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A new generation of añejo tequilas offers rich pleasures for long summer evenings.
Photo by Siri Iyer/courtesy of Fino
“True luxury is about pushing boundaries,” says Sean Combs, “to boldly define a way of life.” Though you may know him better by his other monikers, Diddy is speaking here in his role as chairman of Combs Wine & Spirits, a partnership the mogul started five years ago with spirits giant Diageo. The latest bottle from their joint venture, DeLeón Tequila ($50), is a hit—a 100% highland blue weber agave añejo. The juice, aged first in bold American oak barrels and finished in French wine casks, has an appealing balance, with notes of sweet oak and subtle dried fruit.
The bottling is part of a bumper crop of new añejos, tequilas that must be aged at least 12 months before release. Their richness makes them wonderful brown-spirit substitutes in a variety of cocktails. Come summer, we love them with a single, sizable cube, a lemon twist and a sunset.
The smaller, women-owned Fino brand has a range of lesser-known yet delicious tequilas—hard to find but worth the hunt. The blanco is a best-in-class sipper, but the excellent añejo ($55) is the true star, balancing melon, vanilla and tobacco notes with a warmth derived from ex-whiskey barrels.
Aged in American and French oak, the estate-grown Select Barrel Reserve añejo from Milagro Tequila ($99) retains a noticeable measure of caramelized sweetness— so much so that the distiller recommends it be served with dark chocolate shavings.
On the lighter side of sweet, Riazul ages its añejo ($60) for two years in ex-cognac French oak barrels, sourced from the Forest of Cîteaux in Burgundy, which impart a medium toast and vanilla tannins. The result—in large part due to the producer’s highland plants, which tend to contain a higher sugar content—is loaded with honey and spice.
The gorgeous El Tesoro Paradiso añejo ($130) was aged in French oak for five years even before that became the standard for the “extra añejo” classification. (Those barrels, by the way, are ex-cognac and impart a gentle smokiness.) This elegant tequila has an herbaceousness mixed with butterscotch, a combination that presents an appealing challenge: Will it be best before or after dinner?