In the spirits world, innovation is everything, but it constantly exists on the boundaries between “amazing discovery” and “irritating gimmickry.” Usually, a brand name winds up falling into one camp or the other. It’s rarely that you see both at the same time. However you do in Calirosa Tequila.
Calirosa is a novel new tequila brand that, to their credit, is checking out some ground I have not seen trodden before by aging their spirit in California red wine barrels instead of secondhand American bourbon barrels. Suffice to say, this is going to lead to a considerably various product for reposado, anejo or extra anejo variations in particular, which will be drawing a comparable however substantially various suite of tastes from wood that formerly included white wine (and most likely got a really various toasting) rather than the charred oak of American whiskey/bourbon. The “blanco,” on the other hand, would in theory be exactly like other blanco, or unaged tequilas, other than for the truth that Calirosa gives it a very short aging of just 1 month in the wine barrels. Taking one look at the bottle, it’s rather clear why they have actually done this– regardless of any flavor contribution, the completely pastel/coral pink color of the bottle begs for Instagram ad in the period of rosé red wine meme-ification. You can simply think of some investor’s eyes illuminating at the idea.
And then you take a look at the label on every bottle of Calirosa Tequila, and the smile is replaced by a baffled frown. Why is the word “tequila” cut off? Why is the “80 evidence” text at the bottom half obscured too on this little label? Existed an issue down at the bottling plant? Is the whole lineup about to be remembered?
No, as it turns out– the half-legible labels were rather obviously a design choice. I contact the brand name rep just to make certain, and they said the following: “The brand name intentionally cut off the label due to the fact that it was a style element that they believed would stimulate discussion.”
Suffice to say, I believe the people who made that choice were right, as long as they consider people stating “What the hell happened to these labels?” a valuable conversation to be occurring about the brand name. Personally, I believe Calirosa is missing a huge chance to play up its white wine barrel aging on its label– the actual thing that makes it unique– and instead utilizing “confusion” as a marketing tactic. But what do I know; I’m not a graphic designer. I’m a spirits author! So let’s get to tasting, and judge this stuff on the merits of what’s in the bottle instead of what’s on the label.
The “Rosa Blanco” name is a good discuss this beautifully hued bottle, which as previously mentioned was aged for a quick 1 month in California red wine barrels. I question just how much character this will actually have the ability to add to the finished item, besides the color, but the other specs are actually self-confidence builders in the quality of the product. Before its unconventional aging, Calirosa’s tequila is rather traditionally produced, from agave baked in brick ovens, before fermentation in stainless steel and two rounds of distillation in copper pot stills. It’s bottled at the legal minimum of 40% ABV (80 proof), which is little surprise given the kind of flirty, female-centric marketing this will likely receive in the U.S. Still, it’s great to see a generally produced tequila under the hood.
On the nose, the Rosa Blanco at first checks out as fairly rich (for a blanco) and spicy– I’m getting lots of broken pepper, fresh agave, salt and mineral notes. In time, sweeter aspects of orange zest and vanilla become more apparent, eventually recommending orange soda. One may believe they’re also getting faint notes of strawberry jam, but it’s difficult to say whether the red fruit impressions are merely something you anticipate to find in an item this color. Regardless, the contribution from the barrel appears relatively minimal, but the tequila itself has plenty of character.
On the palate, this is rather peppery and spicy, which happens to be something I like, though it may not be rather what the designated customer would be anticipating. Things do turn fruity, though, with orange marmalade and strawberry jam notes, which segue into a surface that reins in the sweet taste, turning fairly dry and slightly bitter, almost pithy. It’s a bit hotter too in the ethanol department than you ‘d expect for the low proof, and I was feeling the Rosa Blanco more in my chest than one expects with a merely 80 proof spirit. Nonetheless, the novelty of the color and pleasant fruit/spice profile is enough to make me enjoy this one for what it is, and you understand it will stick out on a rack.
Unlike the short break in oak experienced by the Rosa Blanco, the Anejo entry from Calirosa (they didn’t trouble with a reposado, though they do have an additional anejo) has actually been in those ex-wine barrels for quite a while, at 18 months. And one can clearly see that from the bottle as well, as the exposure has turned this tequila to an unique shade of auburn, almost ochre. Suffice to say, the base tequila makes certain to have been transformed in a lot more extensive method as an outcome. Let’s see.
On the nose, this is rather unique, basically unlike any tequila nose I’ve smelled in recent memory. It’s extremely sweet, extremely decadent and confectionery in profile– I’m getting great deals of cake batter aroma, together with buttercream frosting, vanilla and some berry notes. The vanilla is quite heavy, though there’s also toasty aspects that are likely originated from the red wine barrels as well. It’s an almost unnerving amount of “baked goods” vibes on the nose for me.
On the taste buds, I’m getting caramel and chocolate-covered orange segments, together with more of those toasted vibes– nearly like toasted marshmallows. It’s quite sweet once again here, with great deals of vanilla and a more nebulous sugariness. Search for them, and you will discover the more predicted fruit notes of strawberry and currant, however they play a secondary role behind all of the sweet taste and confectionery notes.
All in all, I believe this is an actually fascinating experiment, however the quality tequila here has actually truly been surpassed and specified by the barrel. For some customers who prefer anejo tequila, that may be just what they’re looking for. Personally, I wouldn’t have minded a more delicate touch here.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident alcohol geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.