Like any middle child, reposados struggle to carve an identity out for themselves when they're flanked by one sibling that radiates youthfulness and another that shows the dignity that comes with age. Usually the world finds them pouty and uninteresting. Often, justifiably so.
For that reason in particular, I was tremendously excited and surprised when a few friends and I visited a tequila bar and tasted a repo that blew us away with how good it was. Finally! I thought: the reposado I've been looking for! In truth, that quest had taken more time than I'd wanted or expected. Most repos feel like I'm drinking a disappointing compromise—the 38th parallel or a divorce settlement in liquid form, if you will.
Fortaleza is what we might call a "luxury" brand given the price point, though the distillery is well known for its traditional production methods. I mean, it's an outfit that uses a donkey-drawn stone wheel and the whole shebang to harvest the agave. If you want to excite me, tell me how inefficient something is. I'm weird like that. As a result, I was eager to try something from Fortaleza that would prove their mettle, and boy howdy did their reposado deliver.
On paper, a reposado should be the best of both tequila worlds. It should have the character of an añejo without too much oak influence. It should have the terroir and agave-forward nature of a blanco, but not so much that you feel like you're drinking a plant (ask me about my thoughts on hoppy beer). It should spend enough time in oak to become buttery and vanilla-forward. The Fortaleza reposado, amazingly, succeeds on each one of these levels.
One of the things that amazed the hell out of all of us right out of the gate was how great this stuff smells. If you don't immediately get hit with a lot of fresh sage along with the agave, I don't know what's wrong with you. Cut off your nose and trade it in for a new one, I suppose. The Fortaleza is a little buttery in aroma, too, and—delightfully—that quality is there in the glass along with the sage when you go to taste it.
The Fortaleza repo is a luxurious tequila that rolls around on the mouth and burns off flavor like nobody's business. The big surprise is that even alongside the herbal elements, there's a very rich and well-balanced sweetness that brings to mind a bit of pear and pastry cream. It finishes long with pepper-heavy agave, but there's not any roughness to speak of at all. This bottle is flat-out amazing when it comes to balancing sweet with savory and it's dangerously drinkable.
And trust me: it's fully worth the price they're asking. Fifty bucks might seem to be a lot to spend on a tequila, but the quality here is easily comparable to what your tastebuds would expect from a single-malt scotch. In fact, I'd argue that you're probably getting more value for your money with this bottle than with most spirits.
If I haven't sold you yet, I'll end with this: within a week of tasting the Fortaleza repo, both my friend Adam and I had purchased a full bottle. It's one of those products that you absolutely have to keep on hand when the mood strikes you. Since discovering it, the mood has struck me quite a bit.