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Drink | TASTING

Thirteen Tequilas: $8.99 to $89.99

April 01, 1998|CHARLES PERRY CHARLES PERRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

All tequila has a distinctive herbaceous, citrus-like fragrance--one reason why so many tequila-based drinks include lemon or lime juice. Premium tequilas made from 100% agave show a stronger version of this flavor, often with an attractive (but at first surprising) note reminiscent of bacon fat or country ham. The following notes on tequilas at various price levels will give an idea of how much variety can be found. (Prices are for 750-liter bottles unless otherwise stated.) For the record, our tasters liked Patron, Don Julio Silver and Porfidio best.

Sauza and Cuervo are the giants of the tequila industry. Herradura, more than 200 years old, has never made anything but 100% agave tequila and 20 years ago was the first 100% agave brand sold in this country. Patron and Porfidio are newer high-end brands with a taste for unusual bottle shapes (the Porfidio here comes in a hand-blown bottle with a representation of a cactus inside it). Don Julio, a 100% agave brand well known in Mexico now entering the American market, boasts that its agave plants are spaced farther apart for greater richness.

Sauza Blanco ($8.99). Simple citrus and herbal nose.

Sauza Conmemorativo ($21.99). Richer, more winey nose; smooth finish.

Sauza Hornitos ($15.99). More pronounced agave flavor, some bacon fat character.

Sauza Tres Generaciones ($37.99). Spicy, oaky nose; ripe, balanced and full with peppery bite; long, complex aftertaste.

Cuervo La Riojena ($10.99). Assertive, somewhat blunt agave nose, more herbaceous than citrus.

Cuervo 1800 ($10.99 for a half-bottle). Herbal and fruity, but with some oak and a smooth finish.

Cuervo Tradicional ($11.99/375 milliliters). Strong agave flavor, some bacon fat.

Herradura ($21.99). Intense, almost mineral-like agave flavor with distinct bacon-fat character.

Herradura Anejo ($37.99). Vegetal, peppery, herbal aroma; some oakiness; slight bitter bite.

Patron Anejo ($43.99). Light, fresh, elegant citrus bouquet with suggestion of spearmint.

Porfidio Anejo single barrel ($89.99). Mushroom quality; fruity with typical vegetal flavors; smooth and round.

Don Julio Silver ($40). Clean, concentrated citrus flavor with a sweet apple-like quality; mouth-filling.

Don Julio Anejo ($44). Concentrated citrus flavor, very oaky; very smooth finish.

Sauza and Cuervo available at all liquor stores and most supermarkets. Herradura, Patron, Porfidio and Don Julio available at high-end liquor stores such as Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa; Wally's, Westwood; the Wine House, West L.A.; and Chalet Gourmet, Hollywood. Suggested retail prices are given but may vary at different retailers.

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