Tequila is on a tear. Producers are experimenting with it, celebrities are hawking it, and stuck-at-home consumers are purchasing and mixing with the beloved agave spirit. It seems as though there’s a tequila for everyone. No wonder revenues in the category spiked 17.4% in 2020, making it one of the fastest-growing spirits categories last year, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
It’s an exciting time to be a tequila fan. Never have there been so many varieties to try. Consider, for example, the fast-growing cristalino genre. Cristalinos are aged tequilas filtered to remove their color so they appear “crystalline” clear; additionally, some are sweetened. While some purists may scoff at cristalinos, sales have been brisk, and producers are rolling out new bottles at a steady clip.
Part of the allure, says tequila-maker Casa Don Ramón, is that Cristalino is viewed as a “less-intimidating entry point” into the world of tequila. Accordingly, the brand has gone all-in on cristalino: Its Platinium Collection comprises an entire lineup adjusted to pristine clarity.
Of course, for those seeking more traditional tequilas, there are plenty of options among the newcomers, including a unique clay-aged tequila inspired by winemaking traditions, a reposado from the first female head distiller, and a blanco positioned to help the hospitality industry as it continues to reel from the pandemic. And no modern tequila lineup would be complete without a celebrity tequila, this one from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
For further proof there’s something for everyone in the tequila universe, look to the polar opposite of the cristalino trend: a luxury lineup inspired by Scotland’s cask traditions, ideal for those who want to lean into barrel-aged tequilas, deep amber hues and all.
These are a dozen tequila bottles to try right now.
From the makers of mezcal El Silencio, this new tequila, launched in March 2021, celebrates the national flower of Mexico. The spirit starts as reposado tequila, aged six months and then filtered through activated charcoal “for purity and balance.” It’s then packaged in a bottle reminiscent of a vintage perfume decanter.
This new trio from Casa Don Ramón, launched in March 2021, features Platinium Plata ($42), as well as two longer-aged expressions: reposado ($44) and añejo ($46), both filtered to become cristalinos. The añejo is aged in American oak for 12 months. While growing numbers of tequila producers are adding a cristalino to their portfolios, it’s unusual to see an entire lineup adjusted to pristine clarity, rather than showcasing the deep amber hues that traditionally signify barrel-aging time.
Richard Betts, the founder and creator of Sombra mezcal and wine company Betts & Scholl, among others, combines wine and spirits techniques with this newcomer brand. Its debut offering is an añejo cristalino, aged in French oak white wine barrels (instead of the usual bourbon barrels) and stored in clay amphorae. The end result is “delicate, light and smooth,” according to the producer. The bottle is handsome: a tall, handmade clay vessel glazed a deep Mediterranean blue. A reposado expression is slated to launch in 2021.
After launching its blanco expression in September 2020, Mijenta introduced its reposado in December. Co-founded by Ana Maria Romera Mena, who’s also the head distiller behind LVMH’s Volcán de Mi Tierra, Mijenta’s reposado is aged six months in a blend of American white oak, French oak and French acacia casks. The producer describes the resulting liquid as possessing notes of bergamot, honey, orange blossom and cacao nibs. The first batch of this bottling is a limited run of 6,500 bottles.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
Described by its producer as “a luxury line of sipping tequilas,” these new bottlings, launched in September 2020, represent Partida’s first new releases in 15 years. Roble Fino, which translates to “fine oak,” includes three expressions, each aged in ex-bourbon casks, then finished in casks that previously held oloroso sherry, then single malt scotch. These limited editions were inspired by a visit by Partida’s head distiller to Scotland, where single malts are routinely aged or finished in ex-bourbon and/or ex-sherry barrels. The lineup includes Roble Fino reposado ($100); Partida Roble Fino reposado cristalino ($115), billed as the first-ever cristalino aged in whiskey sherry oak; and Partida Roble fino añejo ($125).
Meaning “I hope” in Spanish, Espero, a new offering as of January 2021, is positioned as a high-quality value-priced offering for bars and restaurants—“a way to cut back on overhead costs without sacrificing quality in a time when they need it most,” according to its producer. Of course, that doesn’t mean that consumers at home can’t take advantage as well. Tanteo also is known for its trio of spicy flavored tequilas (jalapeño, chipotle and habanero).
Backed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, this tequila, launched in 2020, is available in both blanco and reposado expressions; the latter is aged in ex-bourbon barrels. The blanco is crisp and citrusy, with hints of lemon peel and almond, while the reposado offers mellow vanilla tones. Mix either one into Margaritas or Palomas.