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Belying the fact that it has been around for over 500 years—or maybe because of it—tequila is now the second fastest-growing spirit category in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS). And there’s a chance it overtakes its nearest competitor, vodka, within the next few years. No longer the stuff of cheap shots and relegated to pre-mixed happy hour Margaritas, today’s ever-escalating attraction to Mexico’s agave-based distillation has morphed into a celebratory spirit and is being fueled by the many premium tequilas that have recently hit the market. High-priced bottles aren’t just for whiskey fans anymore.
Indeed, celebrity endorsements, new innovations like cristalinos, and experimentations with wood aging have further fueled tequila’s ongoing allure. What is also so exciting about the tequila boom is the rich diversity of offerings that go beyond blanco, reposado, and añejo—there are creative cask-finished spirits, ultra-aged offerings, single estate tequilas, and more. We’ve tasted across the vast world of tequila to find the right one for you, no matter which style is your favorite.
Our Best Tequila Picks
- Best Overall Tequila: Loco Puro Corazón
- Best Blanco Tequila: Casa Noble Blanco
- Best Joven Tequila: Casa Dragones
- Best Reposado Tequila: Patrón El Alto
- Best Añejo Tequila: Herradura Legend
- Best Extra Añejo Tequila: Don Julio Ultima Reserva Extra Añejo
- Best Cristalino: Avión Reserva Cristalino
- Best Tequila Under $100: Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Reposado
- Best Tequila Under $50: Sesión Blanco
- Best Ultra-Premium “Splurge” Tequila: Código 1530 14 Y.O. Extra Añejo
- Best Celebrity Tequila: Cincoro Añejo
- Best Cask Finished Tequila: Diablito Rojo
- Best Cask Strength/Overproof Tequila: El Luchador
- Best Single Estate Tequila: Ocho Plata 2017 Single Estate
- Best Tequila for Margaritas: Kah Añejo
- Best Tequila for an Old Fashioned: El Tesoro 85th Anniversary Extra Añejo
- Best Tequila for a Paloma: Tanteo Blanco
Best Overall Tequila
Loco Puro Corazón
This is one of the most meticulously crafted ultra-premium tequilas to recently make its debut. Its name tells the story, for “puro corazón” means “pure heart” in Spanish and refers to the fact that when a distilled liquid comes off the copper pot stills, it trickles out in three distinct evolutions. First is the “heads” a rough tasting liquid that gradually evolves into the “heart,” the “corazón” or middle and purest part of the distillate. Then comes the last part, the “tails,” which lacks the flavorful purity of the “heart.” While distillers naturally keep the “heart,” most usually redistill the heads and tails to try and separate whatever small amount of the heart may have been missed. Not so with Loco. They use only the heart, without redistilling the heads or tails. Even its blanco and reposado tequilas “…remove between eight and 10 times more of the ‘rougher’ alcohols of the heads and tails than the rest of the industry,” according to Juan-Pablo Torres-Padilla, Loco’s managing partner. But for the ultimate in an elegant sipping tequila, soft as velvet, with sweet essences of pure agave, delicate herbs, and a touch of mint and eucalyptus, Puro Corazón deserves to be slowly savored in the most elegant of crystal snifters.
Best Blanco Tequila
Casa Noble Blanco
Casa Noble has revamped its bottles as well as its range of tequilas, slimming them down to a blanco, reposado, and añejo. Co-founder Pepe Hermosillo does things a little differently than most other tequileros, from using all certified organic ingredients to distilling his tequila three times, where the vast majority of other brands (by law) are distilled twice. That third distillation refines the finished product without dulling it down. All three expressions are excellent, but the first one to try is the un-aged blanco, for without an excellent blanco, you cannot make an excellent reposado or añejo. Hermosillo selected his agave fields carefully, in the volcanic soil of the mountains of western Jalisco. That rich earthiness, along with undertones of cracked pepper and light notes of vanilla, is reflected in the tequila. For an un-aged tequila, it’s an especially fine sipper, though it pairs well in a host of cocktails.
Best Joven Tequila
Casa Dragones Joven
Joven is the name given to a blend of blanco and an extra añejo tequila that’s been filtered to remove the color and smooth out the flavor. And Casa Dragones is one of the most exclusive joven tequilas in the world. The aroma is fresh and floral with notes of citrus and sweet roasted agave. It’s silky and delicate on the palate, offering hints of vanilla and spiced undertones, balanced with faint notes of pear.
