Interest in handcrafted tequilas has been nothing short of phenomenal and propelled the category to grow a robust 10 percent, the steepest increase of the light liquors, outpacing the growth of vodka (6.7 percent) and rum (5.1 percent). Considering that tequila constitutes only about 6 percent of the American spirits market, there is tremendous opportunity for continued growth.
Like Champagne and cognac, tequila has its own appellation, Denominacion de Origen, which delineates growing regions and specifies ingredient content. The production of tequila is strictly regulated by the CRT(Consejo Regulador del Tequila), whose symbol appears on every label of tequila.
The agency has created the new designation of Extra Añejo, which signifies that a 100% agave tequila has been aged for three-years or more. For generations these ultra-luxurious spirits were reserved for the private use of the maestro tequilero, but now any commoner with a few extra dollars in their pocket can afford what many consider the epitome of the craft.
The roster of these senior class añejos reads like a who’s who of the spirit world and offers proof that evolution is a grand thing.
• 4 Copas — Made at La Quemada Distillery in the lowlands of Jalisco, 4 Copas Extra Añejo is double-distilled using certified organic agaves and matured for a minimum of 54 months in American white oak.
• Don Julio 1942 — The limited edition extra añejo is crafted at La Primavera distillery under the supervision of legendary tequilero, Don Julio Gonzalez Estrada. The highly acclaimed marque commemorates the 60th anniversary of Don Julio’s first distillery.
• El Tesoro Paradiso — Handmade in the highlands of Jalisco, this double-barreled extra añejo is a luxurious blend of tequilas aged no less than 5 years and finished in French oak casks previously used by A. de Fussigny Cognac.
• Gran Centenario Leyenda Extra — Leyenda Extra is a blend of añejos aged four years in French Limousin oak. To enhance the depth and complexity of Leyenda’s blend, the maestro tequilero adds rare reserve añejos selected from Hacienda Los Camachines 150-year old cellars.
• Gran Patrón Burdeos — Debuting at around $500, ultra-sophisticated Burdeos is made from a blend of añejo tequilas aged in American and French oak, which are then transferred to ex-Bordeaux barrels and racked for a year or more in the cellars of the Patrón hacienda.
• Herradura Selección Suprema — Introduced in 1995, Selección Suprema is handcrafted from estate-grown agaves and aged 49-months in select white oak barrels. Production is limited to 2000 bottles a year, which partially accounts for the $250 price tag.
• Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia — This limited edition añejo is a blend of reserve tequilas matured 3 years in new charred French and American oak barrels. Underscoring its artisan nature, Reserva de la Familia is bottled, numbered and sealed by hand.
• Milagro Select Barrel Reserve — Made in the town of Tepatitlán, this award-winner extra añejo is triple-distilled exclusively from estate-grown agaves and aged no less than three-years in new French oak barrels.
• Partida Elegante — Among the first to bear the extra añejo designation on its label, Elegante is handmade at the Partida family estate in Amatitan and distilled entirely from estate-grown agaves and matured in American oak for 36 to 40 months.
• Cabo Uno Añejo Reserva — Limited in production to only 1,800 cases a year, Cabo Uno is an extra añejo aged 38 months in both French and American oak barrels. Rocker Sammy Hagar created the popular range of 100% agave tequilas.
Sipping any one of these spectacular añejos reinforces why so many people are enamored with tequila. We should all have futures as bright. —Robert Plotkin
Robert Plotkin is a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and has recently authored his 16th book, Secrets Revealed of America’s Greatest Cocktails.