Best of the Best 2012: Spirits: DeLeón 51 Extra Añejo Tequila

To make a superb extra añejo—a tequila aged three years or longer—requires not only a superb añejo but also an equally superb blanco, for they all emanate from the same distillate. Last year, DeLeón Añejo easily met the añejo criteria, garnering a Best of the Best accolade. So one would expect the brand’s first extra añejo, DeLeón 51 Extra Añejo Tequila (www.deleontequila.com, $275), to be a top contender. And indeed it was. This latest offering raised the ante in this category by being the world’s first cask-strength extra añejo. This was made possible by the purity of the spirit, which results from slow-steaming (rather than roasting) the agaves and aging the tequila in new, uncharred French-oak Haute Futaie barrels that produced greater aromatics than traditional Limousin French-oak barrels. Typically, tequila that has been aging in oak for more than three years risks taking on woody characteristics, and usually an alcoholic roughness must be tamed by lowering the proof with distilled or ionized water. But after aging for 51 months and emerging at 51 percent alcohol (102 proof)—hence the extra añejo’s name—DeLeón 51 has the texture of Cognac and caresses the palate with a honeyed softness full of almonds and cherries.

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