Not many decades ago, tequila was considered liquid sandpaper—stuff only fit to be used for cleaning rust off of tools. But today, tequila has acquired an aura of sublime sophistication, thanks to refinements in agave cultivation, distillation techniques, and barrel fermentation innovations. Consequently, Mexico’s top national spirit has earned its rightful place alongside serious bourbons, Cognacs, and single malt whiskies. But now it has even gone beyond that.
There are four classifications of tequilas. Blanco is a clear, unaged tequila, and reposado is a blanco that has been aged in oak barrels or stainless-steel tanks from two to eleven months. But then we have the superpremium tequilas: añejo, barrel-aged from one to three years; and extra añejo, a classification that did not exist before 2006 and that means the tequila must be barrel-aged for a minimum of three years.
As a tequila ages, its color deepens and its flavors evolve. That is why superpremium-aged tequilas—añejos and extra añejos—have become elevated to a rarified world that rivals the finest digestifs. Here are eight of what we consider to be among today’s best añejos and extra añejos—all worthy of the finest crystal snifters.