Oak Barrel Aging Tequila At Home

Tequilas In An Oak Aging BarrelWhen it comes to aging tequila, whisky and the majority of rums, the highest quality liquors come long periods of confinement in charred wood barrels in dusty warehouses without disruption (sadly, however, not without taxes in Kentucky).

An example of this very practice is right in front of me on my desk – Herradura silver tequila in a small, 1 liter barrel.  A Louisville boutique called Red Head Oak Barrels supplied the barrel and the publicist let me know all about the micro-trend of aging cocktails in barrels.

This is when the shelf-stable ingredients for a drink like the Manhattan are collected by bartenders, mixed in large batches and poured into a wood barrel to age for a while and then dispensed to order and completed.  (And of course the prices for these are marked up quite a bit – of this I’m certain.)

The time that these cocktails spend in the barrel adds the subtle flavors of honey, caramel and vanilla and even a dash of citrus.   There is even a smoky nuance that gets picked from the barrel which I surmise favors tequila.

Now this is where the generous individuals working at Brown-Forman became involved.  In an effort to learn more about the aging process for tequila, I proposed several blogs that talked about how the barrel would influence the Herradura silver tequila produced by B-F first, with the tequila alone and next, mixed with Cointreau, to know more about the taste of an aged margarita.

Given their generosity – and I promise, I am not being paid to endorse this company and these supplies weren’t solicited – they sent over two additional Herradura “expressions”: anjeo and reposado.  Purely for science you see.

Taste, texture and color tests

Tequila geeks probably know that before bottling, Herradura silver is aged for a full 45 days in a barrel, but due its almost colorless composition, this information is not visible.

However, after spending 30 days in my Red Head Oak aging Barrel for home use, this tequila now has a rich golden coloration, much like the reposado by Herradura which is aged 11 months and it has also picked up a light red cedar tone.

In order to accurately judge them, I tasted the aged tequila and the original side by side.

Bottled:  There are hints of agave sugar and citrus in the nose and even a bit of butterscotch.  (What do I hear tequila snobs?  You think that this is all agave sugar?  There is no butterscotch?  I will be using my own rooter, thank you. More importantly, there are two very butterscotchy anjeos that I currently have in my cabinet.)  I have this amazing feeling of balance in my mouth from the front to the back and this tequila provides a decent amount of spice and a nice peppery finish.

You get considerable helpings of vanilla and agave from a healthy sip and very minute tinge of mint comes in for the exhale.  After having swallowed, the vanilla shows up again with a final bloom of cinnamon.  The flavor is clean, playful and bright.

Barrel aged:  The nose provides a similar citrus edge, but the butterscotch and agave aromas that were present in the bottled version are tinged with vanilla.  My mouth is more sharp and peppery which is a not-so-subtle but somewhat pleasant texture that high-proof fans will appreciate.  The front of the tongue gets cinnamon and agave with a large sip as well as plenty of char and wood at the back, especially when exhaling.  Mid-palate, a bare hint of citrus and a bit of vanilla reemerge after a short rest, which is an enjoyable surprise and a promise that the complexity will deepen with increased aging.