Casa Noble’s Founder and seventh-generation Maestro Tequilero Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo sat down with Bonfort’s Jose Martinez to discuss the past, present, and future of tequila.
Mexico’s Casa Noble has enjoyed a rich and noble tradition since 1776, when the distillery first began making tequila. The brand itself launched in 1990 and quickly earned a reputation for being a high end, fine handcrafted tequila. Casa Noble’s Founder and seventh-generation Maestro Tequilero Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo sat down with Bonfort’s Jose Martinez to discuss the past, present and future of tequila.
Bonfort’s: Your family has spent generations ensuring tequila would be in your future, but it is what you always wanted to do?
Pepe: As a kid, I wanted to be a soccer player as all Mexican kids do, but as I matured that died down. My family has been in the business since the 1700s when my great-grandmother eight generations-past was married to the brother of Pedro Sanchez de Tagle, who is recognized as the first maker of tequila. After my father passed away, it was my quest to make something special that we could be proud of. I want to make my family proud and keeping tequila-making in the family is step one.
Bonfort’s: Casa Noble was one of the first organic tequila producers. You triple – distill in pot stills and you age in new French oak barrels. What else separates Casa Noble from other brands?
Pepe: Casa Noble started the single barrel category with the aging of our reposado and añejo. Making these very small batch unique expressions, for example, the extra añejo, which is aged five years yielded only 300 bottles, and once they are gone, that’s it. Our joven high-proof Casa Noble is also the first of its kind, distilled to proof and aged in our French Oak barrels for six weeks, giving it true aromas of blue agave with these wonderful barrel notes. One other thing we started, about 12 years, ago was squeezing the juices out of the agave instead of crushing it, this gives us a tequila with no bitterness.
Bonfort’s: How has the tequila industry changed since you first started paying attention to it?
Pepe: In the ‘90s people in the States were still learning what we were all about, and many had the idea that tequila was not something to enjoy, but instead was for shooting at celebrations. Now it’s amazing how people have learned what it really takes to make a good tequila. They appreciate tequila in great cocktails but also for sipping. Premium alcohol collectors are beginning to collect tequila, as they have been for many years with scotch and whiskey. I am happy to see that now tequila has gone back to its roots as a spirit to enjoy and savor. Tequila is now viewed as a premium artisanal spirit, one that rivals all other spirits around the world.
Bonfort’s: What defines a good tequila? What do you look for in a tequila and what should we look for?
Pepe: You can sip the tequila with pleasure and enjoy the various notes throughout. It is complex and rounded. Using 100% blue agave is key, and in our case, we have someone on our team dedicated to smelling and making sure the agave is harvested perfectly before it’s packaged to sell.
Bonfort’s: Explain sipping versus shooting tequila.
Pepe: Sipping tequila is when you drink it for leisure. You sip the tequila to enjoy and savor the aromas within. You typically sip out of taller glasses like the Riedel Tequila Glass, which we worked with George Riedel to develop. When you shoot tequila, you don’t get to experience all the flavors and notes that sipping offers.
Bonfort’s: How should one sip properly?
Pepe: It is an experience where you want to involve as many of your senses as possible. First: sight, to see the color, body, brightness; second, nose, you want to smell in different parts of the glass to appreciate the unique aromas of the tequila; third, touch, as you take your first tequila sip. Is it silky, velvety, does it cover your palate?; fourth, is flavor but more of confirmation of aromas through the retronasal cavity, where you can confirm the aromas. A good tequila should have many aromas, and it should be bright, have a nice body and you be enjoyable on the palate.
Bonfort’s: I’ve seen the attention to detail that goes into making Casa Noble. How proud are you and how important is it to you to make quality tequila?
Pepe: There is nothing more important, that is what Casa Noble is all about, our passion for making the best tequila. This is why we take so much time and give such importance to every single detail as we want to create something that we are proud of, that people who drink it can feel they are having a special experience. Also, it would be terrible for our family history to make a tequila that is not top quality. I would be letting down a lot of generations.
Bonfort’s: Talk about the opportunity people have to visit Casa Noble and stay on the property. What kind of experience are they in for?
Pepe: We have four villas that we offer to visitors who want a tour of the distillery and learn how we make our tequila. Each villa is themed and decorated by a local artist, one is Casa Noble of course, but there is another which is Mayahuel, the Goddess of Tequila, which is decorated with baby agaves. In the distillery, guests have a chance to make their own tequila and taste our tequila straight from the barrels, or direct out of the still to taste its pureness. We also have an on-site museum, which you can walk through before tasting the fruits that are on our farm used to make the tequila and our very own restaurant where guests can experience a tequila dinner pairing. The distillery is right outside the city of Tequila, under the volcano of Tequila where we get this amazing water streams that run through the property, it has beautiful vegetation such as 150-old mango trees. It is something to see, feel, experience.
Bonfort’s: What are your thoughts on the current state of tequila in craft cocktails. Do you have a favorite tequila cocktail?
Pepe: You can make some amazing cocktails with tequila, especially with Casa Noble. The interesting thing about Casa Noble and each of our expressions is that we have so many aromas that bartenders can take and showcase their abilities. Something as simple as a margarita with our Crystal (blanco) and with a bit of muddled Serrano chile is amazing – the citrus, minerality, smokiness of our Casa Noble Crystal just pops. Another, which is simple, is a Tequila Buck with our Casa Noble Reposado, the ginger beer together with the spices from our tequila, the citrus with that orange peel we have in Casa Noble, plus the vanilla and cooked agave with that bit of smoke is amazing. You can get much more complex using mole bitters or chocolate with our Añejo.
Bonfort’s: What do you have to say to consumers who shy away from tequila? Maybe they had a bad experience.
Pepe: Chances are they weren’t drinking 100% agave and they were drinking the inexpensive tequila probably not made very well. I’d tell them to try tequila that uses 100% agave and would have them sip the drink as opposed to shooting it. They would be able to tell the difference right away, not only with the aromas but also the lack of burn in the throat and stomach as the tequila goes down. Tequila can be like whiskey and scotch, enjoyed neat, if it’s done correctly. Premium tequila can also be used in craft cocktails— from fruity to dark, tequila cocktails can gear towards a consumer’s preference and with the right luxury tequila, the notes will bring out the flavors in the mix.
Bonfort’s: What do you hope someone’s experience is with Casa Noble?
Pepe: I hope they can feel the love we put in our tequila, how it ties to our history and tradition, but if they just enjoy it and have a great experience that would make me very happy.