Review: Jose Cuervo Cinge Cinnamon Flavored Tequila

Jose Cuervo Cinge Cinnamon Flavored Tequila
Jose Cuervo Cinge Cinnamon Flavored Tequila

With declining sales and a lack of enthusiasm over new flavored vodka products, it seems like flavored vodka’s time in the sun is over. Flavored vodka’s decline doesn’t represent the broader flavored spirits market, which seems to be making a shift towards flavored whiskeys. Flavored whiskey products like Fireball Cinnamon,  Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, and Crown Royal Maple have netted impressive growth and have helped attract vodka drinkers to the broader whiskey category. Tequila hasn’t seen this same kind of traction, and while Patron’s XO line of tequila-based coffee and chocolate liqueurs and Tequila Avion’s Espresso Liqueur have managed to find an audience, other attempts at flavoring tequila have failed miserably.  At the same time, the tequila market has experienced a shift of its own. Tequila drinkers have been gravitating away from low priced tequila blends, a.k.a. mixto tequila which are made from 51% agave and 49% “other” (often sugar cane). This has posed a serious challenge for Jose Cuervo whose Especial line, a mixto tequila, was once the dominant entry in the tequila market but now faces serious competition from an ever-growing array of 100% agave tequila.

In an act of both survival and opportunity, Jose Cuervo has released Cinge, a cinnamon-flavored tequila using their existing mixo Jose Cuervo Especial base. Cinnamon flavor has been one of the major drivers in the flavored whiskey space with Sazerac’s Fireball driving massive volumes, and so it’s no surprise to see Jose Cuervo try to catch that lightning in a bottle with their initial flavored tequila release. Unlike vodka, which is neutral, tequila has an existing flavor spectrum that needs to either be mirrored or complemented. Many tequilas have some sort of pepper spice, so cinnamon often complements it well. Cinnamon is also a natural flavor note often found in aged tequila (reposado or anejo) which comes from tequila’s time in an oak barrel.

Jose Cuervo Cinge Cinnamon Flavored Tequila (35% ABV / 70 proof, $20) – as with many recent flavored vodkas, Cuervo has decided to go the low proof route with Cinge. Many of the lower proof vodkas dropped their proof to lower calories (less alcohol = less calories) as well as make their products easier to consume as a shot. Lowering the proof also lowers the cost as it means more water in the bottle. Jose Cuervo Cinge does smell strongly of ground cinnamon right from the start. Behind the ground cinnamon is a thick, cooked agave note, a lot like commercial agave syrup. There’s also a slight black pepper as well as a sharp rum-like spirit note. The initial blast of cinnamon is nice, but what’s behind it isn’t.

The entry for Jose Cuervo Cinge is unpleasant with the ground cinnamon from the nose crashing roughly on the palate. It’s almost like trying consume a spoonful of cheap supermarket ground cinnamon. The cinnamon note here is also a dirty, slightly earthy ground cinnamon that tastes like it’s mixed with white pepper and ground sage. The flavor experience is chokingly bad. In the midpalate Cinge tries to counter balance the spice with thick agave and sugar but there’s not enough sweet, which could possibly balance the train wreck entry. The finish is long and defined more by a red hots flavor than ground cinnamon, with a dash of heat from the underlining spirit. Jose Cuervo Cinge isn’t as bad in the finish as it is with the entry, leading us to believe that Jose Cuervo has designed Cinge almost exclusively as a shooter.

For flavored tequila to really take off, the category needs a landmark entry like Fireball or Tennessee Honey. Cinge could have been that spirit, but unfortunately, Jose Cuervo Cinge is so poorly constructed and ill-conceived that not only isn’t it the landmark entry for the flavored tequila category, it may just be the death knell for it.

  • Maria Inoa

    Thanks for this review, saved me some money! I never buy Cuervo tequila but was intrigued by the spiced flavors. I’m always looking for spicy spirits and finding its best to just infuse your own.

  • Naomi B.

    You are so wrong on this, it isn’t even funny. I had this partnered with Rum Chata and it was FANTASTIC! Normally, I don’t purchase these types of tequila and never use JQ unless I am doing margaritas for a group and don’t want to go with my top shelf stuff. I will be making an exception on this one. This wouldn’t be one that I would do shots of, but who would EVER do shots of JQ unless it is simply to get drunk????

