Tequila Time with 3 New Anejos
Article by Virginia Miller
Recently, I received no less than three new Añejo or Extra Añejos imports from Mexico. “Añejo” means aged in Spanish and this tequila category is essentially the clear spirit one starts with as a blanco tequila, but aged a minimum of one year (and less than three years) in oak barrels. Extra Añejo is a newer category that means the tequila was aged a minimum of three years or more.
I’ve tasted some notable Añejos in my day, but by and large when it comes to tequila (a category — and region — I love), I am most drawn towards Reposado or Blanco tequilas because it is all about letting that agave shine. In whisk(e)y, oak is such a critical factor in the character and flavor profile. While I enjoy some of the woody notes of Añejos, my favorite Añejos still taste most strongly of the agave plant, which is what sets tequila apart from whisk(e)y, rum, brandy and other spirits. Agave is the heart and soul of tequila and to not be able to taste the freshness of the plant, for me, is what ruins it. Young tequila lets the vibrant, green notes shine, although there are exceptions on every front.
That out of the way, here are my notes on these three new releases, one of them an Añejo and two of them Extra Añejos, that are just hitting the shelves.
Espolon Añejo Tequila ($35)
Espolon Blanco and Reposado Tequilas have long been one of the strong value-for-taste tequilas (plus they sport that cool, Day of the Dead, skeleton artwork), working well in margaritas and other tequila cocktails. For the first time, Espolon is releasing an Añejo. Master Distiller Cirilo Oropeza ages the Añejo in American oak for 10 months, then finishes it in heavily charred Wild Turkey bourbon barrels for another 2-3 months. Vanilla and bright agave hit hard on the nose while the taste is heavy on vanilla, spices and caramel without obliterating the agave. For the value, it is a strong cocktail tequila.
Dulce Vida Organic Extra Añejo Tequila ($169)
Actually certified organic, Dulce Vida Tequila, produced in Mexico from an Austin, TX-based company, just released their 5 year anniversary tequila: an extra anejo aged 5 years in Napa Valley red wine barrels (the first tequila aged in red wine barrels). It smells and tastes the most like a whiskey of the three, if that is what you are after. There are tannins from the red wine barrels and dominant whiskey characteristics of caramel, cedar and leather with a bit of dried fruit sweetness. This one is most ideal as a sipping tequila of the three. It is a limited edition release so once the bottles are gone, they are gone.
Suerte’s Extra Añejo Tequila ($110)
Released in October at less than 1000 bottles, Suerte’s Extra Añejo Tequila was aged five years. Produced in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico, it is 100% tahona processed, which means the slow-roasted agave is crushed by a two-ton, volcanic rock wheel (a tahona), an old world practice still found often in mezcal but rare in tequila. There are silky, vanilla, spiced — even apple — notes to the Extra Anejo, but there is also the strongest agave plant taste and liveliness of three, meaning the oak is present but thankfully does not dominate.