In parts of the world, Tequila is dismissed as a slammer that gets you there faster and under-appreciated for what it really is. The truth is, those cheap shots you’re taking at the bar are usually only 49% agave, which means there are a load of hangover-inducing ingredients you won’t appreciate. There’s a lot more to Tequila if you opt for ‘premium’, and by premium, we don’t mean a hefty price tag. To earn the ‘premium’ title you see on the bottles, distilleries have to ensure their Tequila is made of 100% agave.
Only in the early 2000s did regulations tighten and the Tequila market has grown exponentially as a result. Brands are innovating to reach new markets and tilt the reputation tequila has in certain territories. For example, Anejo Tequila is building in popularity with some fine expressions to rival that of great whiskies, yet it’s still a relatively new category of Tequila only established in 2006.
What is Tequila?
Tequila is a distilled spirit born of the blue agave plant on volcanic soil in the Tequila region of state Jalisco. Similar to great wine, the agave plant is heavily influenced by the soils and surroundings it’s grown on. This is how the spirit earns its herbaceous, sweet flavour profiles, in fact, the flavour profile of Tequila is much greater than that of wine and as a spirit, it has complexity and texture that should be enjoyed neat.
What are the different types of Tequila?
Silver or Blanco Tequila is the spirit in its purest form, without influence from the vessels it can go on to be aged in. Silver is unaged and the one most likely to be used in cocktails (of the premium Tequilas that is).
An aged, or ‘rested’ Tequila but for no longer than a year. It takes on a light golden colour from the ageing process but doesn’t have that warming amber-gold of Anejo.
Like whisky, Tequila is often aged in barrels and as a result, is imbued with flavours from the vessel. Ańejo needs to have been aged in the barrel for a year minimum, before bottling to claim this title. It’s got those richer flavours that make it a great sipping tequila.
‘What about gold?’ I hear you ask. Beware of the snake oil; ‘gold’ tequila is usually a cheap, young spirit with added flavours and colouring. Why choose that when you could have one of these?
The Best Premium Añejo Tequilas
Clase Azul Añejo
What a bottle! Clase Azul is a perfect example of passionate craftsmanship in both the creation of the spirit as well as the packaging. The decanter is an homage to the Mazahua natives and the spirit benefits from more than two years of ageing in hand-selected barrels. The result is a dark amber añejo that is beautifully aromatic and well balanced. With each sip you’ll enjoy flavours of caramel, toast and dark fruits with subtle hints of chocolate.
£605.78 from Master of Malt
Today Clase Azul launches their limited edition GOLD, an expression of only 6,000 bottles. It's a blend of tequila Clase Azul Plata and an eight-year-old extra añejo aged in bourbon barrels. Retailing at $300 USD from claseazul.com.
From Hollywood stock, Casamigos is George Clooney’s house Tequila that’s expanded into a full Tequila and Mezcal range. The Añejo has been aged for 14 months in American white oak barrels revealing flavours of charred oak, vanilla and gentle citrus with a lovely warming spice. The flavours here are reminiscent of some great whiskies.
£64.95 from The Whisky Exchange
Enemigo 00 Extra Añejo
Enemigo is accustomed to producing award-winning tequilas at global competitions, but the 00 Extra Añejo takes the biscuit. Aged in American oak barrels for over three years, it’s a dark amber liquid with a spiced fruit profile. This is a wonderful aperitif and an exemplary tequila.
£145 from The Whisky Exchange
El Mayor Añejo
This expression from El Mayor has a few gongs under its belt and it’s not hard to see why. The Tequila has been aged in white oak barrels for 18 to 36 months and showcases warm, comforting flavours including lovely spiced notes of nutmeg and apple, with warming caramel.
£49.99 from Flaviar
The Best Premium Reposado Tequila
The bottles from Fortaleza are beautiful, hand-blown with an agave plant cork and the intricate label, perfect to display on your superyacht bar.
Light yellow in colour, the Reposado has woody notes combined with soft, cooked fruits and a hint of cinnamon spice. It’s smooth with a very subtle sweetness and one that’s easy to enjoy.
£64.75 from Master of Malt
El Rayo Reposado
The guys behind El Rayo created this spirit as an alternative to gin and to still be served with tonic. Made of both highland and lowland agave, this Reposado has spent seven months in oak whisky casks so it still has those herbaceous notes with toffee and oak too. If you're partial to a G&T try this with tonic and you’ll likely be convinced this is your staple.
£36 from Master of Malt
The Best Premium Silver Tequila
Gran Patrón Platinum
Arguably the most recognised Tequila brand, there’s a whole range of different style Tequilas in Patron’s arsenal. What differentiates the Platinum is the fact it’s triple distilled (most Tequila is double distilled) and rested in oak. The result is a really smooth silver tequila with oak notes derived from the resting, giving it greater complexity.
£350 from Selfridges
For three generations this family-run distillery has been on a mission to change the world’s view on tequila, committed to maintaining a consistently high standard. The result is a unique Tequila with rich, natural sweetness. It is smooth, citrusy and easy to sip with those herby agave notes to boot.
£55.99 from Flaviar
Maestro Dobel Humito
Phwoar, the nose on this. You'll be going back for whiff after whiff. It’s sweet and smoky and a real enjoyment from the get-go. The smokiness follows through on the palate with a sharp note of citrus fruit and soft honey. Plus, we’re a sucker for a beautiful bottle and this one’s classy.
£43.95 from Master of Malt
Pancho Datos Tequila Plata
The story behind this Tequila is a lovely one. The founder commemorated his grandfather, a poet of the Mexican Revolution, with the creation of Pancho Datos, named after the protagonist in his grandfather’s work. The Plata from Pancho Datos is completely unaged and double distilled to maintain the agave flavours. The spirit has grass and herbaceous flavours with subtle sweetness, one to enjoy straight but also great in margaritas!
£43.45 from Master of Malt