Can a $500 Tequila Best One of the World's Finest Cognacs?
Patrón is not known for cheap tequila, and recently it set about firming up that reputation. The distillery is actually responsible for making the most expensive commercially available tequila in the world—yours for just a cool $7500.
So Patrón's second most expensive bottle seems like a steal in comparison – but with a retail price of $495, Gran Patrón Burdeos won’t make an appearance at your average Margarita happy hour. The luxury spirit is an añejo tequila matured in new American and French oak barrels for at least a year, then distilled a third time before aging in Bordeaux barrels for two to four months. According to its makers, the wine barrels impart a rich, fruity complexity to the spirit, which they say gives it more in common with a fine brandy than with other agave-based tequilas.
That got me thinking: with its exceptionally high price point and unique flavor profile, how would Burdeos actually compare with one of the best brandies money can buy? Hennessy X.O may only (only!) have a retail price of $200, but the first “extra old” Cognac blend ever sold is made up of eaux-de-vie aged for up to 30 years in French oak barrels. If any Cognac could hold up against the pricey tequila, it'd be this premium offering from the 250-year-old producer – now the largest in the world.
Here's what happened when I compared these products from two beverage trailblazers – a Mexican "patrón" and a French "patron" – in a high-proof showdown:
Hennessy X.O: The Cognac comes in a simple sliding black cardboard box – nothing much to show off on your home bar. But the product makes up for such a packaging shortcoming when poured into a glass: the liquid is a deep, burnt amber tinged with reddish hues that I could stare at all day…or at least for a few hours, until I'd cave in and simply have to drink it.
Gran Patrón Burdeos: Burdeos, on the other hand, comes in an incredible suede-lined wooden chest – carved from a single piece of black walnut – along with a special corkscrew and a crystal bee stopper. I can only hope to be buried in a box as beautiful as this one. But the tequila's paler golden hue leaves something to be desired – it's pretty, but not as rich and inviting as its competitor.
Hennessy X.O: More alcohol on the nose than I'd expected, which masks some of the more delicate, creamy notes from the oak. This is complex stuff, though, with a wave of dried fruit making way for floral and mixed spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and a hint of black pepper. You have to work through it a bit, but this Cognac goes deeper than a marriage counselor.
Gran Patrón Burdeos: In a delightful twist on brown spirits, the fresh, spicy, agave is still surprisingly strong and present in the aroma here. These citrusy notes mingle beautifully with the vanilla and caramel of the oak. I'm not getting a ton of Bordeaux, but I don't care: this is like nothing I've ever smelled before, undeniably intoxicating—and I haven't even sipped it yet.
WINNER: Gran Patrón Burdeos
Hennessy X.O: Perplexingly, the Cognac is as powerful and full-bodied as it is smooth. The balance of dark fruit, cocoa, tobacco, and gingerbread spice is perfection, and much easier to wrap one's head around than the nose would imply. I definitely get it now. And I want more of this gorgeous stuff.
Gran Patrón Burdeos: Certainly nowhere near as full-bodied, the tequila's lack of aging compared to the Cognac shows. But this invigorating spirit is still like no other añejo I’ve ever tried (I'm sensing a theme here): peppery spices waltz with vanilla and raisin flavors for a balanced beverage made more impressive when you consider the very different natures of agave and wood.
WINNER: Hennessy X.O.
Hennessy X.O: Offers a nice little burn on the end, and just a touch more bitterness than I'd hoped for. Same goes for the long (really long) finish, which I appreciate, but don't necessarily need. My tongue is tingling long after the last drop has made its way down my gullet.
Gran Patrón Burdeos: A really nice vegetal agave flavor lingers long after the sip is gone. But it's the interplay back and forth with the wood – wave upon wave of alternating agave and vanilla – that's absolutely tantalizing, and invites another sip. Does anyone know of a good bank I can rob to buy more of this stuff?
WINNER: Gran Patrón Burdeos
With a score of 3-2, Burdeos may have taken more categories, but to be honest, it would be silly to declare it qualitatively "better." If you're a traditionalist looking for a fantastic example of top notch Cognac, look no further than Hennesy X.O. Burdeos, however, has the edge here only for its sheer wow-factor as something entirely new.
I've officially just found my two new desert island bottles. Let's just hope I can still afford them as a castaway.