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Best of the Best 2011: Spirits: DeLeón Añejo Tequila

Its luxuriously thick bottle from Saverglass in Feuquières, France, and massive, Mayan-inspired gilded cap by jewelry designer Bill Wall both suggest to the uninitiated, even before their first sip, that this añejo from DeLeón is no ordinary one. The prominent León family that began distilling DeLeón for private consumption decades ago keeps the location of its fabrica, or distillery, and processing techniques closely guarded secrets. However, the family does reveal that the agave used in the spirit’s production is harvested 7,500 feet above sea level from the rust-red soil of the Mexican Highlands, where the pulp attains a singular sweetness that combines honey, citrus, and floral notes. To accentuate these characteristics and ensure more concentrated flavors, the family uses only the first pressings of juice, which they distill with water from two pure, stream-fed wells on their estate. After 17 months in new French oak, DeLeón Añejo Tequila (www.deleontequila.com, $175) undergoes additional aging in barrels formerly used by Château d’Yquem. This regimen results in the spirit’s amber-gold hue, Cognac-like texture, aromatic bouquet of roses and jasmine, and flavor profile brimming with cherries and smoky cedar.

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