Over four decades of tradition and knowledge go into CaliFino Tequila. Beginning back in 1975 with Don Jose Luna and finally coming into its modern iteration with his grandson, Miguel Luna, tasting through the CaliFino Tequila range gives insight into a recipe passed down for generations. We sat down with CaliFino’s Digital Marketing Manager Gilbert Reyes to discuss that recipe and the brand, which have crisscrossed the Mexico-United States border and are intricately linked with the change in the Tequila world from rugged shooter to premium sipper.
The modern story of the Tequila goes back to 2014, when Miguel played professional indoor soccer in San Diego. Before then, he would share his Tequila with his teammates, but then team owner Phil Salvagio stepped in and together they turned CaliFino into the global award-winning brand available today.
Gilbert took us through all four bottles in the line: Blanco, Reposado, Anejo, and Extra Anejo. Despite not truly hitting the market until 2018, it’s clear that these Tequilas are ones refined and perfected over generations.
Tasting through the entire range of CaliFino Tequila gives you a sense of the quality of the brand’s agave and the impression wood makes on the spirit. The results across the board are astounding, and it’s clear why the brand made such an impact on judges at the 2020 New York International Spirits Competition.
Unlike most Tequila companies, CaliFino specializes in aged Tequilas and it wasn’t until recently that they were finally convinced to bring a Blanco to market. But that’s where we started our tasting, at the roots of the agave-based spirits. And just to note, all of the brand’s Tequilas are crafted with 100% ultra-premium blue Weber agave.
As Gilbert explains, all of CaliFino’s agave grows for “six to eight” years, and once the agave for the Blanco is ready, “it’s cooked in a stone brick oven, we use a roller mill and stainless steel tanks.” That’s pretty much it outside of filtration.
The result is a vibrant and clean Tequila. It’s bright and crisp with desert floral notes and hints of citrus and vanilla. Bright and refreshing, the agave is never lost and there’s even a touch of sweetness.
For the Reposado, “We use a American Oak barrel and it is aged for a minimum of 12 months,” explains Reyes. In fact, if it’s left in there a day longer, it becomes an Anejo. It’s a “really good Tequila for your cocktails” says Reyes, and we’re more than inclined to agree.
The Reposado carries a natural, sunlit warmth. The American oak barrels impart notes of Vanilla and there’s a touch of spice that blends in. Nonetheless, it isn’t an overpowering spirit. It is about as well balanced as reposados come. It remains light and smooth while also delivering a creamy finish with splashes of honey and depth.
The CaliFino Anejo was one of just five Tequilas to receive a Double Gold medal at the New York International Spirits Competition. It also happens to be Gilbert’s favorite. It’s aged in American oak barrels for up to 36 months.
The Anejo is also our favorite. Unlike many anejos, you never lose the agave. Toasted almonds and vanilla are found on the palate along with notes of baked agave and even some chocolate. It’s a warm and full bodied offering that manages to still be bright. Reyes likes to enjoy his over a large spherical ice cube, when an “exothermic reaction” occurs as Tequila meets ice and even more flavors come through.
CaliFino Extra Anejo
At the top of CaliFino’s range is its Extra Anejo, which is aged for seven years in American Oak, and then finished for a year in a French Cognac barrel. It’s a Tequila that’s made for sipping.
Scents of toasted oak and sweet caramel mingle with notes of cacao. The palate finds more chocolate, oak, and vanilla. It’s a warm, full bodied expression that is perfect for late autumn nights on the porch after the sun goes down.