When it comes to making spirits, there’s no denying that there’s varying quality. From cheap $5 a bottle wine to seven figures bottles of the finest whisky, the range at which alcohol exists is astounding. However, there are some kinds that transcend just being a bottle to share with friends and family; they’re a way of life.
Many cultures are associated with a specific spirit: Mediterranean people love their wine, Germans can never get enough beer, and the Russians know their vodka inside and out. But sometimes, it can go far beyond that, and become both a sacred symbol of what you are and your most prized commodity. For Mexicans, tequila is one of those cases.
Whether you like it with lime and salt, paired with some sangrita, or served neat, tequila is a special kind of spirit. It’s a protected industry, otherwise known as having a Geographical Indication (which denotes a product as coming from a certain area and that area only), meaning that only “real” tequila can be made in Mexico, just like how only Scotch Whisky can be made in Scotland. You can tell if your bottles are legit by a small seal on the bottle.
So, what goes into making tequila, anyway? According to distillers, it needs to meet three requirements: First, it needs to be distilled in very specific parts of Mexico, namely the states of Jalisco, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. Next, it needs to be made of mostly blue agave, meaning it has to be at least 51% to legally be considered tequila. Lastly, it needs to be approved by Mexico’s Tequila Regulatory Council.
There are plenty of different kinds of tequila, too, from Blanco used for many tequila-based cocktails, Jalisco tequila made from blue agave grown in volcanic soil (and said to be home of the birthplace of the drink, with a town of the same name) and many others. But today, we’re looking at Extra Anejo tequila, a fairly new classification which denotes any tequila aged longer than three years. This kind is described as having a complexity on par with cognac or whisky; a sipper’s tequila. Here, a list of some of the best Extra Anejos from south of the border:
QUI Rare Extra Anejo – $400 USD
With it’s deep amber color, QUI rare is aged in both Tennessee whisky and French Bordeaux barrels for 12 years. What this achieves is an incredibly smooth and elegant tequila, featuring fragrant scents of tobacco, caramel and vanilla, while tasting hints of sweat oak. With a smooth, buttery finish, this resembles less of a tequila, and more of a exceptional scotch whisky!
Clase Azul Ultra – $1,700 USD
As the name may suggest, this isn’t just extra anejo – it’s ultra anejo. Aged for five years in previously used sherry wood casks from Spain, Ultra Anejo has an amber color and silky texture. A whiff of this, and you’ll immediately sense the sherry wood, as well as some fruit and caramel. Taste wise, it’s rich, full-bodied and syrupy. Clase Azul, being the quality-obsessed brand that it is, produces the gorgeous bottles by hand and only in limited quantities, so it’s strongly suggested that if you see one, grab it!
Cincorro Extra Anejo – $1,800 USD
Aged for a little over three years, Cincorro Extra Anejo’s copper finish is slightly different from the pack. With a long, almost cognac-like finish and packaged in a uniquely-shaped bottle (designed in part by founding partner Michael Jordan), this tequila gives off hints of dry fruits, light coffee, and white chocolate. This is one of Jordan’s favorites, so you know this one has to be good.
Codigo 1530 Origen Extra Anejo – $300 USD
Compared to a bourbon more than to a tequila, this bottle is aged 6 years in Napa Cabernet French White Oak barrels. Holding the title as one of the oldest Extra Anejos on the market, Codigo considers this their crown jewel, and the pinnacle of their family recipe. With an alluring texture and fantastic complexity, it gives off aromas of spice, maple and sweet oak which work well the taste of dried fig and cinnamon.
La Adelita Extra Anejo – $140 USD
Spending four years in re-toasted American Oak whiskey barrels, this amber/gold tequila comes in a curvaceous bottle and is packed with some unique flavors. This silky sipping spirit offers scents of marzipan and apricot nectar with flavors of sweet milk chocolate and white-peppered orange blossom. A wild blend of emotions but memorable ones to be sure.
Herradura Extra Anejo – $350 USD
Holding the title of “Best Tequila in the World” at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in 2014, this tequila is aged for 49 months, imparting it with a rich, dark color. Incredibly smooth with a long and sweet but subtle aftertaste, Herradura implores you to drink it neat. If you want something else from this crew, keep an eye out for the 150th anniversary edition, aged for a whopping 100 months (or over 8 years, if you’re not a math person).
Don Ramon Limited Edition Extra Anejo – $400 USD
Aged for three years, this 100% pure agave tequila continues the trend of being more like cognac than wine. Pop open the top of this sexy bottle covered in 178 Swarovski Xilion Rose crystals, and you’ll smell berries, cherry and woody notes from the barrel. Take a sip, and it’s a smooth taste with a robust, peppery finish. There’s only 5,000 bottles of this available, and it released just last week, so get yours while you can.
Source: Forbes Mexico