Drinking

Friday Tastings: Back to White — Aged Tequila’s Midlife Crisis

There is a movement afoot in the world of añejo tequila. We help you navigate through the best of the field.

Things really do come in threes, it seems. There’s jokes, genre fiction series, holy trinities, and, apparently, new techniques for filtering premium tequila. It started in 2008, when we received a media sample of Maetro Dobel, a product purporting to be the world’s first “Diamond” tequila. A blend of reposado, añejo and extra-añejo tequilas, Maestro Dobel was then subjected to a proprietary filtration process that rendered it clear. It was delicious, but suffered from an identity crisis: with that unfortunate diamond designation, and a bottle reminiscent of Grey Goose, Dobel seemed to wish it had been born a vodka. We moved on. So did most consumers (Maestro Dobel originally retailed for $80; you can find it for $30 these days)

Flash forward to this past September, when Tequila Don Julio marked its 70th anniversary with Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro, a limited release billed as the world’s first clear añejo tequila. In an attempt to uncover the fresh agave flavors muted by 18-months in American white oak, Master Distiller Enrique de Colsa filtered special reserves of his añejo tequila with electromagnetic particles, removing woodier flavors and all the color from the spirit. Sound familiar? We thought so too. Añejo Claro presents a singular aroma that we’re struggling to pinpoint (sandalwood? A dirty agave plant?), but does taste, as promised, like the lovechild of a cinnamon-toasted añejo tequila and a zesty blanco tequila. Whether or not it’s worth approximately $20 more (in some markets) than a bottle of Don Julio’s excellent añejo remains an open question.

Following Añejo Claro, and tipping us into trend territory, comes Unico, from Milagro Tequila. Unlike Don Julio’s offering, Unico does have silver tequila in its recipe—a highly concentrated silver tequila, micro-distilled in small batches that yield just one liter of spirit for every 13-kilos of agave (typically, the same amount yields 7 liters). This super-charged silver is then blended with reserves of aged Milagro and run through some secretive filtration and oxygenation process to remove the color and “enhance the blend.” Whatever that means, Unico is by far the most impressive example of this style yet. Sweet pepper and creamy agave are enriched by notes of vanilla and cocoa shavings—not to mention a long, smooth finish normally found only in finely aged tequilas. Whether it’s impressive enough to justify its $300 price tag (which puts it in direct competition of the some of the finest single malts on the market) is yet another open question. And there’s also something to be said for aging gracefully; a good añejo tequila doesn’t need any chemical treatments to get noticed around these parts.

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