Coming of age

There’s more to tequila than you think.
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Añejo tequilas offer up a great way to expand a whiskey drinker's palate. Here is a selection of tequilas at MeXo, a tequila and mezcal bar in downtown Grand Rapids. Photo by Bryan Esler

There’s a secret in the spirits world for fans of great whiskeys: añejo tequila.

Tequila often gets a bad rap, but in truth there’s an immense range of types of tequila and a great variety of flavors as well.

The agave-based spirit has been made for at least 500 years in Mexico, but it’s only been the past 30 years or so tequila has increased massively in popularity. Traditionally, tequila has been sipped or out of a snifter or a shot glass. More recently, even in Mexico, 60% of tequila is consumed through cocktails, according to Ruben Aceves, international business director with Brown Forman, the parent company of Herradura Tequila. (Hint: Aceves says to try Paloma made with tequila and Squirt or a char negro, a tequila with Coke.)

“The more traditional, older people like me, we drink blanco before lunch, reposado with lunch and añejo, more like an aperitif after dinner,” Aceves said.

An añejo tequila is aged in oak barrels and, depending on the distillery, that could mean new American oak barrels or used bourbon barrels. The aging process is from 12 months up to 35 months.

Herradura was one of the first brands to release an añejo tequila, back in 1962, shortly after Sauza’s añejo release. Herradura was the first to release an extra añejo, which is aged for 36 months and only further accentuates the flavors from the wood.

When sipping on an añejo tequila, Aceves said the notes of vanilla and cinnamon should generally pop, along with the agave flavors, which are similar to that from agave syrup.

“I get a lot of cinnamon, chocolate, dark chocolate,” Aceves said. “It’s very smooth, sweet and spicy with a very long finish that’s peppery with pineapple and banana on the fruit side.”

A tequila primer:

Blanco: What a distiller gets out of the pot still from distilling agave. Some distillers do age it for a period of time, but no more than 60 days.

Reposado: A tequila that rests in an oak container for at least two months, but no more than a year.

Añejo: A tequila that is aged for at least 12 months in an oak container no bigger than 159 gallons.

This story can be found in the January/February 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.

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