Chinaco

(NOM 1127)

In the early 1970s, all tequila had to come from the state of Jalisco, but in 1973 Mexican government officials decided to expand tequila designation. They were intent on providing enough blue agave plants to meet future demands. They saw tequila as a unique product that brought in dollars and other foreign currencies.

One of the new areas, the northern state of Tamaulipas, was so designated in honor of the father of modern Mexican agrarian reform, Guillermo Gonzalez Diaz Lombardi. Representatives of one of the large distilleries in Tequila signed an agreement with the farmers of Tamaulipas promising to pay high prices for the agave. The farmers of Tamaulipas planted many hectares of blue agave, but after 8–10 years, when the agaves finally were ready for harvest, the major tequila producer backed out of the agreement.

The farmers had no buyer for their agaves. Guillermo Gonzalez refused to sell his agaves for less than promised. Rather than capitulate to what he felt was essentially blackmail, Gonzalez decided to build his own distillery and to make tequila using the agave plants of Tamaulipas. He picked a vacant cotton gin as a location. He bought some used distilling equipment and hired a tequilero reputed to have some experience, and a tiny distillery named La Gonzaleña was born.

La Gonzaleña’s tequila was called Chinaco, named after the legendary defenders of Mexico during the Guerra de Reforma (War of Reform) in the 1850s. Chinaco tequila was born out of struggle, and has fought ever since to survive as the only tequila produced in Tamaulipas.

Chinaco tequila was introduced to the United States in 1983 by Robert Denton and Company. Denton marketed the tequila like a fine cognac, and demanded the highest prices of any tequila on the market. The rich, elegant Chinaco Añejo lived up to the promises, and almost single handedly created the North American market for upscale tequila.

The distillery closed in the late 1980s, and the remaining supply of Chinaco was quickly exhausted. Happily, under the guidance of Gonzalez’s four sons, La Gonzaleña distillery was reborn, and Chinaco reappeared for sale in the United States in 1994. Currently Chinaco is available in three styles. The Blanco is bottled without any wood aging. The Reposado is aged in barrel for up to a year. The Añejo ages in oak barrels for up to four years.

The Chinaco house style is characterized by heavy, earthy agave aromas and flavors with solid fruit and floral hints. The tequilas are dry, not sweet, with a rich, full-bodied texture. The Añejo has a velvety, oily character. The oak aging regimen

contributes nice caramel and vanilla accents, but doesn’t overpower the bold agave. These bold, full-flavored tequilas are not designed for the timid.

Tasting Notes

Chinaco Blanco: The attack is full and mellow, with muy macho intensity and suave complexity. The aroma is complex with moderate amounts of white pepper, citrus, chamomile, and smoke layered with hints of caramel and loads of earthy agave. The mouth feel is medium and dry. The flavors follow the aroma. Spice, fruit, floral, and caramel add support to deep earthy agave flavors. The hot finish is medium to long, with little bitterness and moderate sweetness. The finishing flavor is pure agave with hints of smoke and cream soda.

Chinaco Reposado: This also is full and mellow on the attack. A pretty pale yellow color carries a macho intensity and suave complexity. The aromas have bits of everything dominated by agave and white pepper, built on layers of smoke and floral aromas, with touches of fruit and caramel. The mouth feel is medium and barely sweet. The flavors have moderate spice and caramel, hints of fruit, floral and oak, and loads of earthy agave—¡ay caramba! The aftertaste is moderate in both bitterness and sweetness. Alcohol is hot and stays hot. Duration of flavor is medium with smoky agave flavors.

Chinaco Añejo: The Añejo shares the same attack, intensity, and complexity as its predecessors, but has graduated to a yellow color. The aromas are intense, dominated by earthy agave with a strong presence of pepper, citrus, chamomile, caramel, smoke, and butterscotch. The tequila is oily, yet dry, an amazing accomplishment. Huge agave and caramel flavors are balanced by fruit, floral, oak, and butterscotch, with a bit of white pepper. The aftertaste is low on bitterness and moderate on sweetness. The alcohol level is hot. Duration of flavors is long with agave and caramel.