Hornitos Black Barrel Tequila is a new offering from the spirits maker, and one that’s billing itself as “whiskey-like.” That’s because the 18-month-aged 100% agave tequila undergoes a maturation process that utilizes heavily toasted oak barrels to impart the caramelized sugar notes — caramel, vanilla, smoke and spice — more typically seen in whiskey.
Hornitos Black Barrel is aged in three steps. 1) Fresh off the still, the tequila is put into American Oak barrels for 12 months. 2) The juice is then transferred into different, more deeply charred oak barrels for four months. 3) And lastly, it’s moved to yet another specially-toasted American Oak barrel for two additional months. All that adds up to an interesting anejo tequila with a serious oaky flavor profile.
On the nose you’re hit with an immediate rush of that oak. One that, yes, is whiskey-like. Sure you’ll find earthy agave undertones, but it’s the woody oak that dominates. Take a sip, and things get a little more familiar. The agave comes through more prominently and the flavors are reminiscent of other, more typical anejos. But the oak remains, with some vanilla and pepper notes not unlike those found in bourbon, plus a little kick of ginger. The finish moves very dry, with oak accents lingering until the end.
We’re not entirely convinced that crossover products like Hornitos Black Barrel are necessary. If you like tequila, great. If you’d rather drink whiskey, also great. We’ve yet to experience a desire for our tequila to taste more like whiskey or vice versa. But it’s easy to see how whiskey drinkers might be drawn to this, just as Islay scotch drinkers often appreciate a good, smoky mezcal.
Judging this one on its own merits, though, it’s pretty solid. The Black Barrel manages to achieve some balance between the agave and the oak, and while we’d prefer they dialed back the oak a bit, the resulting flavors are bold without being too overpowering. We still don’t see this as a true crossover, gateway-type product. But if you like anejos and you’re game to sample one with an extra hit of oak, this one does the job.
– 40% ABV
CE Rating: ★★★