Artisans of the Agave

By Cuyler Gibbons

Artisanal liquors are popping up like grain all over America, with many claims such as handcrafting and multiple distillations being of dubious validity. Vodka distilled 159 times, anyone? Tequila, the ubiquitous party fuel, has seen its own renaissance, with its reputation as a ­fine sipping liquor restored and burnished by an influx of expertly crafted tequilas intended to be savored, not blended. So many, in fact, it can be difficult to choose.

Fortunately, one particular expertly crafted tequila makes the choice easy. Inspired by a “mission to reveal and rediscover a deeper appreciation for the beauty of Mexican traditions,” Clase Azul tequilas are made from 100 percent Tequilana Weber Blue Agave, cooked in brick ovens for 72 hours before processing. Produced in the town of Jesús María, Clase Azul tequilas display flavor pro­files unique to the high elevations of its origin. Equally unique are the bottles Clase Azul tequila comes in. Every bottle is a hand-painted work of art, created by artisans in the town of Santa Maria Canchesdá. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Clase Azul tequila goes to the Clase Azul Foundation, which supports “strategies that will improve the cultural development of artisans … with an aim toward stimulating and keeping the Mexican culture alive.”

Clase Azul tequila can be found throughout Pasadena where you might expect it (El Portal, Maestro, El Cholo), and some places where you might not (Arroyo Chop House, Edwin Mills, the Speakeasy). Just look for the distinctive, handpainted bottle over the bar. If you want the bottle for yourself (and you will), check out retailers BevMo and Mission Liquor.

The exclusive Clase Azul Ultra is only produced in numbered batches of 100 bottles. Each bottle contains tequila that is aged for five years in previously used sherry wood casks from Spain, which gives the liquor its smooth, refined character. The decanter is a striking work of art, hand-painted with platinum and featuring a silver agave medallion and label applied using 24-karat gold.

Clase Azul Añejo “Edición Indígena-Mazahua” is made from Tequilana Weber Blue Agave, aged over an extensive period to achieve its amber color and layered aroma. Its packaging symbolizes the union of authentic Mexican indigenous roots (represented by the unfired clay) and European glazing techniques.

Reposado translates as “rested” or “calm,” a nod to a key step in its manufacture; it is aged in reclaimed American oak barrels for eight months after it has gone through its unique distillation process. Each bottle is made with high-quality white ceramic and hand-painted by artisans in the bottling facility.

Clase Azul Plata is a fresh tasting blanco tequila produced from 100 percent organic Blue Weber agave, slow-cooked in traditional brick ovens for 72 hours and then distilled using a proprietary yeast developed by the company’s master distiller. Plata is not aged; the natural colors that come from the slow cooking are filtered out prior to bottling in a stunning crystal clear bottle with blue accent at its base.

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