Best Aged Mezcals: Inside the Controversial Spirits Category
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Best Aged Mezcals: Inside the Controversial Spirits Category

Best Aged Mezcals

Aged mezcals have been creating a stir in the spirits community. We thought we’d put together a list of the best aged mezcals that exemplify the up-and-coming expression.

As agave spirits have exploded across the United States, distillers have learned to cater to regional tastes; celebrity-owned brands, flavored tequila, and of course, aged expressions like the reposado and añejo.

While aged tequila has become exceedingly popular with consumers, a burgeoning trend towards aged mezcal has proven more contentious.

There is a lot of conflicting dialogue surrounding the “ethics” of aged mezcal within the spirits community at the moment; while some have declared it the next “uniquely delicious” trend, others have questioned whether it’s an affront to tradition.

Regardless of where you stand, it’s worth noting that there is an established centuries-long history of barrel aging mezcal throughout Mexico. Though aged agave spirits may be trendy, it isn’t fair to dismiss the recent popularity of aged mezcal as only a trend.

Below, we’ve put together a list of some of the best aged mezcals on the market, ones that don’t sacrifice mezcal’s signature smoky bite to the dark oaky flavor of barrel aging.

Ilegal Añejo

Best Aged Mezcals

One of the most easily recognizable mezcals on the market, Ilegal has established itself as a hallmark brand for good reason.

The brand gets its name from founder John Rexer, who spent years covertly smuggling the spirit out of Oaxaca to his bar in Antigua, Guatemala. Since the brand’s official launch in 2005, “Ilegal” has become a bit of a misnomer and it can now be bought easily off of most liquor store shelves

Ilegal’s Añejo is an espadin mezcal aged 13 months in a blend of American and French oak casks. In the process, the spirit picks up flavors of butterscotch, honey, apple and lemon peel.

This is a sweeter-leaning mezcal, though one that should still feel at home for smoky mezcal enthusiasts. However, at $100, it doesn’t come cheap.

Find Ilegal Añejo at Total Wine.

Sombra Mezcal Artesanal Reposado

Best Aged Mezcals

Sombra has dubbed this expression a “Reposé” on account that it’s aged for six months in Bordeaux wine barrels.

Wine barrel-aged mezcal is an oddity within the industry, but the technique pays off. This unusually high 45% ABV mezcal reposado packs a heavy smoke punch alongside notes of vanilla, orange peel and blackberry.

Retailing for around $50, this is a good pick if you’re looking for a budget-friendly aged mezcal.

Find Sombra Mezcal Artesanal Reposado near you.

Los Nahuales Añejo

Best Aged Mezcal

Sold as “Los Danzantes” mezcal throughout Mexico, Los Nahuales comes to the United States courtesy of master mezcalera Karina Abad Rojas.

Rested for 16 months in a combination of French oak and American White Oak barrels, this espadin mezcal swirls with flavors of baking spice, black pepper, custard and caramel.

This expression will feel right at home for tequila añejo and whiskey drinkers. It sells in the $100-$110 range.

Find Los Nahueles Anejo near you.

Encantadora Cristalino Mezcal

Best Aged Mezcals

This is an interesting one; not only is Encantadora an aged mezcal, but an aged mezcal cristalino. For those unaware, cristalinos are aged agave spirits charcoal-filtered to achieve the crystal clarity of a blanco.

Though cristalino tequila has established itself as the new “it” trend within the past few years, it’s a technique rarely utilized in the mezcal industry.

Clearly, Encantadora is trying to stand out. But it’s not superficial; with a bright mineral character, gobs of Espadin and wild Tepeztate agave flavor and a sweet finish, Encantadora Cristalino Mezcal is a worthwhile purchase at its $75 price tag.

Find Encantadora Cristalino Mezcal near you.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.