Review: Herradura Blanco 46 (1996)
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Context: The first time I tasted a Herradura Blanco 46 I had no idea what to expect. I picked up the bottle because there was a shelf full of them at a decent price. Plus, the iconic red cap/blue horseshoe was frequently flexed across plenty of tequila pages. It was a 2005 Sazerac import, so I shrugged and thought, "Well, at least it was before the Brown-Forman acquisition." At that point, I knew you wanted to avoid diffuser tequila, that it produced inferior distillate and often needed to be doctored with glycerin and flavoring to cover up the shortcuts and immature agave. But I didn't actually know what diffuser tequila tasted like. I also wasn't totally clear on when Herradura did or didn't employ a diffuser. Plus, my context for really good traditional blanco was fairly limited (still figuring all that out; hence the unicorn series - Part 1, Part 2).
Well, I opened it, drank it, and didn't know exactly what to make of it. As I worked through the bottle, it was more expressive and heavier on the palate than most of the tequila I'd tried at that point. In a margarita, the 46 kept things spirit forward and improved (filled out) the mouthfeel. I certainly didn't hate it, but I also didn't know how to tell if it was actually good. It wasn't until later, most notably after Calle 23 Criollo and early lote El Tesoro olive oil bottles, that I realized the 2005 was missing a lot of the clarity and complexity that can be so impressive in unaged tequila. Getting a better context for quality also started to expose some of the flaws and off notes.
Ever since that bottle, I've wanted to try the real deal, for sure non-diffuser Herradura Blanco 46 (2001 or earlier) to see how it compared to the 2005 and to hopefully improve my understanding of diffuser profiles vs blancos done right. Thanks to Machelle, I finally get that chance here.
Herradura Blanco 46 - NOM 1119 (1996) - 46%
Nose: Raw bell peppers. Lawnmowers and gas cans. Baked nuttiness. There’s a lot going on, but it also has some trouble making up its mind. Definitely into it.
Flavor: Floral and fruity on the palate. Grassy too. Vegetal. Light powdered sugar. Finish is super floral - magnolia blossom tea.
Palate Structure: Slow swell. It registers higher and brighter as it opens across the palate. Then it contracts again, blasting a few waves in the finish. After the slow start, everything is more angular and moves more quickly. Structure plays more erratic.
Alcohol Integration: The finish is a little lopsided, but there’s good clarity along the way.
Score: 7 (Highly Recommended) The 2005 didn't bring nearly as many notes as the 1996. Complexity and clarity were nowhere in the same league. Structure is totally different too. Here things move quickly. The 2005 was sluggish and flabby. Some of the nuttiness and industrial (gasoline) notes suggest a similar DNA, but the comparisons stop there.
Compared to contemporary high proof blancos like Fortaleza Still Strength and Tapatio 110, the Herradura isn't as earthy, viscous, or full bodied. Instead, it's brighter and more refreshing. Reminding me of Calle 23 Criollo (which I absolutely loved). I'd give the edge on structure there to the Calle. But I only had two ounces of the Herradura 46 to work through (1 oz tastings on two separate occasions). This is one I'd love to experience over the course of a full bottle. Definitely room for that score to go up with more tasting.
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10 - Reevaluate The Budget
9 - Stash Two (If Able)
8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)
7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers
6 - Solid - Above Average
5 - Acceptable For The Situation
4 - Not Vocally Complaining
3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else
2 - Nothing Nice To Say
1 - Drain Pour