What is Añejo Tequila? Your Complete Guide
Written by Emma C | Updated May 2023
What is añejo tequila? If you’re unfamiliar with tequila and its various expressions then this may be something you’re asking yourself. Taster's Club is here to help you explore this tequila type and all it has to offer. Giving whiskey a run for its money with its amber-colored, smooth-sipping qualities, añejos are full of dark, intense, rich colors and flavor notes, thanks to their aging process. Rather than the acidity you might be used to in younger tequilas, some añejos have a sweeter, more caramel quality to them.
Añejo tequila is made from carefully harvested blue agave plants, and then aged in sealed oak barrels of up to 600 liters for at least one year, but often up to three. This gives the expression even more woody notes than their reposado counterparts. The maturation process infuses the liquid with a depth, complexity, and smoothness that you’ll absolutely love. Learn more about añejo in our guide, below, along with our favorite bottles, all available in the shop.
Añejo tequila regions
Like other types of tequila, añejos are produced in Mexico’s highland and lowland regions. The richer soil of the highlands can make this region’s agaves sweeter, making for fruitier tequilas. And lowland tequilas taste earthier because of the area’s water. The bottom line is there are a variety of añejo tequila flavors to explore, depending on many things including the region in which they’re made.
History of añejo tequila
The history of añejo tequila is the history of tequila. Back in 1000 B.C., the Olmecs (a civilization in ancient Mexico) started fermenting agave and transforming it into a milky beverage. Eventually, the Aztecs adapted this into “pulque.” When the Spanish invaded the Aztecs, they appropriated pulque and started distilling tequila during a brandy shortage. This tequila is one of North America’s first indigenous distilled spirits. The first mass-production tequila distillery was headed by the Marquis of Altamira, Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, and was located in what is now modern-day Jalisco.
In 1758, King Carlos IV of Spain granted the first commercial tequila license to the Cuervo family, specifically to Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo. His family founded the Taberno de Cuervo and began using the agave tequilana (blue agave) species to distill tequila because it retains water. The first Vino Mezcal de Tequila de Jose Cuervo was made in 1795, and, so, the tequila industry was born. The official Cuervo distillery was founded in 1812 and passed down through the Cuervo family.
Quickly following in the footsteps of the Cuervo family, the Sauza family made their own mark in the tequila industry. Don Cenobio Sauza realized that blue agave was the best species of agave plant for tequila production. Then, during the Prohibition period, tequila became the popular drink for desperate Americans needing alcohol.
Mexico, realizing tequila’s potential and importance to their country, hastily took ownership of the name “tequila” and declared it as intellectual property in 1974. Along with this, the law designated specific tequila-making regions in Mexico and prohibited the production of tequila outside of Mexico.
How to drink añejo tequila
Drinking añejo neat
Just like drinking bourbon, you can drink añejo tequila any way you like, but we prefer it neat. It’s always good to know what you’re drinking: Puro tequilas are 100% agave tequilas, while mixto tequilas are 51% agave with 49% sugar. We recommend going for puro tequilas because they are best for sipping and savoring. Ideally, it’s best to use a copita glass (tulip-shaped) that focuses the aromas up to the nose.
When you’re shopping for añejo or any other tequila, look for the NOM, which means Norma Oficial Mexicana. It’s a four-digit number appearing on every bottle of tequila that lets you know which producer a brand comes from. Two brands sharing the same NOM number means they were made in the same place and may share the same process.
Taster’s Club’s Recommended Añejo Tequila Available In Our Bottle Shop
Tromba Añejo is aged in white oak American barrels for a maximum of 24 months, resulting in a golden-colored tequila with a complex and sweet flavor, with gentle notes of oak, ripe fruit, dark chocolate, and a final touch of honey.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Caramel, Agave, Vanilla, Oak, Pepper | ABV: 40%
Don Julio Tequila 1942
Enjoyed in cocktail bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, iconic Don Julio 1942 tequila is the choice of connoisseurs worldwide. Produced in small batches and aged for at least two and a half years, this spirit is handcrafted in tribute to the year that Don Julio González began his tequila-making journey. With self-motivation and determination, he brought his dream to life, and the rest is history.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Pepper, Mint, Cinnamon, Caramel | ABV: 40%
Clase Azul Añejo
Clase Azul Tequila Añejo is proof that the best things in life take time. Its taste and decanter are a tribute to the Mazahua indigenous culture. Its intense amber color and complex aromas result from a magnificent 25-month journey in American whiskey casks. Clase Azul Añejo Tequila combines art, history, and tequila of the highest quality, making it an expression that truly honors Mexican culture.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Nutmeg, Clove, Marmalade, Oak | ABV: 40%
All of these are available in our bottle shop and are great for sipping tequila neat. Once you’ve tried that, follow the Mexican method for drinking finer tequilas:
- Pour 2 ounces of tequila into a copita.
- After every sip or two, dip a wedge of lime into a little salt and suck on it.
What would an article about añejo tequila be without modern twists on classic cocktail recipes? Check out some of our favorites.
- 1 chilled bottle grapefruit soda, such as Squirt
- 1 1/2 to 2 ounces añejo tequila
- 1/4 to 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice, depending on soda sweetness
- 2 tablespoons crunchy salt and 1 lime wedge, for rimming (optional)
- 1 lime wedge, for garnish (optional)
- For the spicy rimming variation:
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 tablespoon Tajín
- Add salt to a small plate. (For the spicy variation, mix 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or 1 tablespoon Tajín with the salt.) Rub a lime wedge on the rim of the glass, and dip rim in salt.
- Fill your glass with ice. Add grapefruit soda to fill 1/3 of the way up, and then pour in tequila and lime juice. Top with more grapefruit soda.
- Stir gently, garnish with lime wedge, then serve immediately with extra grapefruit soda on the side. You can even squeeze more lime juice into the cocktail if you'd like.
Añejo old fashioned
- .25 ounces agave nectar
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- Orange peel
- 3 ounces añejo tequila
- Garnish: cherry
- In a mixing glass, lightly muddle the agave nectar, bitters, and orange peel.
- Add the tequila.
- Fill with ice and stir until chilled.
- Strain into a tumbler glass over fresh ice.
- Garnish with a cherry.
- 1½ oz. añejo tequila
- 1 dash Angostura bitters
- ¾ oz. agave syrup
- 6-8 fresh mint leaves
- 4 lemon wedges
- Garnish: fresh mint sprig
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
- Shake vigorously.
- Strain into a rocks glass packed with crushed ice.
- Garnish with a fresh sprig of mint.
All set to try some añejo tequila? There are countless options, but we can help you choose. Peruse our top 10 añejo list or visit our bottle shop. Even better, you can always join our monthly Tequila Club, which takes out all of the guesswork in choosing the best añejos and other tequila types with a new bottle sent to you every month.
Looking for the best Curated Tequila of the Month Subscription? Check out Taster’s Club Tequila Clubs for different expressions of tequila from today’s top producers delivered straight to your door.
Taster’s Club is the Premiere online shop for anyone looking for a curated Liquor of the Month Club or a one-off bottle purchase from our Bottle Shop.