These are the top 10 tequilas (to sip, not shot)
Tequila; a drink that all too often brings back memories of sticky bars, thin lime wedges and sticky salt on sweaty hands. It’s a spirit we tend to knock because it’s usually knocked back — shotted in a split second at the end of a bad night. But trust us when we tell you, it doesn’t need to be this way.
There’s so much more to tequila than meets the untrained, drunken eye. Sure, it’s good at getting you to that three-pint point in a neater, sweeter package — but it can also make for a delightful tasting experience. We need to start savouring our tequila in true Mexican style. To that end, we’ve put together a list of the best tequilas that you can sip to your heart’s content. Make sure you relish every mouthful — they’re worth it…
Where is it made? The La Altena distillery: also known as the source of some of the highest-quality, most authentic products that can be found in the tequila hub that is Mexico. Needless to say, it’s a Mexican spirit to its very core, with the distillery honouring the values of Jalisco: Mexico’s foremost tequila-producing state.
What does it taste like? Thanks to being rested for four months in oak, the flavours are strong and – at risk of gushing – divine. Bright bell pepper is at play here, together with a touch of cooked fruit. Subtle notes of buttered mash potatoes and vanilla complete the flavours. Savoury flavours abound here, which brings a whole new level of meaning to the savouring process.
How should I drink it? Slowly would be the main keyword here – but we’d also recommend taking those slow sips in isolation, without the accompaniment of a meal. After all, you’ve already got the savoury flavours; we wouldn’t want those buttered mash potatoes to be ruined with an unfortunate curry, or a regrettable pizza. Let the flavours speak for themselves.
Where is it made? It originates from Mexico, of course – but this particular product pays respectful tribute to the founder of the world famous Don Julio brand. Don Julio Gonzáles founded his namesake brand in 1942, and hailed from – you’ve guessed it – Jalisco. He was known for revolutionizing the tequila industry by emphasising the importance of quality over quantity, this Añejo is the perfect example of his life’s work. Made in small batches to preserve quality, it’s an impeccable product – perfect for savouring.
What does it taste like? The tasting experience begins with a simultaneously sweet and complex aroma that may provoke many a furrowed brow. But any aromatic mysteries will quickly be solved upon a first taste. Subtle but obvious hints of warm oak, pepper and cinnamon are at play here, giving this intriguing tequila an indubitable strength of character.
How should I drink it? Well, slowly, obviously. But we’d also say – don’t be afeared of the spice. In fact, embrace the spice. There’s a peppery element to this one, so why not give precedence to the pepper by pairing it with a spicy dish? We’d recommend continuing on the Mexican theme (Mexico knows what it’s doing when it comes to tequila), so you’d probably be best off with a spicy enchilada or two.
Where is it made? Well, it’s 100% estate grown Blue Agave Tequilana Weber (a Jalisco plant that often forms the base ingredient for tequila), and is then distilled and stored in stainless steel tanks, never once touching wood. It’s presented in a hand-blown in Tonala, Jalisco by artisan glassmakers, and the ultimate result is a labour-intensive blend that epitomises smoothness and quality in equal measure.
What does it taste like? Unusually enough for a product that’s never come into contact with wood, this tequila has an undoubtedly earthy flavour. It’s got strong notes of pepper (in typical spicy Mexican fashion), but also subtle hints of both earth and butter. But don’t mistake earthiness for lack of quality – this product is as suavely delicate as they come.
How should I drink it? Well, how about this signature serve? Fondly termed El Diablo, lucky [lockdown] partygoers should just shake 20ml Lejay original cassis, 60ml of this Fortaleza Blanco and 30ml lime juice. Add some ice and serve with ginger beer and a touch of fresh lime; it’ll be as though you’ve vaulted over the Atlantic and ended up in Tulum.
Where is it made? Mexico, naturally; the Jalisco region, naturally. But the brand is crucial where this particular tequila is concerned. Patron effectively created the super premium tequila category single-handedly, and in doing so cultivated a worldwide respect for a spirit with a foundational blue agave base. Essentially, we owe Mexico’s blue agave a round of applause and several thank you notes.
What does it taste like? We’re glad you asked. Elegance is at the heart of this product, with deliciously subtle spice notes arising from the (notably aesthetically pleasing) bottle. Lightness and smoothness are rife here – this is not a heavy spirit, and should not be treated as such. Embrace its delicacy as you take a slow sip, and let those hints of spice appear in their own time. You won’t be waiting long.
How should I drink it? Keep it simple. We’ve waxed lyrical about those delicate, subtle flavours – whatever you do, don’t overwhelm them with a heavily flavoured meal or vociferous liquid accompaniments. If you’re adamant that you’d rather not drink it straight, we’d recommend opting for Paloma: tequila and grapefruit soda over ice.
Where is it made? Would you believe us if we didn’t say Mexico? Luckily we don’t have to test that theory, because the Fortaleza Añejo is indeed made in Mexico. It’s aged for 18 months in American oak, and has its roots in that agave that any tequila lover owes their shot glasses to.
What does it taste like? What doesn’t it taste like would probably be a more apt question here. On the nose, every conceivable delicious fruit makes itself abundantly known: we’re talking pineapple, peach, orange blossom and raisin, with notes of nutmeg to top it all off. And upon the first sip, it’s a confectionary extravaganza that would make Willy Wonka proud, with caramel, vanilla and butterscotch swirling together in a soft, syrupy haze.
