Some among us would consider tequila essential this year more than ever as we live through our “Life with Covid-19” reality show. At first, the Mexican government wasn’t among them, shutting down tequila production as a nonessential industry.
Fortunately, Enrique Alfaro, the Governor of Jalisco—where the majority of tequila brands are distilled countermanded that ruling, declaring that tequila fábricas are indeed essential industries. He argued the harvesting and processing of Blue Weber agaves has a direct link with Mexico’s agricultural industry, which, in fact, had been declared essential by the government. And thus, the double distillation of this geographically protected spirit has been allowed to continue.
And that’s a good thing, because recently we have been enjoying some of the best tequilas ever poured on this side of the Rio Grande. So whether for mixing or sipping, here are our nine top choices for lifting a glass and shouting “Salud!” in a toast to better days ahead.
This is a tequila of many parts—five to be exact—as it is made from Blue Weber agaves harvested from all five of Mexico’s legally-protected designation of origin (DOT) states Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Fittingly, Penta means “five” in Greek. In addition, the 14-month-old añejo has been aged in a combination of new and seasoned Hungarian, French and American oak barrels, which produces a rich and creamy tequila with multiple layers of vanilla, molasses, roasted brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg, with an undercurrent of vegetal sweetness from a preponderance of agaves from the Jalisco Highlands.
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El Tequileño Reposado Rare
Although this under-the-radar tequila has been around for more than 60 years, the newest expression of this family-owned distillery may bring it into the spotlight, as it is one of the most unique tequilas in its category. Think of it as an extra-aged reposado, but with much more depth. First, the tequila is aged for up to six years—easily qualifying it as an extra añejo—in a huge American oak barrel known as a pipon, which can hold well over 20,000 liters of liquid. However, since Mexican law states that extra añejo can only be aged in barrels of 600 liters or less, second-generation master distiller Antonio Salles decided to call this newest creation Reposado Rare, with notes of honey and vanilla in the bouquet and with marzipan, sweet agave, and oak on the palate.
Casa Dragones Barrel Blend Añejo
Fans of this brand’s crystal clear Joven and Blanco—which include not only tequila connoisseurs but mixologists and celebrity chefs—have a new reason to rejoice. Skipping over the reposado category entirely, Casa Dragones co-founder & CEO Bertha González Nieves (the first woman to be accredited as a Maestra tequila) has introduced a unique añejo that has been aged in two distinct barrel types: new French Oak sourced from five different forests and new American Oak from Missouri and Pennsylvania. After being separately aged for more than a year in each of the two types of barrels, the French and American oak-aged tequilas are blended together in small batches. With its deep, woodsy, and silky herbaceousness, this is tequila worthy of the finest snifter
“Casa Dragones has another winner,” says multiple Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller. “It is beautiful, and the body and color are extraordinary.”
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Riazul Extra Añejo
You can practically feel the elegance emanating from this handsomely bottled four-year-old amber tequila, which has spent its first three years maturing in American ex-bourbon barrels before receiving a robust final year in Oloroso Sherry casks. The result is a thick blanket of marzipan, molasses, and honey linked with a thread of sweetness from the estate-grown Highland agaves that have been harvested to make this elixir. Appropriately, each bottle is hand-numbered and presented in a wooden gift box.
Jose Cuervo Tradicional Añejo
You might not think of mixing Irish whiskey in with your glass of añejo, but Jose Cuervo’s Master Distiller, Alex Coronado, was intrigued by the similarities in textures between his double-distilled tequilas and certain triple distilled Irish whiskeys. So he began experimenting with a number of different Bushmills’ whiskey casks before selecting second and third filled casks to add complex spice notes and mellow smoothness to Jose Cuervo’s añejo, which was then finished for up to four months in Bushmills’ single malt whiskey barrels.
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