Most people are familiar with blanco, reposado and añejo tequila, but what about cristalino? This type of tequila is nowhere near as popular as the other three expressions, but it has been gaining fans and getting more attention over the years as tequila brands experiment with the category.
Cristalino is essentially añejo, or aged, tequila that has been filtered (often through charcoal) to remove the naturally occurring colors it picks up from spending time inside the barrel. The filtration process strips the color and some of the tequila’s woodier notes without removing the rich flavors and textures imparted by the barrel. The result is a tequila that has the complexity and character of an añejo with the crisp, bright notes of a blanco. These are five cristalino tequila bottles that you should try now.
Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro ($65)
One of the first cristalino expressions to hit the market, this tequila was released in 2011 to commemorate founder Don Julio Gonzalez’s entry into tequila making 70 years earlier. The liquid is aged for 18 months in American white oak barrels before being charcoal-filtered to remove its color. This premium tequila is best enjoyed neat or on the rocks, and when you take a sip, you can expect notes of vanilla, honey and toasted oak alongside green herbs and minerals. But if you’d like to mix Don Julio 70 into a cocktail, the brand suggests a simple drink of cristalino tequila and sparkling water, served tall with ice, to preserve the spirit’s integrity.
Maestro Dobel Diamante Cristalino ($50)
Maestro Dobel claims that its Diamante expression is the world’s first clear multi-aged tequila. It’s a blend of extra-añejo, añejo and reposado tequilas that has been aged in European oak casks before going through a double-filtration process to remove the spirit’s color. The brand employs this unique technique to retain the various flavors derived from the varied time spent in barrels. The reposado lends brightness and notes of roasted agave, while the añejo and extra-añejo provide deeper oak flavors, caramel and dark fruit.
Qui Platinum Extra Añejo ($60)
Qui differs from other cristalino tequilas in that it’s aged for a longer period of time—three-and-a-half years—in Tennessee whiskey and French Bordeaux barrels. It then undergoes what the brand calls “proprietary filtration” to remove the color from the liquid. Qui encourages drinkers to experiment with using the tequila in a variety of cocktails, but sipping it neat is preferred.
“We set out to democratize the once-inaccessible extra-añejo category,” says owner Medhat Ibrahim. “Therefore, we don’t make a blanco, reposado or añejo, just the platinum extra-añejo, as our goal was to create one of the highest-end sipping tequilas—but accessibly priced.”
Rock N Roll Cristalino ($55)
The name and appearance might seem like a joke, but there’s nothing funny about this cristalino tequila sold in a Gibson Flying V guitar-shaped bottle. Rock N Roll also produces blanco and mango expressions, but the cristalino is probably your best bet, and not just because it’s a great conversation piece. The tequila is aged for one year in oak barrels before being filtered and sports alluring aromas of baked agave and herbal mint. That leads to the palate, with flavors of cooked fruit, cedar, dark chocolate, roasted agave and citrus.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
Volcan De Mi Tierra Cristalino ($60)
This tequila from Moët Hennessy comes in two expressions: blanco and cristalino. Volcan De Mi Tierra is named for the volcano near the town of Tequila that erupted about 200,000 years ago, resulting in volcanic soil that has become part of the region’s terroir. The namesake volcano is even incorporated into the bottle design.
The cristalino tequila was aged in a variety of casks and is meant to be sipped rather than utilized as a cocktail mixer. With notes of vanilla, caramel and chocolate positioned alongside agave and mild citrus, it goes down easy. “I created a cristalino blend that would embrace the heritage of Mexico and give a soft and subtle personality when placed in Old World barrels,” says Maestra de Tequila Ana Maria Romero Mena.