2 Good Reasons to Reconsider Joven Tequilas

Suave releases rare 5-year XA and blanco blends

Among the five official categories of tequila, the “Joven or Oro” expression (as it is labeled in tequila regulations) is probably the most maligned. Blamed for many wild nights and wicked hangovers of youth, these tequilas have historically been cheaper products containing additives, such as extra sugar and caramel coloring.

Single Barrel Joven from Suave Tequila

Single Barrel Joven (45G and 42S) from Suave Tequila

But “young” and “gold” tequilas don’t have to signify a bad tequila experience. The category is defined as blanco, or unaged tequila, mixed with an aged tequila, such as a reposado or añejo. The rules for this category do permit the use of additives, as in all the other expressions, but they are in no way mandatory.

One hard and fast rule, however, is that no matter how much aged tequila you add to the blanco, it remains a “joven”, and cannot be labeled as another aged category. So, even if you mix 90% extra añejo tequila in with 10% blanco it’s still called a “joven”.

There are currently a number of “joven” and “gold” labeled products in the market, mostly produced by big commercial brands such as Jose Cuervo and Sauza. But there is also a small and growing number of products from smaller producers who want to revive the joven category, without the use of additives.

And given that aged tequilas are currently in short supply, thanks to the recent tequila boom, jovens offer a creative way to get consumers the barrel flavors they crave, without having to put 100% aged tequila in the bottle.

In late 2019, for instance, General Gorostieta was introduced to the market as a mix of blanco and reposado tequilas, carefully blended by Master Tequilera Ana María Romero Mena.

Suave Tequila also launched a joven in 2019, as a blend of its blanco with its four aged expressions.

Suave launched these two new jovens, that we helped select. Each expression features Suave blanco tequila mixed with a special single barrel of extra añejo tequila.

About the New Suave Joven Single Barrels

The joven collaboration between Suave and Tequila Matchmaker* came about by accident, and good fortune. Back in 2020, while visiting the distillery where Suave is made, Master Distiller Jaime Villalobos Sauza suggested that we try some samples from their nearly 5-year (56 months) extra añejo barrels.

Jaime Villalobos Sauza

Jaime Villalobos Sauza takes extra añejo samples from barrels at in the Suave Tequila aging room.

We are blanco fans, and rarely drink extra-aged products. As we went through the barrel samples, although good, nothing caught our attention until the last two barrels.

While we were talking about how flavorful they were, Jaime suggested that maybe they should be “Tequila Matchmaker Select” barrels.

Interestingly, we both chose a different barrel as our favorite. We thought releasing these as specially-selected barrels was a fun idea, since they had such rich and unique flavor profiles (combinations of dried fruit, chocolate, citrus, and baking spices).

The Funny Thing About Furfural

The plan started to move forward with a thumbs up from Suave owners, and brothers, Cesar and Edgar Vitari, but when the barrel samples were sent to the lab for a chemical analysis we discovered why the flavors were so intense: the furfural levels were much higher than normal. As the water from the tequila evaporated from the barrel the remaining liquid was concentrated with barrel components, including furfural.

Furfural in tequila is the result of burning, and it is present in blancos in small amounts when agaves are cooked. The longer they are cooked, the higher the furfural level. By the way, furfural smells delicious, similar to toasted almonds, and is found in many common foods, such as coffee and bread.

And aside from the cooking process, more furfural is added to tequila from aging in toasted barrels. The heavier the toast, and the longer it ages, the higher the levels will be.

Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a catch. The legal limit for furfural is 4 mg per 100 mL anhydrous alcohol in tequila. Grover’s favorite barrel clocked in at 8.42 mg, and Scarlet’s was 6.15 mg. At this level of concentration, there’s a risk of headaches.

So, our selections could not be sold as single barrel extra añejos with their furfural levels above the legal limit. However, Jaime realized that this was actually a great opportunity to make a joven tequila — take the super tasty and deep flavors of the extra añejos, and blend them with Suave blanco to reduce the overall furfural levels, but also to give them some agave brightness from the unaged expression. And thus, the two Suave Joven “Tequila Matchmaker Select” single barrels were born.

Jaime then sent us samples at various alcohol levels to choose from. Grover liked his selection at a slightly higher proof (45% abv), and Scarlet felt that her barrel was the most expressive at 42% abv.

Here’s the special barrel breakdown:

45G (Grover’s barrel): 37% extra añejo, and 62% blanco, 45% abv. 278 bottles made.
Tasting Notes: Dried fruit, raisin, butter, dark chocolate, and clove with a slightly dry taste and light minerality.

42S (Scarlet’s barrel): 54% extra añejo, and 46% blanco, 42% abv. 247 bottles made.
Tasting Notes: Orange peel, butterscotch, white chocolate and cinnamon notes with a long finish that adds black pepper spice at the very end.

You can buy these directly from the Suave Tequila website, and the retail price is $159.

Also, Old Town Tequila has a few bottles for sale as well. Links to: Scarlet’s bottle and Grover’s Bottle.

With these offerings we hope that you can discover a new kind of joven, and an appreciation for what blending can do. There’s not very many, so grab one if you can, and enjoy!

*This collaboration was based out of true enthusiasm for the products and the process of introducing something new. Tequila Matchmaker is not receiving money from the sale of these bottles. Our goal is to support one of our Additive-Free brand partners. Salud!

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