Best Reposado Tequila
Patrón El Alto
One of the newest offerings from this celebrated brand and their first entry into what they have christened their “prestige” category—reflecting their tequila’s style and pricing—this tantalizing reposado is primarily crafted with extra añejo and then blended with añejo and reposado tequilas. But even though reposado comprises the smallest percentage of this blend—with the primary expression being extra añejo—reposado is the youngest tequila used and therefore is El Alto’s legal classification. Its slightly tannish hue belies its complexity, which is the result of more than 300 different tastings over a period of four years by master distiller David Rodriguez and his team and represents tequilas that have been aged in 11 different types of barrels, which were mostly hybrids made of American oak, with French oak heads. The result is a crisp, wet grassy aroma that gives way to a deep, spicy symphony of figs, honey, caramel, dried fruit, and vanilla.
Best Añejo Tequila
Herradura celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2020 by debuting Legend, which takes advantage of the brand’s affiliation with spirits behemoth Brown-Forman. Being under the same umbrella as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Old Forester bourbon—and having access to Brown-Forman’s in-house cooperage—means Herradura can do some interesting things with barrel aging that other tequila brands can’t. For Legend, they’ve used specially made new American oak barrels that are heavily charred and then deeply grooved—similar to those used in Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Select expression. The liquid not only comes into contact with more of the wood, but the grooving lets it absorb flavors from both charred and uncharred oak. The result, after 14 months of aging, is a tequila for whiskey lovers, with lots of vanilla, caramel and black pepper on the palate, in addition to roasted agave and cinnamon.
Best Extra Añejo Tequila
Don Julio Ultima Reserva Extra Añejo
The late Don Julio González began his tequila-making career in 1942 and developed an extraordinary sense for taste and aroma, resulting in some of the finest tequilas in Mexico. In celebration of the brand’s 80th anniversary in 2022, Tequila Don Julio Ultima Reserva was released, representing the final agave harvest planted by González and his family in 2006 and set aside for this special distillation. This 36-month-old extra añejo has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and was then finished in seasoned Madeira wine casks. The resulting liquid is golden in color, with a bouquet of toasted oak and caramel, followed by flavors of apricot and citrus, and with a smooth, honeyed agave finish. As a fitting tribute to Don Julio, it should be enjoyed neat.
Avión Reserva Cristalino
This is the newest innovation in Avión’s portfolio—a crystal-clear, aged tequila that is a unique combination of their finest 12-month-old añejo with an added touch of three-year-old extra añejo. This blend is then double charcoal filtered to remove all color while enhancing the thick herbaceousness of the agave, which is accented with vanilla nuances from bourbon barrel aging, resulting in an unparalleled clarity and smoothness. With its distinctive “tagged” bottle neck, Avión Reserva Cristalino is best experienced neat or on the rocks, letting the complexity of the aged tequila bring out notes of oak, vanilla, spices, and nuttiness, with an overriding smoothness.
Best Tequila Under $100
Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Reposado
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jose Cuervo’s top tier Reserva de la Familia tequilas, in 2020 they introduced a reposado, which like other expressions in this ultra-premium line, is made at the Cuervo family’s La Rojeña distillery. However, unlike other reposados on the market, it is aged in three different types of casks: a lightly toasted American white oak, a deep toasted American white oak, and a medium toasted French Limousin oak. After six months of aging, these three different cask-aged tequilas are blended together. The result is an aroma of pepper, cooked agave, orange peel, ginger and toasted wood, while the flavor brims with notes of tropical fruit, cloves and vanilla. Not surprisingly, this reposado was awarded a gold medal in 2021 by the Beverage Tasting Institute, and represents an outstanding value for the money.
Best Tequila Under $50
Launched in Australia in 2015, Sesión arrived in the U.S. in late 2018. When they were setting up shop, the Oz-based founders of Sesión sought out an experienced tequila-making partner in Mexico, and found an ideal collaborator in the Beckmann family, proprietors of Jose Cuervo, the best-selling tequila brand in the world. Created under the guidance of master distiller Francisco Quijano and master agave farmer Jose Fernandez, Sesión is a small batch, premium 100 percent Blue Agave tequila, best exemplified by Sesión Blanco. Light and crisp, with a touch of spice, it is complemented by sweet citrus and green pepper notes. A lingering finish boasts a white pepper accent and a hint of mint.
