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All Spirits Mezcal/Tequila Mezcal Anejo – Everything You Need To Know
Mezcal-Anejo

Mezcal Anejo – Everything You Need To Know

Mezcal Añejo is a premium category within the mezcal family, distinguished by its aging process. The word “Añejo” translates to “aged” or “vintage” in Spanish, signifying that the spirit has been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year. This aging period can extend up to several years, much longer than Mezcal Reposado, which is aged for a minimum of two months but less than a year. The use of oak barrels for aging not only imparts a distinct flavor profile but also affects the color of the mezcal. Mezcal Añejo typically has a richer, darker color ranging from golden to amber, acquired from prolonged contact with the oak barrels.

Ilegal Mezcal Anejo



The extended aging process imbues Mezcal Añejo with a more complex and smoother flavor profile compared to its younger counterparts. It typically features deeper notes of caramel, vanilla, wood, and spices alongside the traditional smoky agave flavor. Often enjoyed neat or with a little water to fully appreciate its complexity and depth of flavors, Mezcal Añejo is considered a sipping spirit.

What Is Mezcal Anejo?

In the illustrious world of spirits, Mezcal Añejo holds a revered spot. This aged Mexican spirit, steeped in tradition and complexity, offers a journey into the depths of flavor and craftsmanship. During its time in oak, Mezcal Añejo develops rich, nuanced flavors. The inherent smokiness of mezcal mellows, integrating with notes of vanilla, caramel, and spices – a testament to the transformative power of time and wood. While mezcal is known for its signature smoky character, Añejo takes this to a subtler level. The aging process allows other flavors to come forward, creating a balanced and layered drinking experience. Its extended time in barrels gives it a beautiful amber hue, visually representing the depth and maturity of the spirit.

So, the next time you pour a glass of Mezcal Añejo, take a moment to reflect on the journey that brought this exquisite spirit to your glass. 

History of Mezcal Anejo

The history of Mezcal Añejo is intricately woven into the broader historical tapestry of mezcal, a spirit with deep roots in Mexican culture and tradition. While mezcal itself has been produced for centuries, the specific categorization and production of Mezcal Añejo have evolved. Here’s an overview of its history:

Pre-Columbian Period

The indigenous peoples of Mexico have been fermenting agave for consumption for thousands of years. Their drink was called “pulque,” a milky, somewhat viscous beverage that is the fermented sap of certain agave species.

Post-Spanish Conquest

When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the 16th century, they brought with them distillation technology. Although there’s debate about how exactly distillation was introduced (whether it was the Spanish or indigenous people who figured it out using their methods), it’s generally agreed that the Spanish played a significant role. This is when “Mezcal wine” (a distilled version of pulque) began its journey.

The Emergence of Tequila and Mezcal

The distillation processes refined over time, and different regions focused on specific agave varieties. For example, the area around Tequila started producing a spirit primarily from blue agave, known as “Tequila”. Mezcal, as a term, was used to describe any distilled agave spirit, with the most prominent production happening in the state of Oaxaca.

Did You Know?

  • “Añejo” is a Spanish term that translates to “aged” or “old”. In the context of Mezcal, it refers to the spirit aged in oak barrels between one and three years.
  • Mezcal Anejo is a relatively recent innovation in the world of Mezcal production. 
  • Using oak barrels for aging imparts flavors and a beautiful golden or amber hue to Mezcal Anejo, distinguishing it from its clear and younger counterparts.
  • Like traditional Mezcal, Mezcal Anejo is often produced in small batches by skilled Mezcaleros (producers) who honor the time-honored techniques and cultural significance of Mezcal-making.
  • The aging process for Mezcal Añejo in wooden barrels is what imparts distinct flavors like caramel, vanilla, and spices, distinguishing it from its unaged counterparts.

How Adaptable is Mezcal Anejo?

