A lot has been made of the fact that Sean Combs owns 50% of DeLeón Tequila. Celebrity owners can both help and hurt a brand, or change its perception wildly in the public eye. In an increasingly crowded luxury tequila market, exposure helps, but the spirit itself truly must be good. From its expanded line relaunch in November 2014 to a visit with Master Distiller Miguel Cedeño Cruz and a full range tasting at NYC’s The Leadbelly, we’ve had plenty of opportunities to get hands-on with DeLeón Tequila’s products and the fact of the matter is that they are some of the best on the market.
Going back to the basics, two things directly impact the quality of tequila: source materials and process. DeLeón strives for quality in both categories. They hand-select certified 100% Blue Weber Agave from the Jalisco highlands (Los Altos)—something very important to maintaining the spirit’s integrity. From there, Cruz’s more than a quarter-century of experience in the industry takes full effect. The DeLeón craftspeople slow roast the agave in brick and clay ovens before an extensive slow fermentation process. They keep close to tradition here and its impact is felt in the tequila’s natural, easy sweetness. They round out the spirit with two distillations and a chill filtration; some gets bottled and some gets aged in either American Oak or French wine casks. When taking a tequila purchase into consideration, especially at this price point, all of these factors matter.
The DeLeón portfolio is divided into two sectors: Luxury and Ultra-Premium. The latter features their entry-level offering, Platinum, as well as a Reposado and an Añejo. The crystal-clear Platinum is subtle, with notes of citrus and light spice. The Reposado’s brief oak aging lends vanilla and cinnamon to the mix. The Añejo, aged for over a year, is more complex, with the sweetness feeling honeyed and the spice richer. As for the luxury options, Diamante blends choice tequila blanco with Cruz’ private Añejo reserves, and Leona—their most expensive iteration—is a masterful caramel, spice and fruit spirit, the product of resting in French Sauternes casks. However, the true standout is the Extra Añejo—the first cask strength tequila. It clocks in at 108 proof, but that potency is masked by at least three years in American White Oak barrels. From its amber color to its almond and raisin flavors, it delights in a way you might never expect from a tequila.
For tequila lovers, there’s a lot on offer here—and the higher-end products are worth delving into for tequila experts. DeLeón’s tequila reflects the understanding that in staying true to source materials and production, a good product will be the end result. That’s why their blanco is sound. The rest is the creativity and watchful eye of Cruz.
Explore the DeLeón Tequila range online, and it can be found in liquor stores nationwide with prices ranging from $60 to $850.
Images by David Graver