Best Ultra-Premium “Splurge” Tequila
Código 1530 14 Y.O. Extra Añejo
In 2022, this award-winning brand released one of the oldest and rarest tequilas available, a 14-year-old elixir that, as expected, is extremely limited, with only 400 gold-etched crystal bottles available, each housed in an individually numbered wooden case with two Riedel tequila tasting glasses. Using mature Blue Weber agaves, naturally rock-filtered water, and absolutely no additives, this extra añejo is double-barrel aged—first for 14 years in French white oak Napa Cabernet Sauvignon wine barrels, and then finished for an additional six months in a French oak Cognac cask. Pouring with a deep reddish amber hue, the flavor is a complex balance of sweet maple, dark chocolate, toasted oak, exotic spices and a peaty minerality.
Best Celebrity Tequila
Back in 2016, a group of friendly NBA rivals—Jeanie Buss, co-owner of the Lakers; Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Wes Edens; Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck and his future wife Emilia Fazzalari (who now serves as CEO of Cincoro Tequila); and the Hornets’ Michael Jordan—met for dinner one evening and quickly discovered their mutual love of tequila. The result is this award-winning brand, with the toasted oak and chocolaty butterscotch notes of their añejo (aged for slightly over two years in ex-bourbon barrels), being our favorite of the brand’s three core expressions.
Best Cask Finished Tequila
Diablito Rojo Organic Extra Añejo
This ruby golden-hued 123 Organic Extra Añejo was originally created as a private bottling for master tequilero David Ravandi’s personal collection. It is now offered to the pubic as an extremely limited release. Handcrafted from sustainably cultivated single estate-grown 100 percent organic Blue Weber agaves grown in high altitude mineral-rich red volcanic soils, and after aging in French white oak Limousine barrels for no less than seven years, it is then finished an additional six months in French Limousine oak barrels that previously held one of Napa Valley’s premiere Cabernet Sauvignons. This unique aging regime heightens the rich spicy flavors of “Diablito Rojo” with the secondary and tertiary notes of ultra-premium Napa Cab, producing a uniquely complex tequila with barrel-aged flavors of caramelized roasted agave, complex brown spices, and a rich silky texture. Only 2,500 bottles are available.
Best Cask-Strength/Overproof Tequila
El Luchador Distill-Proof Blanco
According to master tequilero David Ravandi, founder of the artisanal 123 Organic Tequila portfolio, “The vibrant flavor profiles of El Luchador tequilas are an homage to the colorful tradition of lucha libre, and the mysterious and acrobatic wrestlers that have captivated Mexican culture for generations.” The power of these cultural icons is captivated and bottled in this 110 proof blanco, which is ideal as a foundation for building cocktails and also for enjoying as a digestif, thanks to its robust and complex notes of fresh agave, bright citrus, and a slightly smoky, saline finish.
Best Single Estate Tequila
Ocho Plata 2017 Single Estate
The puntas, or “distiller’s cut,” of agave spirits have long been considered the most coveted part of the distillate and are traditionally set aside by the producer to be enjoyed with friends and family on special occasions. Along with his 80 proof Tequila Ocho, this is a favorite drink for legendary tequila maker Carlos Camarena of El Tesoro fame. The single estate agaves were harvested from the Camarena family’s rancho La Ladera. Tequila Ocho Puntas comes off the still at roughly 128 proof and is then reduced to 101 proof, using deep well-extracted water from the nearby Tequila Ocho distillery in Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico. This results in a high concentration of agave flavors, while still experiencing the essences of the single estate “Los Patos” 80 proof blanco, which is smooth enough to be savored neat. It is extremely rare, but is worth searching out, although it is mainly found on the secondary market. However, as a more accessible alternative, we prefer the 80 proof Tequila Ocho Plata 2017 Single Estate “Los Patos” 80 proof blanco.
Best Tequila for Margaritas
This distiller’s blanco, reposado and añejo expressions are each contained in captivating skull-inspired sculptures representing the Mayan, Peruvian, and Nicaraguan cultures, and each are fashioned by local artists. The tequila’s name of Kah—which means “life” in the ancient Mayan language—is inspired by the traditional Calaveras used in Día de los Muertos rituals. The tequila itself is created by master distiller Arturo Fuentes, using water from the distillery’s volcanic artesian wells and aged 18 months in specially toasted American oak casks. It is the only tequila to use Mexican silver in its water treatment process, which results in an exceptionally smooth texture. With overtones of peppery agave, caramel, and vanilla, this añejo is not only an ideal sipping tequila, but it makes an amazing Margarita.
