IWSC 2024 Spirits Judging: Judges’ deliberations on Agave Spirits

Spirit news

Fri 17 May 2024

By Mila Gorchakova

Agave is one of the most exciting categories at the IWSC Spirits Judging. The growing global trend for agave spirits is reflected by the incredible diversity of entries that we have been seeing in recent years. This year, our judges were tasked with tasting nearly 200 agave spirits from Mexico and beyond.

“Last year the quality of entries was really good, but this year it has been exceptional,” shared Deano Moncrieffe, the IWSC Spirits Judging Committee member who oversaw the judging. “It's been a really competitive year – probably the most competitive that I've seen. We had some outstanding entries from Mexico – but it was also interesting to taste the non-Mexican Agave spirits. That was one flight that sparked a lot of debate and was very positively received.”

The judges were pleased to see the stylistic divergence within Tequila, with many different aspects of agave expressed in the glass. 

The flights of 100% Agave Tequila Blanco put on a stellar performance, showing the “evolution of the category towards more diversity,” noted the judges. The panels praised “some fantastically herbal, vegetal expressions, and others showing the savoury side of agave” adding that tasting these tequilas was like “taking an orbit around planet agave and seeing its many fun aspects”.

Many medals were awarded with one gold outstanding medal given to a standout 100% Agave Tequila Blanco which showed a “mix of earthy and tropical character with citrus on the nose, plus some smokiness”.

Another panel shared that the Reposados were a real highlight from the tequilas, with one of the top entries, 100% Agave Tequila Reposado, earning a strong gold. The judges praised it as a “great expression of aged tequila” with “not too powerful characteristic from the ageing process, such as cinnamon and vanilla.”

Overall, the judges praised the careful use of oak in the majority of the aged agave spirits, with many medals awarded to reposados, both 100% agave and blended. One of the best performing blended tequilas in the reposado category impressed our judges with its spicy character and expressive agave aromas, as well as “gentle vanilla on the palate, an oaky finish and a good balance. A well-made easy drinking reposado with some character!”.

“I found the Reposado category very interesting – there are so many different styles, whether it's a little bit more smoky, or whether there is a bit more of wood flavour coming through, or maybe it's more caramel type flavours. Today, all the different characteristics that you find in a reposado were on show – and this was very exciting,” shared our Head Judge Deano Moncrieffe.

The flights of 100% Agave Tequila Anejo showed consistent quality with one of the gold-winning spirits admired by our judges for its "grass and wood aromas with light chocolate and orange on the palate followed by a nicely sweet finish". The real standout flight, however, was the Extra Anejo one, with no entries left unawarded and one particularly impressive Tequila Agave Extra Anejo awarded with a gold outstanding: “Stone fruit and red apples, glorious aromas, epic balance of alcohol and sweetness where it's woven throughout and carries flavour through to the long finish.”

Moving on to the Mezcal flights, our judges found this year’s entries exceptional, praising their clarity and precision. The trend towards the more fresh green, herbal profiles of Mezcal was apparent with less dominance of the smoky styles from previous years - lovely to see so much more diversity coming through,” noted the judges.

The flight of single varietal Mezcal Artesanal Joven wowed our judges with one of the panels exclaiming: “So much distinctive deliciousness here! Very expressive category in general, and these mezcals showed distinctive raw material character. Smoke, where present, was generally well judged and subtle, allowing the base material to shine as it deserves to. Also, the mezcals were very carefully distilled, with some textural character but generally not too much harshness or oiliness. Very impressive flight!”

Mezcal Artesanal entries earned many well-deserved gold medals, along with 4 coveted gold outstanding awards. The judges applauded one of the gold outstanding winners for its “smoky nose, with lapsang tea and tropical fruit aromas, along with iodine and peat smoke” and its “dry palate with a touch of sweetness and a pleasant limey zing finish”.

Overall, it was a very exciting day of judging with many interesting discoveries from "planet agave". The medal results will be announced on 3 June.