By now, custom-aged, bought-by-the-barrel bourbon has become a mainstay among bars. And as tequila goes premium, you’re also seeing mixologists opting for bespoke barrel-aged agave spirit to elevate their concoctions.
Restaurants and spirits retailers always love to present their customers with unique offers, and so a bespoke barrel of Patrón tequila allows them a great opportunity for an ‘only here’ tequila,” says Greg Cohen, the company’s vice president of communication. “It’s really incredible the range of complexity that’s achieved from barrel aging, and each individual barrel imparts such distinct flavors.”
Patrón has been at the forefront of the trend. Its hacienda, which contains 12 distinct distilleries producing a range of tequilas under one roof near Guadalajara, contains a colossal aging room, not unlike a winery. Stacked up like pyramids are several kinds of barrels—made of American, French (Allier and Limousin) and Hungarian oak. It’s in this room that the company’s Barrel Select tequila is aged and tested.
“If you try the same batch at different times, it will taste differently because of how long it’s aged,” says Antonio Rodriguez, a production manager. “One customer might want more wood in their tequila, while another likes more fruit. We invite our customers to come in and select something unique for themselves.” Those who can’t physically make the trek to Jalisco can also request a kit of samples.
Rooftop Refinery’s Rooftop Sparkler, left, and Margarita
Chris Byrne, Refinery’s beverage director, was drawn to a particular reposado—tequila aged in barrels between two to 12 months—for its smoothness and light floral finish. “Usually the reposado is aged two months, but the one we have is aged six months,” he says. “You get that slight, not overpowering, oak taste.”
Casa Herradura agave fields
One of his favorite drinks, the Rooftop Sparkler, mixes tequila with lime, agave, prosecco and a dash of Peychaud’s bitters. The subtle smokiness balances out the signature cocktail’s ebullient sweetness. A zesty twist on the classic Margarita adds a kick from chopped jalapeño pepper and oaky sultriness from the tequila to house-made clementine cordial and lime juice. “We have the barrel on-site, and customers get very intrigued,” says Byrne. “Then they have a cocktail and are blown away.”
The barrel trend is noticeable. Herradura offers a one-of-a-kind double-barrel reposado through its Buy the Barrel program—a twice-matured tequila, once in a toasted oak barrel for 11 months, then aged again in a new barrel for one month to add hints of spices and dried fruit. According to the company, it has sold approximately 200 barrels nationwide, including to The St. Regis Atlanta.
This isn’t exactly for everyday consumers—one barrel yields about 27 cases. But for mixologists who want to control every aspect of the ingredient, ordering a custom barrel might just be the answer.