Let’s talk tequila. Even casual drinkers of the agave-based spirit should be aware of its basic categories: blanco — or silver — is unaged white liquor, straight from the still; reposado rests in the barrel between two months and one year before bottling; and añejo meets oak for one to three years. While these classifications have been recognized for decades, the recent explosion in craft tequila has led to some slight modifications. It wasn’t until 2006, for example, that Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council officially qualified “extra añejo” as a certified distinction for anything aging more than three years. And what do we make of the diamante category?
In 2008, Maestro Dobel introduced its Diamante onto the market. It was the first aged tequila with a clear appearance — most have a familiar caramel hue. Today, there are several brands offering a so-called diamond-level tequila, and they’d all like to see the category officially recognized. But let’s examine the original diamante to better understand what makes it unique.
Blending reposado, añejo, and extra añejo into a single spirit, Dobel’s flagship tequila utilizes a special filtration process to remove the color. The flavor and aroma is left fully intact, however, as Diamante hints at a complexity rarely detected in its un-aged counterparts. This is the nuanced interplay between oak and agave, wood and soil. It ought to be discernible, as a portion of that liquid has spent up to five years in the barrel — a rare claim for a bottle priced at $45 per 750 milliliters.
I found it to be a superior sipping spirit, enjoyed neat — though that hasn’t stopped several high-end bar programs across the city from exploring its mixing potential. At Nobu, for example, the staff has combined the spirit with pear liqueur and cactus purée in a prickly-pear margarita. There’s a solid backbone to the cocktail that a blanco would fail to deliver.
Beyond the aesthetics, the makers of Dobel, including the eleventh-generation owner of Jose Cuervo, will have you believe their proprietary filtration imparts a certain crispness as the color is removed. It’s difficult to disprove, as you’re unable to sample Diamante prior to that process. But to me, the spirit’s true significance stems from the artful blend of different aged tequilas, arriving to the bottle in sensible harmony.
Dobel does offer a standard blanco, which packs more of a peppery spice and would be better equipped for a paloma or a margarita. The brand’s standard reposado and añejo products are also easily distinguishable thanks to more pronounced caramel notes in the finish.
But Diamante truly occupies its own space. Whether or not it’ll succeed in establishing its own official category remains to be seen. What is clear, aside from the spirit itself, is that Diamante is expanding the boundaries of the world’s fastest-growing spirit.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 2, 2015