Tequila gets a bad rap. Normally, the disdain for tequila stems from overdoing it on cheap tequila shots in college. That stigma needs to be forever overcome. Cheap versions of liquor stain personal opinions across the board, but none seem to prohibit people from even trying it like the blue agave-based spirit from Jalisco. The truth of the matter? Good tequila is amazing. Consumers are catching on too, as tequila sales grew 31% in 2020. Here are some quality tequilas to start your agave-fueled adventure.
All three of Camarena’s expressions are smooth enough to be sippers. Silver’s light vanilla and herbaceous notes are perfect for adding into familiar tequila cocktails like a well-made margarita. The brand’s Reposado employs excellent light toasty-ness from its 60-day barrel stay. Still a relatively new brand, Camarena recently launched an Añejo expression. Lots of savory sweetness explodes with every sip.
Along with its solid core lineup — Silver, Reposado, and Añejo — 1800 has one of the more extensive portfolios in the tequila world. For starters, its Silver expression also comes in a coconut flavor. Then there’s the extra Añejo line, like Mileno which finishes in Cognac barrels. The brand just expanded its margarita mix flavors as well, including watermelon, peach, pineapple, and raspberry.
Patron might be one of the most familiar tequila brands to people who aren’t into tequila. It’s got a unique bottle. It finds itself in plenty of pop culture moments. But above all, it’s excellent tequila. Patron Silver is smooth enough for neat sipping, but also has plenty of great complementary flavors like citrus and pepper to add complexity to cocktails. The entire portfolio is great, including Patron XO Cafe, a tequila coffee liqueur.
Here’s a tequila you can own a piece of. PaQui recently launched an equity offering through the crowdfunding platform StartEngine. Mostly focused on the Silvera expression, PaQui (“to be happy” in Aztec) claims its proprietary process helps offer a soft finish on standout agave notes, including massive citrus and vanilla notes. The company also has a Reposado and Añejo.
The chopped down agave pina as a bottle stopper should signify enough: Get ready for some agave flavor. Fortaleza is an earthier tequila than many, as the agave is fermented in wood tanks. Each batch carries different subtle notes. If earthy spirits are more your tune, this is a solid option.
George Clooney probably wouldn’t put his name next to a product with poor quality. Lucky for him, the tequila brand he started with Rande Gerber is anything but poor. The elegantly simple brand pushes forward a tasty liquid, whether Blanco, Reposado, or Añejo. It proved so successful that Clooney and Gerber sold the brand to spirits giant Diageo for up to $1 billion.
Milgaro’s portfolio includes a wonderful array of expressions. But its Silver is about as clean as a tequila gets. New tequila drinkers and those working their way into the tequila cocktail world would do well with it. But the Select Barrel line also offers up delicious Añejo and Reposado bottles with great butterscotch and vanilla notes.
While still maintaining the classic tequila kick, Espolòn runs similar to a gin. Its Blanco is citrusy and peppery. The brand’s Reposado’s oak rest leaves some burnt sugar and fruit hints, while the Añejo two-month finish in Wild Turkey barrels leaves an oaky, caramel and vanilla finish.
Gran Centenario Tequila
Gran Centenario likely won’t be a familiar look for Americans, but the more than 150-year-old brand is a significant player in Mexico, touting itself as the nation’s No. 1 tequila. It is the Official Tequila of the Mexican National Soccer Team, after all! Its stylish bottles hold delightful tequila, including Leyenda, an extra Añejo blend with dried fruit characteristics.
Sticking with celebrity-owned tequila, Teremana is The Rock’s tequila brand. Teremana sports a clean label with a desert landscape, a nice representation of the liquid inside. The vanilla-y blanco is just as delicious as the oaky reposado.
LeBron James is a big wine fan, but his tequila love seems bigger than most expected. Last year, he invested in Lobos 1707, which finishes its tequilas in Spanish wine barrels. The barrels leave each of the expressions with a wonderful sweetness on the palate.
Read more: Best Tequilas for Palomas
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