11.28.12

One Percent Shots! Testing Leona, DeLeon’s $825 Bottle of Tequila

What’s the next food product that will spread from cheap, mass-produced commodity to a high-end luxury good? Tequila! Daniel Gross has a sip of Leona, a new $825-a-bottle offering.

You are not the kind of writer you usually sips tequila at 10:30 in the morning. But sometimes, you make an exception. Especially when the booze on offer is an $825 bottle of tequila.

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Americans have generally associated tequila with the mass-produced stuff that gets peddled to college kids to bolt down after a lick of salt and before sucking on a lime.

On Wednesday, Brent Hocking, founder and president of DeLeon, a Los Angeles-based tequila company, came by The Daily Beast office with one of his latest offerings, Leona. Watch us taste-test the stuff in the accompanying video.

In recent years, artisanal craftsmen and craftswomen have schooled Americans in the finer things. Connoisseurship has spread from wine and olive oil to chocolate, cheeses, pickles, hams, cupcakes. And in the process, these goods have evolved from cheap, mass-produced commodities to high-end luxury goods.

Tequila may seem an unlikely candidate for conclusion in the list. Sure, there was that plot in the latter seasons of Entourage when Turtle got involved with the makers of a high-end tequila, Avion, which goes for about $50 a bottle. But Americans have generally associated tequila with the mass-produced stuff that gets peddled to college kids to bolt down after a lick of salt and before sucking on a lime.

And yet here you are, looking at a glass of amber liquid that is worth its weight in a precious metal.

Hocking, a veteran of the wine industry, launched the DeLeon line in 2009 with the notion of bringing tequila upmarket—way upmarket. He’d like people to remove the agave-derived liquor from the frat-party/spring-break bucket and put it into the silver-plated cognac bucket. “It is a wine-lover’s spirit,” he said. “People who drink red wine typically drink red wine and tequila.”

And so, yes, you realize, you can get pretentious and snooty about tequila. DeLeon is produced in Purisima del Rincon, in Guanajato, where it ages in wooden wine barrels imported from France. The $825 bottle of Leona tequila comes in a lovely wooden box, along with a python-skin flask. This year, DeLeon produced 10,000 bottles of Leona, which formally goes on sale on Dec. 21, 2012, the day the Mayans said the earth would end. (Hocking dubbed it “The Last Drink.” Given its price tag—Hocking expects that bars may be pouring Leona at $90 a shot—it could be the last drink you’ll be able to afford.)

You know that beverages whose price tags are measured in three figures are meant to be swilled, sniffed, and savored, not shot down. And when you take a sip, it reveals itself to be smooth and warm, with a slight caramel aftertaste. But as Hocking notes, if you’re shelling out for the good stuff, “you can enjoy it any way you like.”