Mezcal Añejo, with its rich and complex flavor profile, demonstrates considerable adaptability in various contexts. Here’s an overview of how adaptable Mezcal Añejo is:

Tasting and Sipping

Mezcal Añejo is often enjoyed neat due to its complex and rich flavor profile developed from aging. Its smoothness and depth of flavors make it a favorite among sipping spirits, comparable to fine whiskies or aged rums.

Cocktails

Despite being a premium sipping spirit, Mezcal Añejo is also adaptable in mixology. Its smoky, woody, and sometimes spicy notes can add a sophisticated twist to classic cocktails, like Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, and inspire innovative new creations.

Food Pairings

The versatility of Mezcal Añejo extends to food pairings. Its robust flavor can complement a wide range of dishes – from grilled meats and spicy dishes to rich desserts like chocolate. The key is to balance its smokiness and aging-induced flavors with the food’s characteristics.

Culinary Uses

Beyond pairing, Mezcal Añejo can be used in cooking. Its smoky and nuanced flavors can enhance sauces, marinades, or even desserts, adding a unique twist to various recipes.

Cultural and Seasonal Adaptability

Mezcal Añejo is not confined to a specific season or occasion. It can be enjoyed year-round and fits various cultural settings, from casual gatherings to formal celebrations.

Global Appeal

While deeply rooted in Mexican culture, Mezcal Añejo has gained global appeal. Its unique taste profile resonates with a wide audience, making it adaptable across different cultural palates.

Innovation in Production

Producers of Mezcal Añejo is continually experimenting with different aging techniques and barrel types (like American oak, French oak, or barrels used previously for other spirits), which adds to its adaptability and variety.

Mezcal Regulations

The regulations for Mezcal Añejo, like those for other types of mezcal, are distinct from the regulations for tequila, although both are Mexican spirits derived from agave. Here’s a breakdown of the regulatory framework specifically for Mezcal Añejo:

Denomination of Origin

Mezcal, including Añejo, is protected by a Denomination of Origin, which specifies that it can only be produced in certain regions of Mexico. These include Oaxaca, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, and a few other regions.

Aging Requirements for Añejo

Mezcal Añejo must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year. This aging process differentiates Añejo from Mezcal Joven (unaged) and Mezcal Reposado (aged for a minimum of two months but less than a year).

Agave Varieties

Mezcal can be made from over 30 types of agave, in contrast to tequila, which must be made from only blue agave (Agave tequilana Weber).

Production Process

The production of Mezcal Añejo often involves traditional methods, including cooking the agave in earthen pits and using natural fermentation, although more modern methods are also allowed.

Distillation

Mezcal can be distilled using copper or clay stills.

Regulatory Bodies

The Consejo Regulador del Mezcal (CRM) is the primary regulatory body responsible for overseeing the production and certification of mezcal, including Añejo.

What Are the Ingredients In Mezcal Anejo?

  • Agave Piñas
  • Water
  • Yeast
  • Oak Barrels

What Are The Tools Used To Make Mezcal Anejo?

  • Coa de Jima (Agave Harvesting Knife)
  • Earthen Pits and Stone-Lined Ovens
  • Tahona (Stone Mill) or Mechanical Crusher
  • Wooden Fermentation Vats
  • Copper or Clay Stills
  • Oak Barrels (for Aging Añejo)
  • Hydrometers and Alcoholmeters
  • Bottling Equipments

How Is Mezcal Anejo Made?

The production of Mezcal Añejo is a multi-step process that combines ancient traditions and, in some cases, more modern techniques. Here’s a general overview of the steps involved:

Harvesting (Jima)

The agave plant, which can take 7 to 30 years to mature (depending on the species), is harvested. The leaves are removed, leaving the core or “piña.”

Cooking

The piñas are baked or roasted to convert the starches into fermentable sugars. Traditional methods involve using earthen pits lined with volcanic rocks. The piñas are placed in these pits, covered with agave leaves and earth, and then cooked for several days. This step imparts the smoky flavor characteristic of Mezcal.

