In this guide, we’ll be referring to regions and production zones for tequila as well as the various age classifications. Head to our guide to how tequila is made to learn more about these if you’re not yet familiar with them.
Don Julio’s 1942 blend pays tribute to the founder by being named after the year he started distilling tequila when he was just 17 years old. Made in small batches with copper pot stills, it’s a distinguished specimen of tequila.
After no less than two and a half years of ageing, it delivers a sweet and complex bouquet, which reveals spicy notes of oak, pepper, and cinnamon.
"An exceptional tequila delivering rich and complex notes that will provide you with a new perspective on Mexico's beverage."
Fortaleza focuses on artisanal craftsmanship and follows traditional methods in its production. The piñas are steamed in a small brick oven and then carefully crushed with a tahona stone wheel. After fermentation, the tequila is distilled using small copper pot stills.
If you’re looking for a classic blanco tequila, Fortaleza produces one of the most authentic options, which offers rich minerality and a buttery mouthfeel that’s dominated by floral and herbaceous notes.
Produced at the new San Jose del Refugio facility, Herradura’s Ultra Añejo is a truly unique tequila expression. It blends the 49-month old ex-bourbon barrel-aged Selección Suprema Extra Añejo with a 25-month-old Añejo.
However, Herradura then uses an extremely fine filtering process, which results in a crystal clear liquid. When looking at it, it resembles a regular blanco tequila. Nevertheless, tasting it will reveal an expected tableau of woody and vanilla flavours with hints of spices.
Patrón is probably one of the most famous tequilas on the market after it had marketed itself as the world’s first ultra-premium brand. This is best represented by its silver tequila, which is sold in large quantities around the world.
It’s a fresh tequila that can be used in a variety of cocktails. However, it can also be enjoyed neat thanks to its clean fruity and citrus flavours that marry with hints of baked agave.
Since Don Julio launched its limited-edition double cask range, it has produced some fascinating combinations. On this occasion, it consists of finishing tequila that was aged in American white oak barrels with ex-Scotch whisky casks that were first used by Buchanan.
As a result, it offers deep flavours of chocolate malt with hints of peat while revealing tropical fruit and spices. Overall, an original and tantalising tequila to try!
Produced in the same facility as Herradura as it’s also owned by Brown Forman, el Jimador is a more affordable alternative. If you’re looking for a smooth reposado, el Jimador’s expression spends a two-month “siesta” in American oak barrels.
As a result, it reveals gentle aromas of vanilla with a mildly spicy flavour profile. Although it can be enjoyed neat, it can offer an intriguing level of complexity to your favourite cocktails.
Gran Centenario can easily be recognised by its stunning Art-Deco-inspired bottles that are reminiscent of late-19th century absinthe. However, what sets this affordable plata tequila apart is the very brief ageing process.
After distillation, the tequila is rested in new French Limousin oak barrels (the same used for cognac) for 28 days before being blended with aged Selección Suave tequila reserves. As it has been aged for less than a month, it’s technically a plata tequila rather resposada despite its mildly amber hue.
Avión’s Silver is an award-winning tequila and has been recognised by the San Francisco World Spirits Competition as the “world’s best tasting tequila”. Indeed, it is a very fine spirit that is comparatively younger than the other brands on this list.
You may experience a nose of bittersweet grapefruit, which is then expressed as caramelised pineapple and butterscotch on the palate. It’s a particularly interesting alternative to Patrón in that it can be sipped chilled and neat or as part of a cocktail.
Casa Dragones prides itself in its artisanal approach where it only produces tequila in small 500-case batches. Its Añejo barrel blend is produced by blending tequila that has been aged separately in new 100% Quercus Sessile French oak and new American oak.
Both barrels have been lightly “bousiné” or toasted, which helps in offering greater complexity by reducing the wood’s influence. The result is a floral and fruity nose with rich macadamia and spicy nutmeg flavour that finishes on a crescendo of cacao and pepper.
Thanks to its geographical and cultural proximity, tequila can be easily found in most liquor and convenience stores throughout the USA.
Indeed, the USA represents Mexico’s first importer of tequila, having brought over 204 million litres of it in 2019! For context, Germany is Mexico’s second-biggest importer, which only consumed just over 5 million litres in the same year.
However, most easily-available tequila is rarely exceptional in quality or in value. In most cases, it’s bottom-shelf booze and rarely 100% blue agave. In fact, it’s easy to accidentally buy sub-part “mixto” tequila, which consists of a minimum 51% blue agave and other sugars.
Nevertheless, the internet is an excellent resource, especially when it comes to liquor. There are a number of online retailers that specialise in high-quality alcohol while still offering good value for money.
We were particularly impressed by Reserve Bar, which features a vast selection of tequila from different brands. Furthermore, Reserve Bar has partnered with a few producers in order to provide exclusives and fair pricing.
Meanwhile, Drizly works in partnership with local liquor stores. Therefore, it tends to have a very healthy and diverse range of products. The benefit of its service is that you can discover what’s locally available to you and have it delivered within an hour.
Unfortunately, the downside is that you’re entirely dependent on the local shops and whether they have partnered with Drizly. If you’re in an isolated area or one that doesn’t stock much tequila, you might be out of luck.
As there are lots of different types of tequila, prices can be surprisingly sporadic. However, it’s not impossible to have an idea of what budget you’ll need when buying some.
Ignoring mixto and flavoured tequila, blanco and plata 100% blue agave tequila can be as low as just under $30. However, premium brands may retail it for as high as $60.
Given that ageing tequila requires both time and additional labour, it can be more expensive. That being said, some resposado expressions may go as low as $30 as well.
Nevertheless, it’s reasonable to expect that high-quality tequila that has been aged for multiple years can fetch for similar prices to Scotch whisky and cognac. Therefore, don’t be surprised when you see some good bottles of extra añejo for over $150.
We used a lot of terms like “resposado”, “añejo”, “piña”, and “plata”. You can learn what these mean and more with our guide to how tequila is made.
Otherwise, now that you have read about the best tequila brands, why don’t you check out more of our resources?