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When most people think of tequila, they probably don’t think of an aged spirit with notes of vanilla and baking spices. But, añejo tequila is, by definition, aged at least a year and up to three in oak barrels, bringing out a rounder texture and sweeter flavors. It’s not the tequila you’ll (usually) want to shoot or mix into a margarita, but it’s great as a replacement for bourbon in cocktails or for sipping straight. It’s special tequila, made to be aged.
From popular brands to few under-the-radar bottles, here are the best añejo tequilas.
Best Overall: Don Julio 1942
Luxury option from a well-known brand
Looks great on any bar
ABV: 40% | Age: 2.5 years in white American oak barrels | Tasting Notes: Butterscotch, white pepper, tropical fruit
In 1942, Julio González, founder of Don Julio, finally secured the funds to make his dream of opening a distillery come true. That same year, he founded his first distillery “La Primavera” in the highlands of Jalisco and embarked upon his tequila-making journey. By planting his agave slightly farther apart, he found that he got a sweeter, smoother spirit. From there, Don Julio has become one of the best-known tequila brands in the world.
It’s fitting, then, that the brand’s most iconic bottle be named after the year everything started. Aged for a minimum of 2.5 years in American oak barrels, this bottle is synonymous with luxury tequila. Its notes of butterscotch, white pepper, and tropical fruit make it a delight to enjoy all evening.
Best Under $35: Don Sergio Añejo Tequila
Impressive value for the price
Great for cocktails
Not as smooth as others
ABV: 40% | Age: 2.5 years in American oak barrels | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, baking spices, white pepper
It’s not easy to find an añejo tequila under $30. You might think, then, that if you could find anything at that price point, it would be of poor quality. In the case of Don Sergio, you would be pleasantly surprised. It’s made with 100 percent blue agave and is a delight to drink. In fact, this budget-friendly bottle won a Silver Medal at the San Francisco Spirits Competition in 2013.
With aromas of vanilla, baking spices, and white pepper, Don Sergio makes an excellent after-dinner drink and, at this price, can be mixed into your favorite whiskey cocktails without breaking the bank. Its finish isn’t quite as smooth as the ultra-premium stuff, but it beats plenty of bottles at twice the price.
Best Under $50: Cazadores Tequila Añejo
Great for mixing or sipping
Sustainably made, zero waste
May be difficult to find in stores
ABV: 40% | Age: At least one year in new, small, American white oak barrels | Tasting Notes: Spiced apple pie, pecans, vanilla bean
Cazadores Añejo is made with 100 percent blue agave, which is fermented twice and distilled twice before spending at least a year in new, small American white oak barrels. New oak barrels have more flavor to impart, and this highland tequila boasts layers of it—think spiced apple pie, pecans, vanilla bean, a salted chocolate almond bar. It would pair nicely with dessert, but it's also wonderful sipped neat.
Cazadores means “hunters” in Spanish, a reference to founder Don Jose Maria Bañuelos’s obsession with protecting the quality and uniqueness of his tequila. It is said he even went so far as to hide his tequila recipe in the walls of his house. Cazadores has fine-tuned its process to be both sustainable and zero-waste (using a seven-step process that includes double distillation and double fermentation), meaning you can feel even better about sipping this delicious tequila.
Best Extra Añejo: El Tesoro Extra Añejo
Extra smooth with pastry-like flavors
A special category
ABV: 40% | Age: 4 to 5 years in ex-bourbon barrels | Tasting Notes: Café au lait and dark chocolate almond bar
Añejo means “old” in Spanish. Extra Añejo tequila, therefore, is older—it must have been aged for at least three years in oak barrels. El Tesoro introduced its first extra añejo tequila in 1994 before the Consejo Regulador de Tequila had even created a special classification for the style.
Made with estate-grown blue agave, this special blend honors founder Don Felipe Camarena’s passion for aged tequila. His grandson, Carlos Camarena, ages the extra añejo in former bourbon barrels for four to five years for enhanced depth and complexity. It won a double gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge in 2019.
Best for Sipping: Casa Noble Añejo Tequila
Reasonable price for the quality
Drinks sweeter than some others
ABV: 40% | Age: 2 years in new French white oak barrels | Tasting Notes: Butterscotch pudding, roasted agave, dried fruits
Most añejos are aged between 12 and 18 months. After distilling three times, Casa Noble ages its añejo tequila in new French white oak barrels for a full 24 months, bringing out flavors of toasted oak, butterscotch pudding, roasted agave, and dried fruits.
Its complexity, to say nothing of its smooth finish, won it the gold medal at the SIP Awards in 2017 and the World Spirits Awards in 2016. It’s made with 100 percent blue agave and certified organic. It’s neither the priciest nor least expensive tequila on this list, but if you should choose to buy it, you will almost certainly enjoy it. This is the bottle that could convert just about anyone into a tequila lover.
