Tequila Ocho. According to Mia Harlock, Tres Agaves’ knowledgeable and very bubbly marketing manager, the three of them were seeking a superior alternative to standard tequila — something that put a premium on pure ingredients and integrity of production, that felt and tasted a little more elevated than your standard well. (The three of them were also, perhaps, looking to capitalize on what looks to be the latest and greatest artisan alcohol trend to hit the Bay Area. But she didn’t say that). At any rate, they appear to have found what they were looking for: The first bottle of Tres Agaves was shipped just last January, but the company’s already racked up a trophy’s case worth of awards for its three varieties of tequila.
Much of this can be attributed to the Tres Agaves production process. The company gets its tequila from Orendain, who is the fifth generation of distillers in his family. He makes it the old-fashioned way — in small batches, from pure agave that’s matured and double-distilled in Jalisco for an average of nine years. By means of comparison, Jose Cuervo, the best-selling tequila on the market, contains only 51 percent agave, the lowest percentage allowed by law, and is aged for considerably less time than Tres Agaves.
And yes, this is tequila that could make you forget Cuervo ever existed — vegetal and mellow and absurdly drinkable on its own. (Tres Agaves also sells a proprietary agave nectar and margarita mix, and according to Harlock, it’s formulated specifically to be used in margaritas, but — though the reposado margarita she made me was delicious — cloaking tequila this good in sugar and lime seems like a terrible waste.) The blanco is astringent and sweetly lemony and the reposado woodier and a little spicier than what you might expect. But the añejo, y’all, is really where it’s at: aged eighteen months in Woodford Reserve bourbon barrels, it’s smoky and straw-colored and spicy and wonderful. This is a tequila that drinks like a scotch — more oaky than agave-y, much better suited for a Manhattan than a margarita. Not necessarily what you’d expect from your prototypical tequila, but authenticity can manifest itself in funny ways.