Each bottle is hand-painted and no two are the same. As a result this is an expensive product: here in the UK you can expect to pay £46 for the blanco, £61 for the repo and at least £66 for the añejo. My friend gave it to me as much as anything because he’s convinced it’s the same size as my own skull—I have a notably small head and if I try on one of his hats I just disappear into it. It’s close but not quite (see illustration at the bottom). As he says, if nothing else it’ll make an unusual plant pot. But what about the contents? Are they worth the price tag?
Uncork it and there is a strong, pungent agave character. The palate is fruity and surprisingly smooth and sweet, with a herbal element carrying on from the nose and a petrolly aftertaste. There is a robust vegetable character that is muscular but not rough.
It makes a good margarita (tequila, lime juice and curaçao or syrup—agave nectar is fashionable) , bright, sharp and pungent, with that strong herbal note poking through to balance the drink.
To get a subtler idea of KAR’s character I line it up against some other tequilas: El Jimador, at the better end of the mass-market tequilas here and one that you’re likely to encounter in a supermarket, Olmeca Altos (see my post on it from 2013), Ocho (see here) and Tierra Noble.
As a spirit to sip neat, I would definitely choose Olmeca Altos of Ocho over KAR. But how do they compare in mixed drinks?
I line up four Margaritas, made with the same proportions but different tequilas: El Jimador, KAR, Olmeca Altos and Ocho. Initially I use two parts tequila to one part lime juice and one part Cointreau. At this point the El Jimador makes an unsatisfactory drink, because the tequila doesn’t really make its presence felt. The KAR, on the other hand is strikingly more prominent on the nose and tongue. Likewise the Olmeca is again noticeable, with a similar caramel note to KAR but with a fresh aromatic element. Ocho is playful, more elusive and subtle, with a hint of minerality.
As an experiment I increase the tequila to three parts (to one part each of lime juice and Cointreau). Even at this ratio the El Jimador gets a bit lost, but with KAR it immediately strikes me as a pretty perfect balance between the three ingredients, the sort of combination that makes sense of a cocktail recipe. With Olmeca, by comparison, something seems out, not gelling. It’s not unpleasant, but just takes a bit of getting used to. Ocho likewise seems to leer out a bit, stamping its own character on the drink, whereas KAR feels more that it merges easily with the lime and curaçao.
There is no doubt that KAR makes a damn fine Margarita. But is it worth the money? Not unless you have a desire to fill your house with gaily-painted ceramic skulls. As a sipping tequila, KAR is smooth and approachable but Olmeca Altos (about £30 for 70cl) and Ocho (£21 for 50cl) offer more dimensions.
Having said that, when my bottle of KAR is finished, I will still have a highly unusual plant pot.