Heart of Agave

The Best Tequila

In just eight years on the market, Murillo’s brand, Alquimia, has won 35 gold medals in international contests, including best in show for its extra añejo—the classification for tequila aged in an oak barrel for more than three years—at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in March. The key, Murillo told me, is in the high sugar content of his plants. Many larger distillers have embraced the extra añejo category, because strong oaky flavors can mask poor-quality tequila, but the natural flavor of the plant is overwhelmed. “If you age tequila too aggressively,” Murillo told me, “you lose the agave characteristics.” To demonstrate the contrast, he poured his añejo into plastic tasting cups perched on the armrest between our seats, somehow topping off each shot as he braked and eased around craters in the blacktop.

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