We interviewed Robert Tijerina and Casey Hartle with Titanium Tequila and tased their Blanco, Reposado, Anejo & Ultra Aged tequila while discussing the process involved in each expression. The talk starts at how the brand was formed and moves into cocktails and informative details on how their tequila is made.
Do you want to tell us a little bit about the brand and maybe how it started?
Robert Tijerina: My family has always been in aviation. My father worked at NASA for many years. I began my aviation company back in the early 90’s and my family, being from Mexico, felt like over the years it was somewhat of a loss of a premium quality, 100% agave tequila. And a customer of mine years ago in Mexico that I had sold some jets to, him and I were in discussions about tequilas and so forth so we both kind of came up with the idea to start this line of tequila. And then back in the mid 90’s I dabbled with another major brand back then but, yeah.
Casey Hartle: Sergio and Robert kind of sat down and put their heads together and thought that they could do it better and try their best to make the best tequila out there because so many of the 100% agaves have kind of, there’s so many choices now. It would mean something if it said 100% agave on the label. Nowadays, you’re getting some bottom-dwellers where the process isn’t the same, they aren’t abiding by the same quality, so their goal was kind of to raise the quality and put out a great product at a reasonable price for people to enjoy.
Can you talk a little bit about the process?
Casey Hartle: We have our own agave fields outside of Tepatitlån, the Highlands of Jalisco. We don’t usually make chemicals or pesticides on our agave. So it starts with the best ingredients. We try to kind of mix our modern technology with old fashioned standards. And our master distiller, he’s incredible with that. We do use a stainless steel autoclave to slow roast our agave. It’s a much more efficient process, it wastes less agave. It cooks evenly, there’s no bacteria that you get from some of the open ovens. One thing that we do do though is, you can flash roast with the autoclave. We still slow roast. We’ll take 20 to 30 hours to slow roast our agave, so it still has a nice robust flavor and really brings out the sugars before you firm it. Then we open air ferment our agave. And then after that we distill it twice in copper stills. After our double distillation, our aged – tequilas are all aged, in once used double charred bourbon barrels.
I’m very, very familiar with beer yeast. I know on your website it specifically says special strand of yeast is used. Can you talk about tequila yeast a little bit? We haven’t discussed much about that.
Casey Hartle: I can’t get into specifics about it. It’s a proprietary strand of yeast. The one thing a lot of people don’t understand is, any liquor, tequila, bourbon, vodka, anything. Your master distiller really is a chemist with a pallet, right? It’s chemistry. And the way that they can really control the outcome outside of the ingredients, and that’s a copper still, column still, those different things is through the yeast that you use to ferment. It’s a huge impact on what you’re doing. So our master distiller kind of worked with, and perfected the strain of yeast that we use for the fermenting process, which begins with our Blanco tequila and then again the aging process through the barrels really does make a difference as it goes. But that’s really where you have a lot of control in the initial part of making your product, whether it’s tequila or any other spirit is through that fermenting process.
Yeah. So you have the blanco, the reposado, the añejo, and ultra aged. Let’s just get right to it. So the blanco, can you tell me a little bit about it? How long it’s aged?
Casey Hartle: Sure. The Blanco’s 100% agave. Again it starts with the great ingredients, the strand of yeast, the open air fermenting process and then we let it mellow. You never age 100% agave blanco tequila, it’s unaged. But we do allow it to mellow up to two months. It does vary from batch to batch how long that time really needs to be. It depends on the atmosphere, how hot it is. You know, it just takes a little bit of time for it to mellow but we usually, I would say around two months of mellowing before we’ll bottle it. And the one thing with us, we are a highlands agave, which will tend to create a little bit more flavor profile on the front of your palate. So I always recommend people, whenever you try our tequila, is a lot of people will make that, for lack of a better term, that bitter beer face whenever they just shoot it back. Well, the one thing with a well made, 100% agave tequila, particularly from the highlands, you’re going to have a lighter, smoother tequila. Lowlands is good but it’s more of an earthy, mineral flavor to it. So this will kind of reach the front of your palate a little bit more. So whenever you sip it, I always suggest, give it, not like a mouthwash swish but a quick little swish in the front of your palate. And it actually opens up the flavor and you actually get more of the sweetness and then you have no harsh burn as it goes down. Ours is very, very smooth on the back and a very refined finish. Whenever you just shoot it, any 100% agave’s always going to have a hint of black pepper in it. And of course you’re doing it straight so you’re going to get alcohol. So if you just shoot it really quickly all you’re going to get is that full force of black pepper and alcohol instead of actually opening it up and letting it, and enjoy the flavor of it.
What about for a cocktail?
Casey Hartle: You can use it for cocktails. We try to keep our price point, we’re premium but we’re not overpriced. You’re looking at our retail price of around $32.99 for a Blanco. So it can be used in cocktails. I do feel that our Blanco is one that you can sip, you can put on the rocks and drink it neat. Not all Blancos are that way. Putting it on the rocks opens it up a little bit. You’ll really notice that with our aged tequilas, and I’ll get to that a little more when we get to that area but, it makes for a great mix because if you notice it’s a little warm because you’re getting the alcohol but then after that it doesn’t have that harsh, lingering burn that so many tequilas, Blanco tequilas in particular will have where it kind of sits on you. So whenever you put it in a cocktail, we have a great mixologist Jojo Martinez. She does wonderful work with all of our tequilas but it really enhances a cocktail because it gives you that nice, forward agave flavor. But that smooth, refined finish allows the cocktail to kind of blend and meld together because it’s not like that burn, lingering flavor. It will actually give you the full flavor you want of the agave but it will also accept the other flavors of the cocktail to make a great drink.
All right, let’s go to the Reposado.
Casey Hartle: All of our tequilas are aged in once-used double-charred bourbon barrels. So you notice it has enough of the barrel-aging. We age it eight months. By category law, Reposado has to be aged a minimum of two months and short of a year. So you only have so much of a window to age it. Ours is eight months. It’s enough to cut back on that black pepper that you get from all Blancos. It gives it a little more of a complex flavor but it’s not quite enough to get the full bourbon sweetness that you get from the bourbon barrels. It just kind of adds a little complexity. We can’t really do it here but from our Reposado to our Ultra Aged, very much like a bourbon or a scotch or any whiskey, dropping an ice cube in it will open it up and create even more flavor profiles.
Let’s go to the Añejo.
Casey Hartle: To me, the Añejo is where you actually get the most give back from the once-used bourbon barrel. When you get to the Ultra Aged, it’s aged so long that I feel like the Angel’s cut is already in the tequila. So you get more oak in it.
Brent: And the Angel’s cut is the evaporation?
Casey Hartle: Yeah. It’s what the barrel itself has absorbed. Because as it gets wet again it gives back to the tequila and that’s why we only use the once-used because then it really only happens one time as you fill it. And when you get to the point of this being a little over a year and a half, is the aging process, that’s where it’s really giving back the most so this one I get the most of that, kind of, sweetness, but it does have a nice agave finish to it, where the Ultra Aged will have more oak notes, pure oak notes.