1. A backstory you can cheers to
Yes, Don Pilar is actual tequila, which means it must be made in Jalisco, Mexico in the lowlands and highlands surrounding the town of Tequila. Now that we have that out of the way, I want to highlight that Don Pilar (a.k.a. Jose Pilar Contreras) is a Bay Area entrepreneur and all-around Latino success story.
Born and raised in the Jaliscan highlands, where his tequila is distilled near the town of San Jose de Gracia, tequila was always in Contreras’ blood. He moved to California in the 1960s to work the state’s orchards and fields. Later, he opened the popular Tres Amigos in Half Moon Bay in the ‘80s with two business partners. The restaurant now has three locations.
Contreras also launched his own Amigos Grill in Portola Valley, where his whole family works and in 2002, he began work on his next venture: an anejo tequila. “Don Pilar” is so hands-on in every aspect of his businesses that it’s not uncommon to find him buying supplies and produce, working the kitchen, or even catch him supervising the agave fields in Mexico.
2. Anejo value
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better anejo at this price. At places like the Jug Shop or K&L, Don Pilar anejo can be priced below $35, a steal for an anejo this good.
As tequila’s aged, golden counterpart, anejos usually cost far more than a blanco or reposado. This double-distilled anejo has been aged in virgin American white oak barrels with a medium char. The taste is redolent of butterscotch, chocolate, toasted agave. With a full, round finish, it has bested other anejos that cost twice as much or more to win industry awards.
3. A brand new blanco
The company has recently added to the family with Don Pilar Blanco, a tequila that is bottled immediately after distillation. In honor of the tequila’s youth, its squat bottle sports a photo of a younger Don Pilar — the anejo bottle carries a more recent image.
But this is one younger sibling that refuses to be shown up by its elders. Clean and bright with pineapple and zest, it has a gently creamy finish. After a release party at the legendary Tommy’s (where of course you can sample both Don Pilar tequilas, in addition to restaurants like Tropisueno, Colibri, Maya, Seasons Bar at the Four Seasons, even El Farolito), it feels only right to celebrate tequilas that not only hold up in the saturated corner of the liquor world, but also have local roots.
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