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El Cristiano Tequila: Taking agave to the next level

A look at the award-winning spirits brand, El Cristiano Tequila

The fields at El Cristiano Tequila.
El Cristiano / El Cristiano

As tequila continues to be coveted in markets beyond its Mexican homeland, we’re being introduced to more versions than ever. The popular agave spirit has made waves on domestic soil, and now we’re enjoying a bit of a golden era. From limited-edition sippers to riffs aged in distinctive barrels, the time is now to enjoy the stuff.

has very much ridden this recent wave. The label touts itself as the world’s most delicious tequila, a bold claim amid a saturated realm. The brand is nothing if not decorated, having earned several awards and high praise from drinks writers. Which begs the question: How do you stand out in such a crowded category?

We spoke with El Cristiano to find out.

Why it’s tequila’s time

Agave fields
Dylan Freedom/Unsplash / Unsplash

“I believe the primary factor driving tequila’s popularity is its unique source of sugar for fermentation,” says Karan Khanna, president and founder of El Cristiano. “While other popular spirits like vodka and whisky typically use sugars from generic sources such as potatoes, corn, rice, wheat, or barley, tequila stands out by deriving its sugars from the agave plant. This plant offers a remarkable source of naturally balanced sugars, resulting in a tequila that is naturally sweet and full of flavor, especially in premium, additive-free varieties.”

The process has improved, too. “Additionally, the increased popularity of tequila can be attributed to a higher level of education and overall quality coming from Mexico compared to what was available just 15 years ago. Gone are the days of tequila being associated with harsh ethanol smells and burning sensations in the chest. Instead, consumers now have access to incredibly delicious cocktails, smooth añejos, and sipping tequilas, which have contributed to the spirit’s growing appeal,” Khanna adds.

The pursuit of purity

Agave delivery at El Cristiano Tequila.
El Cristiano / El Cristiano

“El Cristiano takes great pride in being recognized as the world’s most delicious tequila. Our commitment to this distinction is rooted in our core principle of ‘purity.’ While many competitors emphasize ‘quality,’ a term that can be subjective, we have delved deeper to define what quality means to us, starting with the source of our product,” says Khanna.

“We exclusively use agave from the highlands of Jalisco (Los Altos de Jalisco), ensuring that our plants are harvested no earlier than six years in the ground and weigh a minimum of 100 pounds. This careful selection process ensures that the sugars in the agave plant are fully matured and well-rounded. By starting with such high-quality ingredients, we can create a tequila that requires no manipulation with additives like concentrated sugar, caramel, or vanilla flavors, allowing us to maintain our focus on purity,” adds Khanna.

Having a mission

El Cristiano bottle.
El Cristiano / El Cristiano

“Working in the tequila industry offers a profound connection to Mexico, which is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work. Our mission at El Cristiano is centered around the principles of Purity, Passion, and Purpose. Our mission’s ‘purpose’ aspect is particularly important to us, as it involves giving back to the communities that are integral to our tequila production, starting with the town of Arandas in Los Altos de Jalisco,” Khanna says.

In the end, it’s all about where it all goes down. “The heart and soul of tequila lie in the people of Mexico–their warmth, hospitality, beliefs, culture, and cuisine–all of which have contributed to the creation of this incredible spirit. In Mexican culture, tequila is revered as a Goddess, highlighting its cultural significance. The rise in popularity of agave-based spirits has not only provided much-needed revenue from sales but has also boosted tourism, benefiting all segments of Mexican society,” Khanna says.

Part of that mission includes an eponymous foundation that aids the local community. “El Cristiano is proud to support an orphanage in Arandas, provide computers and other needs for the local schools, sponsor the local soccer club, and engage in many other such high-impact efforts,” Khanna says.

Fine-tuning the finishing touch

El Cristiano Tequila barrels.
El Cristiano / El Cristiano

We’re seeing tequila treated to everything from old sherry casks to high-end wine barrels at the moment. It’s creating a vast flavor wheel for the agave spirit, offering something for every palate. El Cristiano has been dialing in its aging efforts as well.

“Our aim was to craft an ultra-premium reposado that not only showcases the essence of cooked agave but also delivers an elegant and luxurious experience on the palate,” Khanna says. “To achieve this, our Maestro Tequila maker took our reposado, which spends six months aging in American bourbon casks, and further aged it in French Bordeaux wine barrels for an additional five months.”

Khanna says this allows for balance and smoothness. And there’s more on the docket, as El Cristiano is planning to release both a mezcal and a premium tequila this autumn. The latter is called Ocho and aged for—yep, you guessed it—eight years in bourbon barrels.

Decidedly celebrity-free

El Cristiano agave.
El Cristiano / El Cristiano

“El Cristiano embraces a lifestyle-centered approach as a brand and takes pride in being celebrity-free,” Khanna says. “As consumers ourselves, we find it challenging to see how a celebrity endorsement can enhance the quality of a product unless they were intimately involved in its creation. Many brands today are simply slapping celebrity names on their products, with some celebrities never even visiting Mexico, let alone the distilleries where the tequila is made.”

Khanna says the band goes a different route, going for prestige and linking up with things the brand is fond of. “Instead, we focus on identifying, sponsoring, and collaborating with various lifestyle activities and sports that align with our values. In the two years since our launch, we have become the preferred tequila at major venues such as Acrisure Arena and Wynn Nightlife. Additionally, we have sponsored events like the Desert Horse competitions and participated in prestigious gatherings such as the Emmy’s, Super Bowl events, Daytona, and the Aspen Food and Wine Festival, to name just a few,” Khanna says.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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