Anyone who is a dedicated whiskey drinker or a self-proclaimed whiskey snob likely orders their favorite brown drink every time they go out. And that’s fine, if you’re OK with missing out on a wealth of other spirits that you’ll probably love. Aged tequila is one of them.
Most of the barrels that once housed bourbon are sold to Scotland for scotch or to Mexico for tequila. After aging in whiskey barrels, tequila becomes more complex while retaining all of its raw charm, which gives even the most intricately flavored whiskeys a run for their money. Here, we’ve compiled seven different aged tequilas that whiskey drinkers will adore. After trying them, you might change up your usual order.
This is not the first time that we’ve sung this tequila’s praises, and it won’t be the last. Made by Sophie Decobecq—a French biochemist who immigrated to Mexico to produce her own spirits—Calle 23 is one of the most interesting agave spirits on the market. Creamy on the palate, it has notes of horchata, cinnamon, Mexican vanilla, raw cacao and panacotta. This is the kind of tequila you’ll want to use in an Old Fashioned or sip over ice with a flamed orange twist.
Another longtime favorite of ours, Corralejo’s reposado tequila is aged for four months in three different types of oak casks: American, French and white. As savory as some rye or wheated whiskeys, this tequila has a bright pepperiness and hints of fresh herbs, sea salt, roasted bell peppers and pan seared wild mushrooms. As it opens up, it reveals its sweeter side, yielding flavors of vanilla, candied nuts, toffee and fudge. It will please many whiskey drinker’s purist sensibilities: It is an insult to drink it any other way than neat.
In our humble opinion, this tequila from the Don Julio portfolio is the crown jewel of their line. Distilled from 100 percent blue Weber agave piñas, which are steamed for 72 hours before being crushed, the raw tequila is aged for up to eight months in white oak barrels. While the citrusy notes and raw pepperiness still remain, the spirit becomes almost caramelized in flavor from its time in wood. There are notes of caramel popcorn, vanilla, salt water taffy, cedar, crème brûlée and flan. While it’s perfectly OK to sip this spirit straight, we prefer to pair it with seltzer in a Mexican take on the Japanese Highball.
Just like its name implies, this limited-edition tequila from Corazón is aged in ex-bourbon casks from the Buffalo Trace distillery. Rested for 10 months in the barrels, the spirit inherits the characteristics of a bourbon whiskey and maintains its raw agave flavors. It has that rich vanilla sweetness and touch of char that bourbon drinkers will love (especially fans of Buffalo Trace) and notes of white pepper and roasted green chilies. This is a tequila to savor and drink only on special occasions.
Technically in a new class of agave spirits called avila, Revel is produced in the state of Morelos, Mexico, and is made from 100 percent blue Weber agave indigenous to the state. Unlike most tequilas, Revel uses spirits distilled from agave piñas that are both steamed and pit roasted, which results in a more layered and rustic flavor. For their reposado, they age the agave spirit in new American white oak barrels for 12 months before bottling. The barrels give the tequila a rich creaminess and notes of salted caramel, buttered popcorn and vanilla gelato. With a slow burn and a lasting finish, this is the definition of a sipping tequila.
This tequila is truly something special—it’s made with a historic method that was used before tequilas became mass produced. The agave piñas are roasted in the ground then crushed with a tahona and fermented in open air wood fermenters with the bagasso (cooked agave fibers that are a byproduct of tequila- and mezcal-making) and natural, indigenous yeast. After being double distilled in an alembic copper pot still, the añejo is rested for 18 months in used American whiskey casks. The result is a tequila that is incredibly complex, with notes of butterscotch pudding, toffee, salted hazelnuts and grilled pineapple. The finish is long and spicy with an abundance of nutmeg, white pepper and citrus. Cherish this tequila like you would a Japanese single malt.
One of the many tequilas produced at the El Llano distillery in the valley of Tequila in Jalisco—which is owned by the Orendain family who have been producing tequila for more than 150 years—the Arette label has been in existence since the early 1900s. Made from 100-percent blue Weber agave, it’s rested for an unprecedented 36 months before bottling. Extremely limited in supply, the Gran Clase Extra Añejo comes in a gorgeous, hand-detailed, gilded bottle. In the glass, the spirit is very rich and opens up as it breathes, almost like a wine. On the palate, there are notes of caramelized banana, banana cream pie (chocolate crust included), pipe tobacco, wildflower honey and earth. Phenomenal doesn’t even begin to describe this tequila. Get it while you can.