The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2010

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S G S T B I E O E E WHAT’S NEXT Aged over five years, only 480 signed and numbered bottles of Chinaco Negro exist; El Tesoro Paradiso, matured in cognac barrels for five years, doesn’t mention “extra añejo” anywhere on its packaging; Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia, with packaging by artist Marco Arce, is aged over three years and includes some 30-year-old-tequilas; five- year-old Casa Noble is the first single-barrel extra añejo. THE EXTRA AÑEJO DESiGnATion GRACES MEXiCo’S MoST PAMPERED SPiRiTS The new Age(d) of Tequila story and photos by Richard Carleton Hacker f O I O E G B I I our years ago, there wasn’t a tequila category older than añejo, no matter how long the spirits had been aging. But as anyone who has visited the cellars in and around Jalisco knows, certain maestros tequileros— master distillers—always kept a number of barrels aging far longer than the 12 months minimum required for añejo. In fact, so many super-aged tequilas existed that in March 2006, the CRT (Consejo Regulador del Tequila), the governmental agency that regulates tequila production, established a new NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) cat- egory—Extra Añejo—for tequilas aged in oak barrels three years or longer. Today, these super-premium tequilas represent a higher level of customer satisfaction that coincides with a greater percentage of profits. Of course, just as extra-aging represents more investment for the distillers, the purchase price for both on- and off-premise inventory must be justified by enough customer appre- ciation to warrant that investment. And that is almost always the result of the enthusiasm of the person behind the bar or counter. One of the greatest champions of this “new age” of tequila is Julio Bermejo, whose iconic Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco stocks no less than 28 extra añejos. Another proponent of super-aged tequilas is celebrity chef Rick Bayless with his all-tequila Topolobampo restaurant in Chicago and his recently-opened Red-O in West Hollywood, California, where the menu lists 16 extra añejos. “Since extra añejo is a fairly new category, you have to carefully chose a well balanced list, as you don’t want them all to be overpowered by wood, or super-intense, rich and creamy,” says Rick Bayless Managing Partner Carlos Alferez. “You want to have a balance, with some close to being just a regular añejo, which means they’ll showcase a little bit of agave and will have some smokiness. So you’re talking about a range that will encompass just about everything. Tequilas that have a nice agave flavor, but also have other charac- teristics that people who are not neces- sarily tequila drinkers are really into.” Interestingly, although one doesn’t ordinarily think of using extra añejos in cocktails, Rick Bayless does. “We’ve been doing the Topolo Margarita for almost 20 years now,” says Alferez, “and we use El Tesoro Paradiso. Its rich, creamy character and sweet overtones match perfectly with the flavor profile of the recipe. At about $35, it makes for a very expensive Margarita, but it’s a cocktail that has become a classic for us. “I think extra añejo is a category that has a lot of potential for growth. When you think about all those classic cocktails that call for brandy and cognac for example, you’ll find a lot of those charac- teristics in extra añejo tequilas.” Don Julio Real, with its unique revolving box, is a blend of three- and five-year-old tequilas and was one of the first to enter the extra añejo category; four-year-old Herradura Selección Suprema comes in an elegant box that can be used as a jewelry case afterwards. Julio Bermejo, the U.S. Ambassador of Tequila, stocks 28 extra añejos at Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco. august 2010 / the tasting panel / 55

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