How should I drink it? Well, we’d encourage any imbiber to celebrate the sweetness of this particular tequila, together with the inherently childlike nostalgia that such sweetness brings. We’d recommend a low glass of this rich tequila with a bag of salted popcorn for the ultimate decadent night in. The salt and the sugar will compliment each other perfectly, and it’s sure to make for a delightfully indulgent experience. Just what we all need.
Where is it made? It hails from Jalisco, Mexico (where else?); and its aging process is something of a work of art. The añejo is aged for fourteen months in American oak barrels (just think: that’s nearly as long as the UK has been in lockdown), and the agave is fermented for twice the average amount of time, and roasted for 10 times as long. And while we’re sharing fun facts, the brand is part owned by George Clooney – making it even more suave than it already was.
What does it taste like? There’s a sparky note of black pepper on the nose, which lends an instant spiciness. The barrel lends the aroma some luscious vanilla and custard notes, too. And then the palate is given a veritable array of flavours: a satisfying savouriness, courtesy of the agave; creamy notes, thanks to the oak; and a zesty punch originating from the black pepper.
How should I drink it? This is another occasion where we’d recommend embracing the spicy pepperiness. Why not try your hand at a Vampiro? Get your hands on some mescal, and blend it with the tequila and a little passata, lime juice, grenadine, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. It’s got a kick to it – but the creaminess from the oak should stop your eyes from watering too much.
Where is it made? Needless to say, it’s of Mexican origin; but its maturing process brings to mind irresistible images of the Wild West. We almost want to create a makeshift bar, slam our glasses down and send them skidding across the surface. (We won’t, don’t worry.) This tequila is matured in a combination of single malt Scotch whisky casks and oloruso sherry casks, and is then bottled at full strength. It’s a hearty one, all right.
What does it taste like? These flavours arise out of the glass courtesy of Mother Earth herself. It’s something of a forest fruits medley, with hints of blackberry, cherry and plum at play. Distinct earthy tones give the flavour a grounded richness, and the wafting notes of honey and caramel lend a delectable sweetness.
How should I drink it? Well, it’s a hearty one, so we’ll allow it to be paired with a meal. Continuing on the hearty theme, we’d suggest going meat-central on this occasion; possibly some slow-cooked beef, in keeping with Mexican traditionality. Don’t hold back on the spices – añejo can handle it – and remember to keep savouring every sipful.
Where is it made? Well, it’s made in Mexico and constitutes 100% Blue Weber Agave (also known as ‘the good stuff’ in the world of tequila) but in this case, it’s the name that’s got us really excited. The name ‘El Rayo’ stems from Mexican folklore. Legend has it that El Rayo was a huge bolt of lightning that would strike the blue agave in the hills bordering Tequila itself. A local campesino witnessed one such bolt, saw the burning glow on the horizon and followed it. He found the cooked agave: and brought us tequila as we know it today.
What does it taste like? Its wild origins (assuming you believe the folk tale, which we obviously do) continue on the palate, with notes of wild flowers coming to the fore in delightfully herbal overtones. Shimmering hues of pineapple and black pepper combine to bring a zesty, fruity, punchy flavour to this exquisitely balanced Tequila blanco.
How should I drink it? On ice, and preferably in summer. We wouldn’t advise complicating it any further than that: this is an exceptionally smooth, clean, refreshing beverage and would make for a divine summer evening (or afternoon) indulgence. Remember to sip slowly, savouring those herbal notes, and let yourself cool down in style.
Where is it made? The shores of Mexico have delivered yet another gem in a sleek, attractive bottle. In this case, we’re back in the realms of 100% Blue Agave (we wouldn’t have it any other way, really) and a wholly organic distillation process. Not a single pesticide or fertilizer has wormed its way in here – this product is decked out in traditional verve from nose to finish.
What does it taste like? Light aromas of orange blossom and fresh herbs greet the nose here, together with a deliciously herbal agave. Presumably, by this point, you’d expect nothing else. And the palate is greeted with such divinely earthful flavours that any happy drinker will feel he’s just ascended Mount Olympus and joined the ranks of the Greek gods. Slow roasted pines, sweet citrus and gentle wafts of smoke all combine with the savoury agave to create a flavourful experience worthy of the stamp of the divine.
How should I drink it? In our humble opinion, this could be the perfect occasion for a tequila margarita. Mix your organic tequila with triple sec and a healthy dose of lime juice (not too much – you won’t want to miss those delicate herbal notes) for a classic short cocktail: and don’t forget to line the rim of your glass with salt. It is the perfect accompaniment to tequila, after all – but there are ways and ways of including it. (This is the right way.)
Where is it made? Just for variety, we’d love to say this one was made somewhere other than Mexico; but it wouldn’t really be tequila then, would it? Or not high-quality, traditional tequila, anyway. And in any case, it’s the look of the bottle that’s really got us talking this time. It’s handcrafted, with vibrant patterns traditional to Mexico; and the result is an undeniably attractive item that would surely take pride of place in any rustic, central American café.
What does it taste like? We hate to speak too soon, but there are unignorable festive notes in this divine creation. Firstly, it’s naturally golden in colour — which always puts us in mind of Yuletide joy. And then the palate is greeted with husky notes of chocolate, butter candy and wood spice; surely, the decadence of the sweet flavours and the muskiness of the wood spice combines to create the perfect Christmas finish. It’s never too early to be planning…
How should I drink it? Well, we’ve started on the Christmas theme now, so we may as well see it through to the tequila finish. Why not go all out with a cranberry margarita? Mix your tequila with cranberry juice and triple sec for the perfect Christmas cocktail: and if the cranberry doesn’t quite go with the other flavours, you’ll most likely be too merry to care.
Feeling festive for a different reason? These are the most expensive Easter eggs money can buy…
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