Tequila comes with a lot of tradition: since the early 1500s, Spanish conquistadores in Mexico produced the drink as a substitute for brandy, with the first unofficial tequila factory going into business around 1600 and the first royal license given to Don Jose Antonio de Cuervo (recognize that name?) in the late 1700s. In 1800, tequila makers started aging tequila in oak barrels, a tradition that continues today in Reposado (“rested”), Añejo (aged) and Extra Añejo spirits.
TAKE THE WORM OUT: Qui Tequila | Partida Anejo Tequila | Espolon Reposado Tequila
1800 Tequila — which gets its name from that first year of the spirit’s union with oak — continues many of the traditions established hundreds of years ago, like using only blue agave grown on family-owned ranches and being bottled in Jalisco, Mexico. Currently, the 1800 line consists of the 1800 Silver, the 1800 Select Silver, the 1800 Reserva Reposado, the 1800 Reserva Añejo, the 1800 Coleccion, the 1800 Coconut, the Ultimate Margarita and the 1800 Milenio ($125). Not counting the rare $1,600 Coleccion, which arrives in a pewter-trimmed, Belgian crystal bottle (which, in turn, is housed in a custom suede and leather case), Milenio tops the line. It represents a departure from the traditional tequila aging process: the Milenio rests for five years in white oak, but then spends five months in French oak Cognac barrels.
Is the extra-barrel aging unprecedented? No. Tequila makers do age their product in different barrels — the $500 Gran Patrón Burdeos, a Patron tequila, gets finished in Bordeaux barrels, and four of the tequilas in the Expresiones del Corazon line get aged in Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, Sazerac Rye and Buffalo Trace, respectively — but usually as one-offs that get snapped up by collectors and connoisseurs. But it’s certainly not common, and that makes the Milenio something to consider buying. Bottled at 40 percent, the Milenio smells like oak, caramel, honey and fig, and tastes like caramel and vanilla layered over a lighter, livelier tequila profile. At $125, it lists as slightly more expensive than other Cognac-aged tequilas like El Tesoro de Don Felipe Paradiso and Herradura Coleccion de la Casa, Reserva 2013 (which cost $116 and $90, respectively), but good luck finding those. Right now, the Milenio is only available in select markets, but 1800 plans to distribute more widely starting in May.