Best Tequila for an Old Fashioned
El Tesoro 85th Anniversary Extra Añejo
In 2022, to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the La Alteña Distillery— which is known for its outstanding highland agave fields in Jalisco—El Tesoro released this limited-edition tequila. It also symbolized a long-standing family distilling tradition between third-generation master distiller Carlos Camarena and seventh-generation James Beam Distilling Co. master distiller Fred Noe. Consequently, this exceptional tequila was aged for 36 months in barrels that previously held Booker’s 30th Anniversary Bourbon—a collectable in its own right. The result is a rich, creamy, full-bodied tequila, brimming with overtones of vanilla, blackberries, caramel, and tobacco that’s perfect for swapping out your whiskey to make a tequila Old Fashioned.
Best Tequila for a Paloma
Tanteo’s expressions have been around since 2009, but surprisingly, their unadulterated blanco tequila didn’t launch until 2020. It was worth the wait. Only fair-trade agaves are used to make Tanteo—in fact, the distillery is owned by a co-op of farmers who grow and carefully tend these crops. The extra intention given to their agave harvests results in a superb final product, with strong minerality and citrus notes heavily leaning towards pineapple, which makes this tequila ideal for a Paloma. Just add sparkling water, a splash of fresh lime, and an optional salt rim. This blanco is bottled at 42.5 percent ABV, slightly higher than tequila’s typical 40 percent, but that small amount of extra alcohol amplifies Tanteo’s flavor profile enough to make it stand out; it also makes a terrific highball with Fever Tree soda and just a squeeze of grapefruit or lime for good measure.
Frequently Asked Questions About Tequila
What are the different types of tequila?
There are four officially sanctioned styles of top shelf tequilas authorized by the government agency CRT (Consejo Regulador del Tequila), which regulates the spirit: blanco, sometimes called silver or plata, it is bottled clear and unaged; reposado, barrel aged from two to 11 months, giving it a tannish hue; añejo, deeper in color and aged from one to three years; extra añejo, rich, brownish-golden tequilas that have been aged longer than three years. How long? That depends upon the taste profile the maestrotequilero is after, with Código 1530 14 Year Old Extra Añejo currently leading the pack. Older than that, the barrels sometimes tend to dominate the spirit, often making it woody and overpowering. But no matter what amount of time it has spent in oak, to produce a superior aged tequila, you must start with a superior unaged blanco.
How should you drink tequila?
Believe it or not—and in spite of its earlier and now outdated reputation—tequila is a very sophisticated spirit. It’s also very versatile, thanks to its four distinct categories. Thus, it can be sipped in a snifter, serve as the base spirit in a cocktail, or even, yes, taken as a shooter, although much of tequila’s many nuances of flavor will be lost if you just “knock it back.”
How does tequila differ from mezcal?
Both, by law, must be made in Mexico and distilled from roasted agaves, but tequila can only use the Blue Weber variety and must be distilled in the town of Tequila in Jalisco and four other specifically designated Mexican states: Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Also, the agaves are primarily steam-roasted in ovens. On the other hand, mezcal can be made in any of nine specified Mexican states, primarily in Oaxaca, but also in Durango, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas and Puebla. In addition, mezcal is typically made from agaves that have been cooked by fire, smoke, and heat in rock-lined pits, although Patrón’s new Ahumado boasts a smoky flavor due to roasting their agave piñas in underground stone pits with mesquite charcoal for seven days, but they still use Blue Weber agaves, so it is a tequila, not a mezcal.
How did I choose the Tequilas on this list?
I start by “nosing” the tequila by pouring a small amount in a Glencairn tasting glass, just enough to fill its wide base, which narrows towards the top to concentrate the aromas of the liquid. With blancos I’m looking for the purity of agave—it can be crisp or smooth, but it has to be there. After all, you drink a blanco to get the essence of the plant that gives tequila its character. For reposados I’m interested in how intricately the wood from the aging has been allowed to interact with the spirit. The añejos and extra añejos bring out more of the otherwise hidden flavors, while ideally subduing the oak from the barrels. But when I find the oak overpowers the spirit, that tequila usually doesn’t make my list.
Why should you trust us?
Richard Carleton Hacker has been writing about spirits, restaurants, wines and cigars for over forty years and has written for Robb Report since 1995. His work has also appeared in numerous other lifestyle magazines, including Playboy, The Quarterly Review of Wines, Tasting Panel, and the Somm Journal. In addition, he served for 10 years as a judge and team captain for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. He has authored 11 books, was knighted in Germany, is an honorary member of numerous whisky and wine societies and has traveled the world visiting countless distilleries in Scotland, France, Italy and, of course, Mexico.