It's 4:32 in the afternoon and I have a box of booze and nowhere to be. A box filled with two giant bottles of Familia Camarena tequila, a brand that I am not familiar with. Lord knows I do love me some tequila, but testing out strange booze can be a risky endeavor. And strange tequila is perhaps the most frightening of them all.
When tequila is good, it is very, veeery good. But bad tequila -- with the bizarre facial contortions, esophageal burning, gagging, watery eyes, more gagging, and the inevitable headache that follows you into the next day -- well, it's downright awful. (shudder) Just writing that sentence made me nauseous. And the suggested retail price for each of the 750 ml bottles? Only $20. Pretty cheap. Oh crap, I'm in trouble.
The box arrived from Arandas, Mexico, located in the Los Altos region of Jalisco, widely regarded as the "Napa Valley" of tequila production. Apparently Familia Camarena has been in business for more than 80 years, but just achieved national distribution in the United States last month. The press materials include a statement from Mauricio Camarena, head of the company and sixth generation family member that reads, "Tequila making is in my family's blood. It is not a job or a hobby, but a way of life." That's lovely and all, but I'm still not convinced, and the idea of drinking tequila alone in my apartment seems sadder than an old country ballad so I pack up the box, grab a six-pack of Modelo Especial, and head over to a friend's house. After a few beers we decide it's time to unleash the beast.
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We pour a small amount of the Silver into champagne flutes (very similar to tequila tasting glasses) and swirl it about to see what flavor nuances emerge in the nose. The silver has a particularly harsh aroma, yet goes down as smooth as silk, with faint notes of vanilla and no trace of an after-burn. The Reposado is more robust than its pale color would indicate, with surprisingly strong overtones of oak despite having been aged in barrels for only two months. Our distinguished tasting panel of two is in unanimous agreement that this was indeed very, veeery good stuff. The fact that it costs less than half of what the most popular high-end tequilas are charging -- even tastier.
What's more, Familia Camarena is currently promoting the new brand around the country with a tequila-infused taco truck, partnering with respected local chefs in Los Angeles, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and New York. This week and next they're in Houston, featuring a gourmet menu by Chef Ruben Ortega of Hugo's. The schedule for next week is not yet finalized at this time, but those wishing to experience tequila-laden deliciousness can check the Camarena Truck's Facebook and Twitter pages for updates.