Serious Eats: Drinks
Blanco and Joven: Unaged Tequilas That Are Worth Drinking
For many parts of the spirits world, age is equivalent with beauty.
Young whiskies, brandies and rums that, in their youth, have a rangy flavor that can be challenging at best and edgy and obnoxious at worst, undergo a remarkable change in character when left to mature in wood barrels for a few (or many) years.
But while there's been plenty of recent coverage about a new-found love for young or unaged whiskies in certain circles, another youthful part of the spirit world is getting some fresh appreciation: blanco and joven tequilas.
Unlike spirits such as brandy or whiskey, tequila has commonly been sold in an unaged or minimally aged form, along with older expressions such as reposado and anejo tequilas (and of course, we're talking about 100-percent agave tequilas, not the cheaper mixto tequilas that are poured by the gallon into frozen-margarita machines or the gullets of spring-break partiers).
The blanco (also called silver or platinum) tequilas have none of the subtle caramel or vanilla notes that oak typically imparts. Instead, they tend to have a peppery spark and a flavor defined by the subtle sweetness of the agave.
Similarly, joven tequilas start off with this youthful edge of a blanco, but are blended with a small amount of older tequilas to add some of the richer, more mature characteristics found in reposados and anejos.
Tequila fans typically reach for older styles when in the mood for a sipping tequila, mostly relegating blancos and jovens to the world of cocktails, but there are several young tequilas worth seeking out and sipping on their own. Some of the major producers such as Don Julio and Milagro make wonderful blanco tequilas, but in recent years several smaller-scale producers have introduced some remarkable young spirits.
Here are a few exceptional young tequilas worth looking for:
- Tequila Ocho Single Estate Plata: This single-estate highland tequila was the first-ever brand of this spirit to be sold at vintage, with all of the agave used in each bottle having been harvested from a particular estate during the same year. Also available in older expressions, the blanco has an aroma of jasmine and apples, and a flavor with a crisp snap of citrus and a richness of candied fruit and almonds.
- Casa Dragones Tequila Joven: The young base of this crystal-clear joven is distilled in small batches from estate-grown agave, then blended with a touch of extra-anejo tequila for richness and depth of character. Sold in hand-numbered, engraved crystal bottles, Casa Dragones has a delicate nose of lemon peel and honeysuckle, a smooth, silky body and a flavor with the crispness of black pepper but the light richness of vanilla and hazelnuts.
- Charbay Tequila Blanco: Distilled in Mexico by the California-based distillers at Charbay, this pot-distilled blanco is powerfully floral and graceful in the glass, with an aroma of chamomile and fresh pears, a medium body and a lean, sparkling flavor touched with white pepper and sour apples.
About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.