Drink Life Beverages

Aging Gracefully – The Art of the Añejo

Barrels aren’t new to the tequila industry, but carefully aging products in barrels may be

Later in that century mules carried similar tequila-filled barrels over the border to share the wealth with

Despite this history, producers are just starting to play with a larger range of styles

Because tequila producers have been spoiled by the complexity of their raw material —agave— they didn’t

In fact, Mendoza estimates that 70% to 80% of an aged tequila’s qualities come from the aging

We’ll start our journey at tequila El Tequileño, since the brand has long had a

(They did produce a very good añejo for the brand’s 50th anniversary in 2009, aptly named “

We joined them one morning last November in the town of Tequila as their tasting team took

Randy Ullom takes inventory of the barrel samples that will be blended together to create the new

“You are looking for those minute attributes both in the aromatics, and of course in the palate…

When the tasters went to work some samples were eliminated at the outset (if they tasted like

A list of the barrels used during the blending session for the new El Tequileño Añ

He represents the third generation of tequileros at the distillery and is working with the new owners

Of course, the process of creating new profiles is much different than if you have an established

They age all of their regular reposado and añejo in French Oak barrels, but of different

This gives them a greater variety of aromas and flavors from the same wood

They lean heavily on his palate to ensure that the blending of barrels is successful

“It’s a matter of integrating what you have in the right portion without losing your identity,”

So, blending a percentage of different barrels and having a team check new batches to gauge consistency

But there is one tequila producer who takes a very different approach, by “vatting

This is done because each individual barrel has its own profile and contributes different components to the

“It’s amazing how once you start blending barrels the product is literally resisting each other on

At La Tequileña they have around 36 wooden vats of between 12,000 and 16,000 liters, plus another two dozen

They empty a different mix of barrels into each vat, depending on the product they are producing,

When an individual vat dips below 50% full they will add more barrels into it, so they are

Otherwise, tequila has so many variables it is difficult to control, he notes

But with their process they are ensuring that if a consumer likes one of their aged products,

Tequila Patrón reaches consistency in a similar vein, with their “solera” system

Because they have a continuous flow of volume going to holding and then to bottling, the inventory

In each case, these “vatting”-type processes are done with precise measurements of the aged products being

Knowing the type of barrel, the flavors it is producing, and how long the tequila has been

But these systems also require aging volume—a great number of barrels to rotate product in and

The brand ages both its reposado and añejo in used American Oak whisky barrels

“There will be some tiny variations that are impossible to control

Fortaleza has long embraced the changeable nature of tequila, showcasing differences in agave, production runs, barrels, and

Like wine, tequila has terroir and is affected by many tiny changes in the environment and in

The barrel room at Tequila Fortaleza is part of their small batch process

For instance, a Lot 47 reposado and Lot 48 reposado might have different colors or taste slightly different, Sauza

“There’s many things that can drive that, but what comes out of the barrels is what

One thing I can say for sure is that we don’t use additives (for consistency)

In fact, many producers rely on additives such as caramel coloring and oak extracts to create consistency

Until consumers realize that in order to achieve batch-to-batch parity some producers will rely on additives, we

Ullom decided to add a little bit of extra añejo to their new permanent añejo

Randy Ullom takes notes of all the samples before combining them together in the blending session for

It has a really good flavor and aroma of sweet vanilla and honey

After hours of tasting and blending, the team landed on a new añejo, now dubbed Añ

) They also chose an XA blend, but decided to leave it in the barrel a little longer

If you choose to visit the Casa Salles Hotel that sits on the distillery property, you can

Back in November we tasted blends for both the new añejo and upcoming XA, as well

Our favorite was the XA blend (slightly high proof when we tried it)

The complexity and rich dried fruit aromas made it a knockout, even though we generally preferred less

You take what the barrel gives you, and highlight the strengths, based on careful tasting and care