The best way to test your knowledge and interest in spirits is to try them. Simple enough. But even for pros, putting together groups of 20 or more spirits from a category or sub-category can be time-consuming and a little overwhelming.
That's why participating in competitions as a judge can be so enlightening. So, after tasting 60+ tequilas, mezcals and tequila cordials at the recently concluded Polished Palate Spirits of Mexico competition, I'm a lot more up to date, on brands that aren't in full national distribution, new offerings from major distillers (like Jose Cuervo's new Jose Cuervo Platino limited edition), and brands once tried and liked and now revisited against a range of other brands.
The results of our judging (I was joined by my co-blogger Robert Plotkin, Beverages and More's Wilfred Wong, UK bar star and brand ambassador Charlotte Voisey, the Dallas Morning News' Louise Owens and Southern Wine & Spirits Tim Hirota) haven't been announced yet, but one of the highest scoring, and the winner of best of category in the new extra anejo category, was Don Julion 194, a creamy, lush and evolving extra aged tequila that actually delivers all those things aged tequila fans rave about - but more like an aged Central American rum than a Cognac, which is what fans frequently compare good old tequilas to. Other high scorers include Milagro Silver, Partida Silver and one of the organic tequilas from Four Copas. Full results later this week.