IN HONOR OF Tequila Don Julio’s 70th anniversary, the company released Don Julio Añejo 70 Claro, an innovative new aged tequila earlier this fall. The clear, colorless tequila has been aged in oak, then filtered through a proprietary process to remove color and highlight the agave notes of a blanco.
The tequila is aged for 18 months in used American oak, as with Don Julio’s regular añejo, then filtered. Removing oak coloring and heavy notes is a process innovators like London’s Tony Conigliaro and the French Culinary Institute’s Dave Arnold have been toying with over the past couple of years to create unusual, experimental spirits like “vodksy” (an aged whisky with all the flavor and none of the color) and “whiska” (a vodka infused with aged oak flavoring and coloring), but this is the first time a similar process has been applied to a commercial aged spirit.
Añejo Claro “has a smooth and light character, opening with the citrus notes of a Blanco, yet exhibiting vanilla, honey and sweet toasted oak found in an añejo,” according to master distiller Enrique de Colsa.
We decided to put the three to a blind tasting: Don Julio blanco, regular añejo and the new Añejo 70 Claro (thanks to the small sample we received). Each was served in identical Riedel tequila glasses at room temperature, the tasting was done blindfolded. It should be noted that the author is biased towards añejos and extra añejos, including Don Julio Réal.
- Don Julio Blanco: On the nose it is grassy and sweet, the agave notes being the strongest element of all, on the palate notes of lemon, white pepper, and a hint of grapefruit come through.
- Don Julio Añejo: The añejo is quite a light amber as aged spirits go, so sitting side-by-side with the Claro, the color difference isn’t huge, except against a white background. On the nose it is a full traditional bouquet off vanilla, caramel and light agave. On the palate it is round and full, with hints of caramel sweetness and soaked tobaccko. There is a noticeable viscosity, with a nice weight at the mid-tongue and a long, pleasing finish.
- Don Julio Añejo 70 Claro: On the nose, one gets a blast of wood, black walnut, earth and dusty sugar. On the palate it is brash, with an upfront sandalwood, then a very light citrus and a light brown sugar. As it opens up, sweet soapy and floral aromas come forward.
Surprisingly, while tasting these blind, we recognized the blanco easily, but confused the Claro and traditional Añejo due to the heavy wood notes in the Claro. As it sits in the glass and opens and the nose becomes more aromatic, floral and fragrant, but still very different from either the traditional añejo or the blanco. Of the Don Julio portfolio, it would not be our first option. It is also highly possible, of course, that we received a “corked” sample or the equivalent, based on the slight mustiness on opening. We recommend sampling this product before buying it.
So why create a spirit like this? Largely because they could. It was an innovative method to add a “new” category to the fairly limited allowed expressions of tequila, in time for the company’s 70th anniversary. But there could be an intriguing twist here for cocktails as well. Retaining elements of both the blanco and the añejo, means it could provide more heft and body to tequila cocktails, without impacting color or adding too much woodiness that sometimes stands out in a glass. It’s a reason many bartenders opt for a reposado tequila (aged between 2 months and one year), and the Añejo Claro could give them another tool in their arsenal.
Don Julio Añejo 70 Claro launched this fall nationally. It carries an SRP of $70 and an ABV of 40%.
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FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author’s own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. The author received a small sample of the Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro.