I’ve always respected the Casa Dragones brand. And I’ve been enjoying it since 2012. It was the first sipping tequila I had ever tried. To be quite candid, I was apprehensive about partaking in the first place—mainly because I had never been much of a tequila drinker, no thanks to a terrible mixto I was served all the way back in college. So I had stuck to whiskey instead.
But a good friend insisted that I try this new brand. She said that it was different. She said that it was a sipping tequila, worthy of a crystal vessel instead of a shot glass. She extolled the virtues of 100 percent blue weber agave tequila versus mixtos. She said it was one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Martha Stewart and Eric Ripert were also fans. Chefs paired it with their dishes. And apparently, its cofounder and CEO is Mexico’s first female Maestra Tequilera: Bertha Gonzáles Nieves.
I was sold.
So I tried the joven (the brand’s solitary expression at the time) and fell in love. It was smooth with zero burn. There was a silky viscosity to it. And most importantly, its flavor was delicious—fragrant and herbaceous. Plus, it had a fine silky finish that never seemed to end. In a sense, this was the tequila that opened me up to other quality tequilas.
Fast forward several years and the brand has gone on to make only two more expressions. It’s unlike many other tequila producers in that way. Since it launched in 2009, Casa Dragones has released only a total of three expressions: joven, blanco, and añejo—the last of which was just released several weeks ago. In comparison to other distilleries that tend to launch more than several bottlings in a year or less, Casa Dragones’ approach is almost ascetic. There are no limited-edition expressions, gimmicks, or over-the-top marketing ploys. And for good reason: The tequila wasn’t meant to be flagrantly commercial and production is kept relatively limited, which is the case with the new Casa Dragones Barrel Blend Añejo—released just a few weeks ago. And it’s superb.
Everything about the Barrel Blend was unexpected. I was perhaps anticipating something a little less “fresh” or something that could have easily been incohesive, because of the new French and American oak barrels. Instead, I got an extraordinarily slick tequila that was beyond smooth. It was agave-forward without being overwhelming. In my mind, it was all fresh-cut grass and ripe pineapple in tequila form—bursting of the tropics without being of it. Its slight viscosity on the palate (plus its never-ending finish) was simply joy-inducing—and took me back to blissful pre-pandemic days spent in Mexico.
So I decided to reach out to González Nieves to talk about all things Barrel Blend—and then some.
Bertha González Nieves on Casa Dragones Barrel Blend
Karla Alindahao: Why did Casa Dragones decide to create a barrel blend añejo before making a “regular” añejo? And how did the idea of aging in new French and American oak—then marrying the two—come about?
Bertha Gonzalez Nieves: Innovation is the foundation of our company. It’s what we like to do best—to explore the possibilities within the tequila category and work on innovating to deliver something truly different and special. It’s why we founded the company—and why we love to produce truly unique tequilas. We decided to create this specific barrel blend after working for two years with one of France’s most respected cooperages, who also works with some of the most well-known wineries in the world, such as Château Margaux. After two years of exploring the possibilities with wood, we decided to custom-make two styles of wood barrels: new French oak and new American oak, in which to age our tequila. The French oak barrels are crafted from 100% Quercus Sessile oak, which are sustainably sourced from five different forests in France. The new American oak barrels are sustainably sourced from forests in Missouri and Pennsylvania. After more than a year of aging, each barrel style is blended together to create what we believe is a truly unique añejo tequila. So all told, the journey of taste with our Barrel Blend has taken us over three years of research, development, and aging.
KA: With añejo needing to be aged for at least a year, how long exactly was the tequila aged in the French and American oak barrels? Were they aged further after marrying the two distillates?
BGN: Our tequila is aged for over a year in each style of barrel, then blended. Once blended, we do not age any more. The new French oak imparts roundness, respects the minerality of the soil, and imparts light notes such as licorice, clover, and light vanilla notes. The American oak imparts depth and aromatic intensity and spiced notes. We took our time to work with our master cooper to create a taste profile that showcases many of the subtle flavors and characteristics of the wood, without overpowering our tequila. Our formula, like all our formulas, are created from scratch, and are 100% proprietary.
KA: Can you tell me a little bit about how Casa Dragones is produced? The traditional way with a tahona or is the production process a tad more modern with autoclaves?
BGN: Since we started the company, our mission has been to be one of the tequila producers shaping the industry for the future through innovation and modern production. We produce in small batches of no more than 500 cases at a time, allowing us to deliver meticulous attention to detail in each batch. For each batch, we source pure, natural spring water in natural underground aquifers to harmonize with our tequila. We employ a modern, sustainable method of tequila production that is recognized by the Tequila Regulatory Council as the most sustainable method in the industry, using less water, less energy and producing less waste than any other method. Our juice is extracted through a gentle extraction process using steam and water—then cooked, fermented in closed tanks and distilled, to release the gentle, sweet notes of agave. We also recycle as much as possible to reduce our footprint even more. In fact, 50% of the used agave fibers are recycled to use as fuel for the boiler, or to be returned to the fields as fertilizer.
KA: Casa Dragones has always been hailed as one of the smoothest tequilas. And the barrel blend añejo is extra smooth—and it feels like there’s more to the smoothness than the aging process. Can the smoothness be attributed to something else in the way the tequila is made?
BGN: Every part of our process—from harvesting at the highest possible sugar content, to our sustainable modern production, and now to our custom crafted barrels—is designed to deliver uniquely smooth, exceptional-tasting sipping tequilas.
KA: For as long as Tequila Casa Dragones has been around, it’s been very conservative in terms of releasing new expressions. Can you talk a little bit about that approach—in an age when so many distilleries are releasing more than a handful of expressions a year?
BGN: We believe in the power of focus. It has given us the opportunity to explore, innovate, and craft exceptional tequilas one style at time. We are committed to expanding the tequila repertoire through innovation and modern production and delivering unique tasting sipping tequilas of the highest quality to surprise and enamor the tequila lover.
KA: Last one. Is there a reason behind the dark bottle?
BGN: We always set out to surprise and enamor the tequila lover. And this time, in particular, the aged spirits lover. We thought that a smoked gray bottle was something that would represent the wood and the liquid inside.