Crushing

After cooking, the softened piñas are crushed to extract the sugary juice. Traditionally, a large stone wheel called a “tahona” is used, often pulled by a horse or a mule. Some modern producers might use mechanical crushers.

Fermentation

The extracted juice, often some crushed agave fibers, is transferred to open-air fermentation tanks. These can be made of wood, stone, or even leather. Wild yeast, or in some cases commercial yeast, is used to ferment sugars into alcohol. Depending on the conditions, this step can last from a few days to a week.

Distillation

The fermented liquid is typically distilled twice to increase its alcohol content and purify the spirit. This is done in either copper alembic stills or traditional clay pot stills.

Aging

For Mezcal Añejo, the distilled spirit is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year and up to three years. The oak barrels can be new or previously used (often ex-bourbon barrels). The aging process imparts color, flavor, and smoothness to the Mezcal. A longer aging process often results in deeper color and more pronounced barrel flavors.

Bottling

After aging for the desired time, the Mezcal Añejo is removed from the barrels, possibly diluted to the desired bottling strength with water, and then bottled.

Labeling and Regulation

Each bottle of Mezcal, including Añejo, should have a label indicating its type, alcohol content, and other relevant information. It should also include a NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) number, indicating the distillery and ensuring it meets the regulatory standards.

How is Mezcal Anejo Different from Others?

Mezcal Añejo stands out from other types of mezcal and spirits due to several key differences, particularly its aging process, flavor profile, and usage. Here’s a closer look at how Mezcal Añejo is different:

Extended Aging in Barrels: Mezcal Añejo is aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year, up to several years. This is longer than Mezcal Reposado, which is aged for two months to less than a year, and significantly longer than Mezcal Joven, which is unaged.

Influence of the Barrel: The extended contact with oak barrels imparts a unique complexity, smoothness, and richness to Mezcal Añejo, distinguishing it from younger mezcals.

Complex and Smooth: The aging process mellows the smokiness typical of mezcal, integrating it with deeper flavors such as vanilla, caramel, oak, and spices. This results in a more refined and complex taste compared to the brighter and more direct flavors of Mezcal Joven.

Less Smoky: Compared to Mezcal Joven, which often has a pronounced smoky character due to the direct influence of the pit-cooking process, Mezcal Añejo’s smokiness is more subdued and balanced with other flavors.

Darker Hue: The aging in oak barrels gives Mezcal Añejo a golden to amber color, contrasting with the clear appearance of Mezcal Joven.

Premium Category: Mezcal Añejo is often positioned as a premium product, reflecting the extended aging process and the depth of flavor it offers. It appeals to connoisseurs and enthusiasts who appreciate aged spirits.

Types of Mezcal Anejo

Traditional Mezcal Añejo

This is the classic form of Mezcal Añejo, aged in oak barrels. The wood aging gives the mezcal a smoother, richer taste with a balance of smoke and subtle wooden notes.

Single Barrel Mezcal Añejo

Similar to single barrel whiskeys, these are Mezcal Añejos that are bottled from a single barrel, offering a unique and distinct flavor that reflects the specific characteristics of that barrel.

Artisanal Mezcal Añejo

These are often produced in smaller batches using traditional methods. The aging process, the type of wood used for the barrels, and the particular type of agave can all vary, resulting in a wide range of flavors.

Blended Mezcal Añejo

These are blends of different barrels or even different types of mezcal. The blending is done after the aging process and aims to achieve a specific flavor profile.

Reserva Mezcal Añejo

These are often aged longer than the minimum one year required for Añejo designation and are sometimes kept in barrels for close to the three-year mark. They are usually of higher quality and offer deeper, more complex flavors.

Mezcal Añejo with Unique Wood Aging

Some producers experiment with different types of wood for aging, such as cherry, walnut, or other exotic woods, to impart unique flavors to the mezcal.

