Everything I am comes from the desert. I spent a sizeable amount of time as a child wandering through the unmarked, cracked expanse of the mighty Mojave behind my dinky double-wide from the time I could walk; collecting wild dog bones, rattlesnake eggs, sweaty jars of rusted nuts and bolts. I caught scorpions and snakes, got nailed by both, and had my first kiss near the boiling runoff the local toads called home. I can name every bush that grew within two miles of the place I lived (jimson, juniper, and sage) and I still occasionally long for the inimitable smell of burning creosote. So while my ethnicity would seemingly dictate otherwise, tequila is in my blood—as a watermark of the place I never left, the home that I carry with me.
Tequila is my first love, and though I have since given a goodly part of my dirty black heart to whiskey, nothing will ever equal the emotional connection I have to the blessed blue agave and her sweet nectar. That sentence is ridiculous, but it’s completely true, and then some. Tequila is fully responsible for my love of fine (and not-so-fine) spirits, and nearly every amazing memory I have of liquor and liquor-related shenanigans is somehow related to tequila. My father, a man of fairly reliable temperament and often dubious taste, introduced me to his three great loves—Bob Dylan, fishing, and tequila—in chronologically ascending order, and like all dumbassed kids, I hated all three with varying degrees of vitriol at certain points in my life, simply because he loved them. And now, perhaps better late than never, I realize he was right (maybe more than he knows) about all three.
Down where I’m from, there was only one place to get any decent liquor, and that was Park Lane Liquor (on the corner of 20th St West and Avenue K—go there. It’s still amazing). Like most everyone I know, I certainly had my share of Cuervo and other shitty tequila, but everything changed when I found Park Lane. I’d walk in with however much money from my menial job burning a hole through my Levis, and I’d buy the best bottle of tequila I could afford, mostly because I could. I didn’t know a damn thing about any of it—I just picked random bottles off the shelf. It started with Cabo Wabo (great back in the day), Chinaco, and Corazon, and then it moved on to Tequila Romance, Los Azulejos, and Casa Noble. Pretty soon, every time I walked in, the guys behind the counter would always say “Tequila?”, whether I was there to buy tequila or not. (As an aside, this continues to this day, some ten years later. I bought so much tequila that they added a wall of extra tequila in anticipation of my arrival. True story.) I would then take whatever bottle I had home, and drink it with my family and friends. One of the great pleasures in my drinking life was those early days, gathered around a bubbling pot of refried beans in the kitchen with my Dad, brother, and assorted friends, having our collective face melted by whatever I happened to purchase that day. As the years passed, and I became more experienced, tequila and the pleasure it brought me was always there—at the funerals, at the wakes, at the bachelor party, and at the happiest day of my life, when I got married.
“What about the goddamned tequila review you promised,” I hear you say. Well, this is part of it. I don’t take tequila lightly, perhaps less so than anything I drink, and thusly I am more easily offended by bad tequila. Cheap bourbon? Hell, sign me up, and don’t forget the PBR to go with it. But bad tequila, at any price, is truly offensive to me. After drinking quite literally dozens and dozens of brands and bottles, some not available in the states, I can comfortably say that tequila is the most widely abused of all liquors, probably because it is so universally reviled in some circles; therefore, it’s easy to foist poorly made bug juice off on dumbassed American consumers who don’t know any better. Thankfully, like the beautiful deserts from which they originate, great tequila refuses to conform to the candy-assed wishes of the marketplace, and continue to be what they are despite it all. It pleases me to report that Sino Tequila continues this tradition, and maybe even sets a new standard.
I have read other reviews, some highlighting the fact that Sino is made by Latinas who donate $1 from the sale of every bottle to a Latino arts charity, written in the condescending tone that can only originate from the gilded maws of privileged urbanites who can’t seem to resist showing off their high school Spanglish skills in a desperate effort to appear culturally aware. Me, I think it’s nice that women own the company, and that they give back to their respective communities, but bad is still bad, no matter who makes it. Thankfully, Sino Tequila is great tequila, and one that deserves your attention.
First, the Sino Silver. The nose is spicy but tropical—I get definite notes of kiwi, grapefruit, and lime, but with the added fun of cloves and cinnamon. The entry is clean, but with a strong agave flavor. The finish is just a hair away from overly sweet, but still amazingly clean and nuanced. One of the best new silver tequilas I’ve had in years.
As good as the Silver is, the Reposado is even better. There’s a lot of brown sugar here, but with the spice that only new oak can bring. It’s a singular tequila, with some fairly deep complexity and interesting spice notes, and at a retail of $39.99, it dwarfs other tequilas at a similar price range already on the market. Sammy Hagar doesn’t need any more money, especially now that his tequila is about as flavorless as his shitty music, so I’d spend my money here first. Of all the tequilas I’ve tasted in the past year, this is the best, and non-profit stuff aside, it’s quality.
This summer, as we do every year, my family (both new and old) will gather around the backyard, fire up the grill, and watch the sun melt over the mountains in the one way that no other place on Earth can offer. There will be new songs, new stories, and maybe new tequila as well. This is what tradition starts as: the claiming of the new in connection with the old, back to before we had memories at all. This is the marrow, even in the birdlike bones of snakes.
Sino Silver Tequila: 89/100
Sino Reposado Tequila: 92/100
In Southern California, you can find Sino in the bars and retail shops listed here.