I'm also often bewildered at how the white, unaged version of a line can be as expensive or nearly so as the reposados and anejos.
I think it's because most of the money is invested up-front in growing the agave and the other things I outlined. Also, the reposado and añejo bottlings aren't aged as much as you might think. Reposado mezcal is only aged between two and twelve months, and añejo mezcal only needs to be older than one year to qualify for the designation. When you consider the entire production cycle starting with the growing of the agave, a joven mezcal might take 8 years and a reposado mezcal might take 8.5 years (aged 6 months) and an añejo mezcal 9.5 years (aged 1.5 years). These are only production time increases of 6.25% and 18.75% for reposado and añejo, respectively, versus joven mezcal. Looking at the Los Amantes mezcals, Astor Wines sells the joven for $60 and the reposado for 8.3% more at $65.
So. . . it's not the same thing as, say, whiskey, where the vast majority of the production time and expense happens post-distillation. In contrast, an 18 year old single malt has a production time that is 50% longer than a 12 year -- not to mention that there are increased losses due to the "angel's share."
Edited by slkinsey, 21 February 2008 - 10:21 AM.