The world is scheduled to end December 21, 2012, according to some. If that’s the case, at least those sipping Reserva Leona, the newest expression of luxury brand DeLeon Tequila, will be going out with a bang. Leona, an añejo tequila aged in French Sauternes barrels, is scheduled to launch December 21st, and NY Drinks Examiner was lucky enough to sit down with DeLeon founder Brent Hocking for a sip of the exclusive new juice during New York’s Fashion Week.
Hocking—who blends and ages all of the DeLeon expressions at the tequila’s Guanajuato-based distillery—said he was sampling several barrels to bottle as the brand’s regular añejo product, and decided to leave about 30 barrels “and see what happens. We were lucky that we had gotten ahold of a lot of Sauternes barrels, which adds a sweetness and richness to the tequila.”
As the barrels continued to age, Hocking said the juice inside “went wild, then got amazing.” He opted to stop the process at 34 months, feeling like it was ready to bottle. “Until about four months ago, it didn’t taste anything like the finished product, then it just dropped into place.”
The finished product is indeed a thing of beauty, like the fashion models who surrounded us as we drank in the Thompson Hotel. On the nose, it is rich and deep, with strong notes of fresh ripe fruit, red peppercorn, raw leather and burnt sugar. On the mouth it is round and full, a velvet melange of bright acids, fresh tannins, and a sweet, nutty palate that doesn’t ignore the 100% agave notes it began with. The finish is extremely long, the sort of finish that comes back five minutes into the conversation to remind you of just how pleasant your adventure has been.
Though it is classified as an añejo, its depth and complexity would convince most aficionados it falls in the extra-añejo category, approaching the sort of leather-and-wood notes of a fine cognac or single malt whisky. Fans of Don Julio Real or Partida Elegante will find much to love with Leona.
Leona, named after one of the matriarchs of the family-owned distillery where DeLeon is crafted, is expected to be the first in a series of releases from those 30 reserved barrels. But Hocking is adamant he won’t release simply to have pricey top expressions. “If it gets too woody, or the flavor shifts dramatically, we’ll dump it. I want to keep this quality and level of excitement going.”
The bottle is priced at a very healthy $825, and Hocking said he wanted to ensure that buyers got a little something extra for their investment. Unlike other DeLeon expressions, where the storage box lifts vertically to remove the bottle, Leona rests in a book-fold black wooden box, nestled in red velvet. A special black riff on the brand’s ornate silver cap, and a python-skin flask seal the deal, blending luxury with the brand’s characteristic rock-n-roll edge. The world may be ending, but you shouldn’t have to suffer.
DeLeon Leona will launch in LA, New York and Las Vegas on December 21, 2012. A 750 ml bottle in a custom gift case will retail for between $800 and $900, 80 proof (40% ABV). Pre-sales are available at MelandRose.com and DrinkUpNY.com. For more information, visit thelastdrink.com
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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author’s own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author received no comps or samples with regard to this article, except for the dram with Hocking. Nevertheless, the author is prepared for the end of civilization as we know it, thanks to the lingering memory of that beautiful sip.