El Jimador is one of the best selling brands of tequila in Mexico, and the majority of those sales come just from the un-aged blanco version. So what happens when you take an already wildly popular spirit, chuck it in an oak barrel for a couple years, and taste the result? Well, eventually a hangover… but in the meantime, there’s some delicious margaritas to be had.
Tequila production on what would become the Herradura distillery started in the early 19th century, started by a man named Feliciano Romo. In 1870, Félix López took over this property and registered it as a legal distillery named Hacienda San José del Refugio. The distillery remained in the family even after Félix’s death in 1878, operated first by his wife and later by her brother Aurelio López.
It was Aurelio who would give the distillery its lasting name of Herradura, named after a horseshoe that he found on the property sometime around 1900. When the Cristero War broke out in Mexico in 1926 (a conflict where secular factions within Mexico sought to eliminate the power of the Catholic church and impose an atheist state), Aurelio provided financial and material support to the Catholics. In response, the distillery was raided and he was forced with his family into exile. During this period, he left his cousin Don David in charge of the facility — and this would prove fortuitous, as it was David who resisted the 1920’s trend of producing inferior “mixto” tequila, demanding instead that Herradura always remain 100% blue agave based.
The old distillery was shut down in the 1960’s and replaced with a newer modern facility, but the old buildings were maintained as a museum. In the 1970’s, the company introduced their first aged expressions, expanding beyond blanco tequila for the first time.
In 1994, the company introduced a new brand of tequila designed to offer a premium experience at a reasonable and approachable price point. Named for the workers in the field who cultivate the agave plants (called “jimadores”), El Jimador remains a 100% blue agave based spirit produced to this day.
The company remained family owned and increasingly successful, capturing 30% of the tequila market by the early 2000’s. In 2007, the family decided to sell the company to the American spirits giant Brown-Forman (of Jack Daniel’s fame) for over $700 million. Brown-Forman have since expanded distribution and production of the tequila; however, despite this new ownership, the spirit is still produced at the same facility where it has been since the 1800’s.
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As with all tequila produced by Herradura, this starts as a crop of blue agave plants that are harvested and have their leaves removed. What’s left is the tough and fibrous core of the plant, which is cooked in an oven to convert those fibers into sugar. The plants are then crushed to release the fluid, and that fluid is fermented to convert the sugar into alcohol. From there, this is distilled three times to create the new blanco tequila.
For this anejo version of this tequila, though, the newly made spirit is placed into charred American oak barrels for a period of twelve months.
Overall, this is a pretty solid bottle.
The shape of the glass is interesting, sporting a long slender rectangular body with a couple facets and a portrait of a jimador embossed into the glass itself. It’s a style that is borrows from some of the tricks that they pull off with their flagship Herradura brand, but this is a much taller version. The glass is topped off with a metallic screw-on top.
I particularly like the branding here. The label is as small and unobtrusive as possible, wrapping around near the base and leaving the majority of the surface area completely clear and transparent. This might not be quite as important with a blanco tequila or other clear spirit — but for an aged spirit like this, it perfectly allows the bottle to highlight that beautiful golden colored liquid inside.
There’s a really nice golden color to this spirit, which is apparent through the bottle as well as in the glass. When it comes to the aromas, I’m getting is vanilla and brown sugar — two components usually associated with the barrel aging process and prominent in whiskey as well. There’s a bit of a herbal note and some lemon citrus playing a supporting role, as well, but they aren’t nearly as prominent as they were with the blanco version.
The aromas carry over pretty faithfully to the flavors. The vanilla is the first thing that comes through and it’s joined by a bit of caramel sweetness, but following close behind is a bit of black pepper spice to make things interesting. As the flavor develops, some of the herbal aspects creep into the profile followed by the lemon citrus to brighten things up. It finishes nicely with that black pepper spice leaving a nice tingle on the lips.
One thing to note here is that, unlike the blanco version, there really isn’t any noticeable bitterness. This is nice and smooth from start to finish.
Ice isn’t usually all that beneficial for a spirit that mostly has light flavors in it. There’s a tendency to kill the flavors and generally make the spirit rather bland.
Sadly, that’s what is going on here. Compared to the blanco version, this fares slightly better because the barrel aging notes do tend to hang on a bit longer. But still, once the ice is in the spirit the only flavors I’m getting anymore are the vanilla and caramel, with potentially a slight bit of lemon citrus to make it slightly cheerful. Everything else has dropped straight out of the running.
This is actually quite good.
The majority of what I’m seeing is a little bit of sweetness added to the flavor profile from the caramel and the vanilla aspects (aka the only flavor notes that can hold up to the ice). Those flavors are giving it some depth and complexity, keeping it from being as insufferably bright and cheerful as your one sober friend on Sunday morning.
It’s a nicely balanced and delicious cocktail that works very well.
I feel like this is a great illustration of the benefits that aging can have on a spirit. The blanco version is somewhat mediocre and bland, but with a little bit of time and patience in an oak barrel, the flavors and the smoothness of the spirit are significantly better.
It’s a good tasting tequila that passes all the tests and won’t break the bank. It makes a mean margarita, and might even be a half decent old fashioned.
|El Jimador Anejo Tequila|
Proof: 59.8% ABV
Price: $23.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
All it takes is a year in a barrel, and you’ve got the perfect balance of flavor and affordability.