Ever surprise why so many celebrities, together with these whose information of Mexico doesn’t transcend a two-week keep in Cancun, launch their very own tequila manufacturers versus, say, whiskey? Effectively, perhaps they actually love tequila. Possibly they really feel, for no matter motive, that as a result of they’ve had a success film or bought out an area tour, their genius extends to agave spirits as nicely. What doesn’t typically get talked about is that after three years of barrel getting older, some extent at which Scotch whisky is simply starting its getting older journey and the overwhelming majority of bourbons nonetheless aren’t of their prime, you possibly can have 5 very completely different and 100% mature expressions of tequila able to bottle — which makes these tequila-happy celebs seem to be fairly savvy traders, even when they don’t know their agave from their elbow.
Right here’s the place you’ll study all about these 5 classes — 4 of which didn’t exist till comparatively just lately, and one in every of which continues to be so new that it’s not but formally acknowledged. Tequila’s been round because the sixteenth century, give or take, and for nearly that complete time it’s been consumed un-aged, within the kind we all know at present as silver or blanco tequila (extra on that later). In keeping with some historians, aged tequila dates way back to 1800, however whether or not the barrels had been used to impart colour and taste or merely for storage and transport, we don’t know. In some unspecified time in the future, probably within the twentieth century, barrel-aged tequila grew to become a factor, but it surely wasn’t formally acknowledged as such till 1964, when the primary legal guidelines distinguishing añejo (aged) and blanco (unaged) tequila had been established. Later within the decade, the legal guidelines had been additional codified and reposado (rested) grew to become the most recent tequila class.
Beginning within the ‘90s and accelerating on the flip of the millennium, tequila remodeled itself from a budget stuff pounded with salt and limes at frat events to a revered sipping spirit, the best examples of which may stand proudly alongside one of the best whiskies and Cognacs. Hifalutin connoisseurs didn’t simply need aged tequila, they wished further-aged tequila, subscribing to the parable prevalent amongst whisky drinkers that older equals higher. Enter the further añejo class. Most just lately, within the 2010s, cristalino grew to become, unofficially, tequila class quantity 5. (In the meantime, if you wish to learn about mixto tequilas, which aren’t 100% Blue Weber agave, extra data right here.)
How did we get from there to right here? Let’s stroll by the 5 important types of tequila — and, whereas we’re at it, the historical past of Mexico’s most well-known import.
For many of its lengthy historical past, if you mentioned “tequila,” you had been speaking about an unaged spirit, also referred to as blanco. When made badly, it may be harsh and astringent and altogether disagreeable. However a superb blanco could be a elegant expertise — the earthy, vegetal notes of the agave actually stand out, as do the mineral notes from the soil during which it was grown. Blancos could be aged in oak for as much as two months, however for essentially the most half they’re bottled with out touching a barrel. With out the oak’s affect to cowl up or clean out any disagreeable flavors, it’s one of the best ways to guage the standard of a distillery.
For individuals who assume terroir solely exists in wine, the best blanco will persuade them in any other case. Blancos had been seen primarily as mixers as añejos after which further añejos grew to become the hip technique to drink tequila, however now the pendulum is swinging in the other way. After all, you should utilize a blanco to combine up a imply Margarita or Paloma — Olmeca Altos and Tapatio are two strong, moderately priced choices. However extra tequila drinkers are sipping blancos, particularly higher-priced bottlings like Patron Silver or Tequila Ocho. It’s the closest you’ll get to the agave fields of Jalisco and not using a airplane.
Outlined as a tequila aged between two months and one yr, reposado has been an official tequila class since 1968. Repos can are likely to get misplaced within the shuffle between the pristine purity of blancos and the extra rounded, oak-influenced añejos. However for a lot of, reposado is a Goldilocks tequila, the equal of a VSOP Cognac. The barrel’s affect is there to melt and mellow the extra intense agave flavors whereas including vanilla and caramel to the combo, but it surely doesn’t utterly overwhelm the agave, as is the case with many añejos. Reposados are additionally versatile, scrumptious as sippers or mixers. Mijenta and El Tesoro’s repos are as tasty as one of the best añejos relating to sipping, whereas Don Julio and Fortaleza’s bottlings make sensible cocktails (in all honesty, all 4 are terrific for no matter you wish to do with them).
Añejo was initially used to outline a tequila that had been aged in oak for any size of time, however as soon as reposado grew to become acknowledged as its personal class, añejo was redefined as a tequila that was aged for one yr or longer. These days, its specs have been additional refined to between one and three years of getting older. Sometimes housed in American ex-bourbon barrels, French oak or each, añejos are a good way to indicate tequila off to whiskey snobs — the vanilla, caramel and tannic notes imparted by the wooden give it a extra acquainted roadmap of taste. They’re meant — and priced — to be sipped, particularly the higher-end manufacturers like Clase Azul or Casa Noble. However hey, it’s your cash, and a superb añejo could make a terrific tequila Previous Original. Simply saying.
Again within the ‘90s, getting older tequila for greater than three years was virtually exceptional. However as manufacturers like Patron and Chinaco helped spearhead tequila’s evolution from bottom-shelf social gathering booze to fancy-schmancy sipping spirit, the individuals who drank it ignored the character of the spirit and the recent Mexican local weather that accelerates barrel getting older. Fact be instructed, tequila doesn’t want to be aged very lengthy. However lovers determined that older should imply higher, and plenty of distilleries adopted their prospects’ lead. In 2006, further añejo — tequila aged longer than three years — grew to become an formally acknowledged class. The end result was a variety of tequilas that don’t actually style like tequila as a result of the oak’s affect overwhelms the agave. However one of the best examples, comparable to these from Fuenteseca or San Matias Rey Sol, miraculously steadiness the oak and agave, creating magnificent and sophisticated sippers (further añejos are meant to be sipped neat).
This isn’t an official class, no less than not but. However there are a variety of cristalinos on the market and it’s change into a preferred — and controversial — model of tequila, so what the heck, we’re going to incorporate it. Each Don Julio and Maestro Dobel take credit score for the primary cristalino expression within the early 2010s — again then it was generally known as “joven” (younger) or “añejo claro” (clear añejo). There aren’t any guidelines written in stone to outline a cristalino, but it surely’s typically acknowledged as an aged tequila (two months and up) that’s been filtered to take away the colour — and, within the cut price, a lot of the taste as nicely. What’s left is a flippantly candy, very clean melange of vanilla, coconut, almond and generally mild citrus notes. It’s nice, however is it tequila? Not in line with some. One distiller, who requested for anonymity, instructed us it was “the best rip-off ever perpetrated on the trade [epithets edited out].” For the curious or the enamored, listed below are a couple of we’ve favored. Sip them neat or on the rocks, combine them in a highball or just say, “No thanks, I’ll have an actual tequila.”
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