Best Premium: Gran Patrón Burdeos Añejo
Smooth and complex
ABV: 40% | Age: Minimum of one year in used American and new French Oak barrels, finished in vintage Bordeaux barrels | Tasting Notes: Oak, light agave, vanilla, raisin
You’ve never had Patrón like this before. Even its everyday tequilas are made with what the brand calls “small-batch spirit,” covering little details like the agave piñas being hand-chopped before roasting in small brick ovens and all the bottles, corks, and barrels being made at its distilleries.
The high-end Burdeos bottling is made in tiny batches, using only the finest highland 100 percent blue weber agave. After being distilled twice (the second distillation following 12 months of aging in used American and new French oak barrels), it's finished in vintage Bordeaux wine barrels, imparting rich wine-like flavors and distinctive dark amber color. You’ll find notes of freshly picked desert herbs, tobacco, maple sugar, and fleur de sel caramels in this stunning bottle. This is truly a luxury tequila that lives up to the high expectations set by its high price point.
Best for Bourbon Lovers: Espolòn Tequila Añejo
High value for the price
Sip straight or use for cocktails
Best for bourbon drinkers
ABV: 40% | Age: 10 months in new American oak barrels, finished for two months in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels | Tasting Notes: Agave, caramel, butterscotch
Espolòn’s tequila has quickly become a favorite of beverage industry folks, thanks to its high quality and incredibly reasonable price point. Its Añejo, made from 100 percent blue weber agave, is no exception. After being aged in new American oak barrels for ten months, it’s finished in Wild Turkey bourbon barrels for two months, taking on some of the spice and texture of your favorite bourbon.
The final product is smooth, distinctive, and just over $30. It’s a quality, sipping-worthy spirit, but at that price point, you can also play around with it in cocktails (tequila old-fashioned, anyone?) or even take it like a shot if that’s where the evening goes.
What to Look for in Añejo Tequila
As with any other spirit, your tequila should fit your budget. These bottles range from under $30 to more than $100. Your average añejo will probably cost more than $50. More time in (expensive) oak barrels will generally make your beverage more expensive
It’s worth considering how you plan on using your añejo tequila. Will you be making cocktails with it? Sipping it? Gifting it? If you’re throwing it into cocktails, you can probably get away with something less pricey. If you’re sipping on just that spirit, though, you want something that you’ll enjoy. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend more money, but it may make that extra $10 to $20 spent worth it.
You may also want to consider the type of oak used. New oak barrels are more expensive and will impart much more flavor—if you love those notes of vanilla and spice, it may be worth paying for the bottles aged in new oak. You’ll also see some that are aged in French barrels and others in American oak. Believe it or not, you will get slightly different flavors from each. French barrels impart rounder, more pastry-like flavors, while American oak imparts slightly more tropical, herbaceous flavors. If it mentions that it’s an ex-bourbon, -sherry, -etc., barrel, expect to find some of those flavors in your tequila.
That said, the intent of the producer is everything, and different yeast strains can be used to bring out the flavors that the producer is aiming for.
There are some great options from bigger brands, but generally, you’ll find incredible value from smaller companies. You do have to be selective, though—brands like Espolòn and Cazadores are good bets. It’s also worth considering how familiar you are with the category. If you’ve never had añejo tequila and start with a luxury, high-price options, you’ll likely enjoy it, but you may not be able to tell what makes it special because you won’t have much to compare it with. If you’re new to the category, it’s worth starting with some baseline options and then working your way up to the more expensive bottles if your budget allows it.
How do you drink añejo tequila?
Most prefer to sip añejo tequila straight or on an oversized rock, though it can be subbed into whiskey drinks, like an old-fashioned or Manhattan.
What is the difference between añejo, reposado, and blanco tequilas?
The biggest differences in these styles comes down to oak aging. Blanco is not aged in oak and will have more agave flavor than the others. Reposado tequila spends two months to a year in oak. Añejo spends one to three years in oak, and if you see a bottle marked "extra añejo," that spent more than three years in the barrel.
What makes añejo tequila dark?
Añejo tequila spends between one and three years in oak barrels. Its color comes from that aging process, as does the color from all dark spirits. All spirits start their lives clear and only gain color from contact with wood (or sometimes from added coloring).
Can you make a margarita with añejo tequila?
Can you? Sure. Will it be the same experience? No. The vanilla and spice flavors from the oak aging will take away from the freshness that you find in most margaritas. That said, there are some recipes online for añejo margaritas that play on that vanilla note by using pineapple juice and other tropical flavors.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Christine Clark is a professional eater and drinker who happens to be obsessed with agave spirits. She’s taught classes around the country on pairing it with cheese, and her Arizona origins also have ensured that she makes a darn good margarita. She has a podcast about cheese.