Aging and the Five Classes of Tequila
A blanco or plata (“white” or “silver”) is generally a clear, un-aged tequila. It is bottled immediately or shortly after distillation, and is the purest form of tequila, usually featuring a strong presence of roast and/or raw agave flavors. By law, blancos may be “rested” in oak for up to 60 days. While some people find blancos overly aggressive, a well-made one can be quite subtly complex, with citrus, floral, vegetal and mineral flavor notes. Purists often prefer blancos because there is no way to hide any flaws in the raw distillate, as is possible with aging.
A reposado (“rested”) has been aged in oak containers for at least two months. The aging imparts color and flavor to the tequila, smoothing it out and often adding notes of vanilla, oak, chocolate, coffee, nuts and whiskey to the palate. Reposado is the best-selling type of tequila in Mexico.
An añejo (“aged”) tequila has been aged in oak barrels for at least one year. Añejos have usually traded in much of their agave essence for oaky characteristics after so much time in the barrel. Some argue that an añejo, while obviously tequila, more closely resembles a cognac or Scotch than it does a blanco. At the same time, they tend to be the most accessible to new tequila drinkers.
Extra-añejos are aged in oak barrels for at least three years, and sometimes as many as five. In blind tastings, the best extra-añejos are often taken for whiskies or brandies.
Gold or joven (“young”) tequila is usually, though not necessarily, a mixto containing coloring and other additives. 100% agave golds are a blend of blanco and one or more other class of tequila.