Limited Edition Mezcal Añejo

These are often special releases that may feature unique aging processes, rare types of agave, or special blending techniques. They are typically produced in limited quantities and are sought after by collectors and connoisseurs.

Buy Mezcal Anejo Online

High-quality Mezcal is usually characterized by its production methods, which often adhere to traditional techniques, and the type of agave used. For those seeking Mezcal Anejo specifically, several brands are known for their quality. Here are some reputable brands that produce high-quality Mezcal Anejo:

Del Maguey

One of the pioneers in bringing artisanal and traditional Mezcals to the international market. Their Mezcals, including the Añejo versions, are highly regarded.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

Mezcal Vago

This brand has gained a reputation for its transparency and dedication to showcasing the work of individual master Mezcaleros.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

El Jolgorio

El Jolgorio offers a range of single-varietal Mezcals, and their aged versions are well-respected for their quality.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

Mezcales de Leyenda

Mezcales de Leyenda sources its spirits from different Mexican states, each with its unique terroir and flavor profile.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

Bozal

Bozal often emphasizes wild agave varieties, and their Añejo Mezcals are known for their rich and nuanced taste.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

Ilegal Mezcal

A popular brand, Ilegal has been at the forefront of introducing high-quality Mezcal to international markets. Their Añejo is well-regarded for its smoothness and complexity.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

Montelobos

A brand that blends tradition with a scientific approach to distillation, ensuring consistency and quality.

Buy Now on Drizly

Buy Now on Saucey

Other brands you might like sipping are:

  • Los Danzantes
  • Los Amantes
  • Pierde Almas
  • Scorpion Mezcal
  • Real Minero
  • Mezcaloteca
  • Siete Misterios
  • Wahaka Mezcal
  • Bruxo
  • Nuestra Soledad

Recipe Variation

Mezcal Añejo, with its rich and smoky profile, lends itself beautifully to various cocktails. Here are a few recipe variations that highlight its unique flavor:

Mezcal Anejo Old Fashioned

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Mezcal Anejo
  • 1/4 oz agave syrup (or simple syrup)
  • 2-3 dashes of aromatic bitters
  • Orange peel for garnish
  • Ice cubes

Instructions

  • Combine Mezcal Anejo, agave syrup, and aromatic bitters in a mixing glass.
  • Add ice cubes to the mixing glass and stir gently for about 20-30 seconds to chill and dilute the drink slightly.
  • Strain the mixture into a rocks glass filled with ice.
  • Express the oils from an orange peel over the drink, then place it in the glass as a garnish.
  • Serve and enjoy the complex and smoky flavors of Mezcal Anejo in this sophisticated twist on the classic Old Fashioned.

Mezcal Añejo Negroni

Ingredients

  • 1 oz Mezcal Añejo
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz Sweet Vermouth
  • Orange peel for garnish

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir well and strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with the orange peel.

Smoky Mezcal Sour

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Mezcal Añejo
  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup
  • Egg white (optional for frothiness)
  • Cherry or lemon twist for garnish

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice and shake vigorously (a dry shake). Add ice and shake again. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish.

Mezcal Añejo & Coffee

Ingredients

  • 1.5 oz Mezcal Añejo
  • 4 oz freshly brewed hot coffee
  • 1/2 oz coffee liqueur (optional)
  • Whipped cream for topping

Instructions

Pour the Mezcal and coffee into a warmed mug. Add coffee liqueur if desired. Top with whipped cream.

Mezcal Añejo Paloma

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Mezcal Añejo
  • 2 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 oz fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup or agave nectar
  • Club soda
  • Salt for rimming (optional)
  • Grapefruit wedge for garnish

Instructions

If desired, salt the rim of a highball glass. Fill the glass with ice. Combine Mezcal, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake and strain into the glass. Top with club soda and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Each of these recipes showcases the depth and complexity of Mezcal Añejo while introducing complementary flavors. Feel free to adjust the recipes to suit your taste preferences! Cheers!!

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