Many of us think of Tequila and memories of youthful excess with cheap liquid, downed in shots and sandwiched between lime squeezes and salt licks to deaden the taste, spring to mind. A mere glance at the DeLeón Leóna container above will belie that tawdry image. But more importantly, inside the black box with its imposing decanter and matching python-bound flask is an aged spirit redolent of ripe fruits, honey and cinnamon and tasting of toffee, dried nuts and the Sauternes barrels it was aged in. Price tag: $825.
And this is not even close to the most that can be paid for Tequila in this newborn age of agave, spawned by hyper and exotic aging. The Jose Cuervo offshoot 1800 Collecion, aged in French Oak and full of flowers and sweetness and spice, refers not only to the first year Tequila was distilled, but also its tariff: $1,800. Nor is wine vessel aging, the latest thing. AsomBroso La Rosa Reposado ($49.95) takes so much influence from Bordeaux casks that it’s pink. Now, Sazerac brings us Corazon variants matured in its specialty rye and Bourbon barrels ($59.99 to $89.99).
Long aging has enlivened the field, with the designation extra añejo joining añejo, reposado and blanco. The brandy-like Gran Centanario Leyenda Extra Añejo ($223), the floral Don Julio Real ($370) and the maply Herradura Seleccion Suprema ($250) are examples of the super-matured category. But one needn’t go that old to find supremacy. We love the floral Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Añejo ($99.95) and Cazadores Añejo ($50). And Maestro Dobel ($75) blends all the age designations, but remains clear through a diamond-filtering process.
Many celebrities, sensing Tequila panache, have climbed on board. Rocker Sammy Hagar developed his own brand, Cabo Wabo, which is surprisingly elegant, especially the ultrapremium Cabo Uno ($159). Guitar god Carlos Santana makes a likely partner to Casa Noble, not only for his Mexican heritage, but for the soaring notes of its añejo version ($59.95). The list goes on—George Clooney (Casamigos), Kinky Friedman (Man in Black), Jesse Jane (Diosa) and a slew of bold-faced fans of Patrón—but the strangest endorsement goes to Avion. It came not from a real celebrity, but the fictional one on HBO’s “Entourage.”