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However you feel about it, cristalino tequila is here to stay, are more and more brands are releasing expressions in this unofficial category. The latest release comes from Reserva de la Familia, the crown jewel of the Jose Cuervo brand empire—and we got an early taste.
Cristalino is not officially recognized as a category (yet) by the CRT (Consejo Regulador del Tequila), the organization that oversees tequila in Mexico. Still, this type of tequila is becoming more popular, particularly in Mexico. Cristalino refers to aged tequila that has been filtered to remove color while retaining the flavor it picks up during the time it has spent maturing in barrels. Sometimes additives are used to augment that flavor since the filtration process can strip that out as well. Some tequila fans are puzzled by the category and don’t see the point—if you’re looking for clear tequila, you have blanco; if you want to drink an añejo, why remove the color? But the brands making cristalino argue that consumers are looking for a clear spirit that has the richness and complexity of an aged spirit to sip in the summertime or use in a Margarita without affecting the color. Whatever the case, cristalino is here to stay.
According to the brand, 11th-generation Cuervo family member and CEO Juan Domingo Beckmann invented the cristalino category in 2009 when he created Maestro Dobel Diamante. On the other hand, some claim that Don Julio was really the first in the category when it released Don Julio 70, an “añejo claro.” The latter might be the first añejo cristalino as opposed to Diamante, which is a blend of ages, so technically classified as a reposado. We’ll leave it to those corporate giants to battle for bragging rights, but the fact is that the category has come a long way since then.
Reserva de la Familia Añejo Cristalino Organico is not the first cristalino to come from the greater Jose Cuervo brand family, but it marks the first in the Reserva lineup, and it is in fact the first Reserva añejo expression (the others are blanco, reposado, and extra añejo). The brand hosted a group of media at the distillery in the town of Tequila recently to try the new Cristalino, which is made at the facility where other Reserva expressions are produced (Cuervo operates a few different distilleries that employ various production methods depending on which brand is made there). Reserva de la Familia Cristalino is made from organically grown agave harvested at average age of seven years old. The tequila is then matured for a minimum of one year in virgin American oak barrels (no second-use barrels are used for Reserva), before being finished for about six months in Pedro Ximenez casks from Spain. According to the brand, those aging times may vary depending on flavor profile of an individual batch. Finally, the tequila undergoes a proprietary filtration process to remove the color.
On the nose, there are notes of cherry, raisin, grape, vanilla, and a faint whiff of agave. The palate opens with more vanilla, followed by banana, chocolate, raisin, dark berries, and a bit of lemon custard. There is little spice present, and the palate veers more towards the sweeter side with the agave notes being fairly muted. This seems like a tequila that is meant to broaden the category even further, pulling in casual tequila fans or those who think they don’t like this spirit based on past experiences, but who are willing to pay a premium for an elevated expression. This new cristalino is firmly ensconced in the ultra-premium camp with an SRP of $150, and the sleek black bottle design is very different from the core lineup, as is the liquid within. Reserva de la Familia Añejo Cristalino will be available to purchase from ReserveBar later this month, but for now you can find the rest of the lineup here.