    • drinkspirits

      Naomi, yes, the issues of Cinge may be mitigated by throwing it into a very thick and sweet cream liqueur. Once could say that Rum Chata could make many things seem better.

      Jose Cuervo Cinge is designed to compete in the very lucrative cinnamon flavored spirit space, which is very much “shot based”. You’ll even see these bottles in chill shot machines in some bars and nightclubs. If Cinnamon is your thing, I’d recommend you checking out the new Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire: it’s a FAR superior product and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it even more (even on its own and not dumped into Rum Chata)

      • Naomi B.

        Yeah, but who would ever consider JQ a shot product unless someone was a 20 something who doesn’t know the difference, doesn’t have the $$$’s for the higher end stuff or an alcoholic looking for a cheap buzz? I am not a whiskey girl, but as a tequila girl, this would work for me AS A MIXER. Then again, at $20 a bottle, you get what you are paying for. I am a purist. If I am doing a tequila shot, I want it to be blanco, reposado or an anejo. Otherwise, there is just something fake and commercialized about it. But, in reality, isn’t that JQ, in general? I guess my comment would be to identify the source and what the capabilities are.

        • Naomi, Jose Quervo because of its price has classically been one of the major shot brands, and they brought Cinge out to compete against Fireball. But for $20 a bottle you can get some good tequila including Pueblo Viejo which is legions beyond this in quality. The tequila market has changed a lot over the years and this release shows JQ’s effort to change with it, unfortunately it’s a pretty solid flop. Tequila Peligrino’s cinnamon is much better than this one, but I still prefer a cinnamon flavored whiskey, the flavors work a lot better than with tequila.

  • Patty

    I love this stuff! Just smelling it makes me giddy ;-). I love making cinnamon appletinis with it. So what if it’s supposed to be vodka.

  • Cormagh

    This is really good on ice. This author needs to ‘chill’.

    • appprove

    • We’d never argue with someone about what they enjoy, but we can very much professionally evaluate a spirit and tell you if it’s well made or not. Trust me, we “chill” plenty, this is just a poorly made product.

  • craig shell

    Just bought a bottle and I love it……but it is $34 in Canada…:(

    • Not sure if you’ll get Jim Beam Kentucky Fire, but if so, it’s lightyears beyond Cringe.

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  • xgreydovex

    I’ve yet to try the other cinnamon tequilas, but this one is pretty good. Granted, I came upon it before I started investing/experimenting in better 100% agave tequilas, so my opinion may change if I try it again. It’s been a of couple months but I really enjoyed it as a shot. I remember it going down easily and tasting like sweet cinnamon with a punch of agave. I might have to try out the Tequila Peligrino you mentioned in another comment. I’m not a huge whiskey fan unless it’s in a whiskey sour, so I think I’ll pass on those suggestions.

  • Paul King

    Why so critical? It’s cinnamon flavored low proof tequila for Pete’s sake. I have had all the trendy cinnamon flavored drinks, and to be quite honest, I prefer this. It doesn’t have that over the top gooey sugary thing going on that Fireball has. Fireball blasted onto the scene with the name, marketing and packaging, and it appeals to the adolescent young adult crowd. From there it just propagated upward to the 40 somethings and now it’s available in every pub in the country. If you care at all about the quality of what you are drinking, I would say the Jose Cuervo offering is a step up the ladder a rung or two.

  • TJ

    Took shots of this last night chased with diet mtn dew. Tasted like apple pie. It was great! Not a big fan of whomever wrote this article.

    • Expand your horizons my friend. There are many more options out there that are much better. See if you can find the Tijuana Sweet Heat, a far superior product.

  • Chris W. Luczak

    LOVE THIS TEQUILA! Make sure to use an orange slice with it! really smooth finish…my favorite tequila!

  • Chris W. Luczak

    the only other options, like I did when I was stationed in Germany, we put REAL Ceylon cinnamon on orange slices and did Patron’ Anejo shots!

  • Vicki Gildea

    I so disagree. I drink cinge all the time and I don’t do shots. I pour it neat and sip it. Everyone I have shared it with loves it!

  • Tamera Patton

    Too bad you discontinued Cinge. My party group loved it! Bring it back, please!!!