Tequila fans know that Mexico’s piquant spirit is made from agave, a succulent plant that takes eight to 12 years to mature. Sadly for those in the business, a similar cycle brings an agave shortage once every decade or so. But don’t panic. The shortage we’re in now comes with some good news: it probably won’t last, and the best Tequilas aren’t going away.
Underestimating the long-range market brought the trouble, but shortages are predicted to end soon. And many superpremium brands shielded themselves with long-standing agave contracts. Some believe that mass-produced mixto Tequilas were hardest hit. While still called Tequila, they may have sliced their agave nectar content to as little as 51 percent. Skip them and look for bottles labeled “100 percent agave.”
That’s where you will find the kind of complexity that defines a top-tier liquor. Tequila can pull layers of flavor that are meant for sipping and not for drinking contests.
While the aging trend has created many fine, mature Tequilas, the four categories all have standouts. Patrón Estate Release is essentially clear, yet brings peppery, herbal, doughy and citrus notes that showcase the agave, while being supremely smooth. Stepping up to the reposado category (aged two months to less than a year), you find a Herradura with floral, citrus and buttery vanilla notes. In the same slot is Cazadores, which exhibits meaty fruit, caramel and cinnamon. The next level is añejo (more than a year old, less than three) with drams like Casamigos, which tastes of leather, tropical fruit and rich woods, and Milagro, with oak, nuts and a range of spices. At the extra añejo level (more than three years old) Reserva de la Familia offers brandy flavors with floral notes, almonds and the tang of pimento. Casa Noble makes an eight-year-old version of its Selección del Fundador that exudes dried fruit, cocoa, caramel, truffles and spice.
Savor them slowly though. After all, there’s an agave shortage.