The Best Tequila Brands to Drink Now
Americans, particularly the famous ones, are in love with tequila. Year after year, the category continues to grow in the States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. In fact, new data suggests that agave spirits overall will outpace American whiskey in terms of sales for the first time this year, and as hard as it is to believe, vodka over the next few years.
Forget about mixto, the subpar blend of agave and sugar juice that inevitably leaves you with a bad hangover. We’re talking 100-percent Blue Weber agave tequila, which can only be distilled in five Mexican states, of which the best known is Jalisco. The traditional method of making tequila involves harvesting agave, cooking the piñas (the heart of the plant) in an oven, shredding and crushing them with the tahona (a large stone wheel), and then fermenting and distilling the juice (or mosto).
Of course, technology has advanced and many distilleries use more modern methods, replacing the tahona with a roller mill, cooking the pinas using steam in a pressurized autoclave, or even using something called a diffuser to “cook” the agave. A diffuser is basically a giant machine that extracts sugar using hot water (and sometimes sulfuric acid). This results in what some unflatteringly call “agavodka," which is often infused with additives to boost the flavor. Most brands that do this are not open about it, even though it is legally allowed, but there are some that proudly proclaim themselves as being additive-free—you can find a decent list of these here. (We made note of tequilas that claim to be additive-free in this list, but don’t necessarily take their word for it.)
Hardcore tequila fans believe diffuser-made tequila is an inferior product, but some argue that using this technology actually makes tequila cheaper and therefore accessible to more people. Overall, tequila makers aren't very forthcoming about the use of diffusers, which is part of the problem—transparency goes a long way in the spirits industry. For this list, we tried to focus on brands that use traditional methods, with some exceptions. And we couldn't include everything—even George Clooney's baby Casamigos, which was sold to Diageo for close to a billion dollars in 2017, didn't make the cut. Ultimately, regardless of whether a brick oven, stainless steel autoclave, or diffuser was used to make the tequila, it’s all about taste. So here are 26 of the best tequila brands available right now, followed by some newer entries into the tequila world that are worth knowing about.
The Best Old-School Tequila Brands
Patrón helped to define the premium tequila category when it launched over a quarter century ago. Everything from the bottle design, to the marketing to the higher price tag was meant to reinforce its position as a higher-end, club-worthy spirit, and it worked. Nowadays the premium tequila category is thriving, and Patrón (now owned by Bacardi) remains one of the best, with the Roca range at the forefront. Roca differs from the standard Patrón lineup in that the piñas are crushed solely using a traditional tahona stone instead of a mill, resulting in a more agave-forward flavor. (Patrón uses a combination of the tahona and mill for its core range.) Last year, Sherry Cask Aged Anejo was released, aged for more than two years in Oloroso sherry casks. This is a certifiable sherry bomb of a tequila, but it works really well in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. And sneakerheads should check out the collaboration with designer John Geiger, a set of kicks released on Cinco de Mayo that was inspired by the look of a Patron bottle and agave fields.
Casa Noble is one of several organic-certified tequila brands, but that’s not why it’s good. No, this is good tequila because it’s a crisp, spicy, flavorful, and very versatile spirit. The brand underwent a redesign in 2021, changing the bottles from their former squat, boxy shape to more elegant decanter-style glass. The liquid has been updated as well, with a focus on barrel selection and blending, and eliminating the single barrel releases you could once find. According to founder and master distiller Jose “Pepe” Hermosillo, this means the reposado and anejo expressions are created by “selecting different barrels according to characteristics and integrating up to 14 lots to create complexity and balance.” These aged expressions spend a longer amount of time maturing than some other brands, with the anejo aged for two years in French oak barrels and the reposado for 364 days. All of the tequila is triple distilled, and the distillery implements many sustainable practices. The newest expression, Marques de Casa Noble, launches this summer. It’s a blend of 12 extra anejo and 9 anejo tequilas aged from one to five years in specially selected French oak barrels that were aged for three years before being filled.
El Tesoro, part of the Beam Suntory family, has a long history dating back to the 1930s. From blanco to añejo, El Tesoro produces excellent sipping tequilas, with vegetal notes that play nicely with the sweet agave undercurrent. For something truly special, try El Tesoro Paradiso, a complex extra añejo tequila aged for five years in French oak ex-cognac barrels, that pops on the palate with bursts of vanilla and fruit. El Tesoro claims to be the first tequila brand to use cognac casks for maturation, as well as creating the first extra añejo in the '80s, which it called "muy añejo" at the time. The most recent release, and an interesting one at that, is The Laphroaig Edition. The first in the new Mundial Collection, this single barrel reposado was finished in Laphroaig scotch casks, adding a subtle smokey layer to the palate. And in sartorial news, El Tesoro has teamed up with milliner Gladys Tamez, who has worked with both Lady Gaga and Lil Nas X, to create a limited-edition hat (“The Tesoro”) that will be available for purchase online.
Espolòn, part of the Campari America family, is an inexpensive tequila option that sips far beyond its price point with notes of agave and spice. The distillery, located in the Highlands of Jalisco, cooks the piñas in modern autoclaves instead of traditional ovens. The tequila is then distilled in both pot and column stills, and the aged expressions use smaller virgin American oak barrels with a lighter No. 2 char, although the añejo is rested for an additional two months in heavily charred barrels that once held Wild Turkey (also part of the Campari family). Overall, Espolòn is a solid option if you’re looking for a dependable tequila that doesn’t cost much.
Milagro is a tequila brand created by two friends in 1997. Apparently, they had a good amount of foresight about the future popularity of the category, and Scottish company William Grant and Sons purchased the brand in 2006. Milagro bottles are instantly recognizable—tall, sleek, modern looking, and completely different from any other tequila presentation out there. The liquid within is soft and slightly floral with notes of sweet and spice. In addition to the core lineup, there’s also the Select Barrel Reserve range which is aged in both French and American oak and comes in Silver, Reposado, and Anejo expressions.
This is another newer brand, having entered the market just over 15 years ago in 2005, but the family behind Fortaleza claims to have close to 150 years of history in the tequila business. This tequila is made using traditional methods, from the stone oven that cooks the agave to the tahona wheel used for crushing and extraction. The reposado is aged for seven months in used American oak barrels, and the anejo for two years. The blanco is an excellent sipping tequila as well, but if you’d like something with a higher proof try the Still Strength version of this expression. This tequila raises the proof from 80 to 92, the same level which it comes off the still, bringing more concentrated flavors to the spirit and adding some extra kick to your cocktails.
El Tequileño is a respected brand that is sometimes overlooked by tequila drinkers, although some of the newer expressions it has launched are getting deserved attention. The blanco is a classic, known for being the choice of Don Javier of the La Capilla Cantina to use in his La Batanga cocktail (tequila, lime, Mexican cola). As far as aged expressions, definitely try the Reposado Rare, aged for six years and four months in large American oak pipons (this can’t be called an extra anejo because of the barrel size). And the excellent Anejo Gran Reserva launched last year, aged for two years in American and French oak barrels and blended with some extra anejo tequila that spent six years in American oak. If you want to visit the distillery, you can now stay at the Casa Salles Hotel Boutique located just next door.
These days, it wouldn’t be a tequila roundup without at least one celebrity-backed brand on the list. And one of the best in that category is Codigo 1530. Country music legend George Strait is the star power behind the brand, although admittedly his stake is relatively small. The bottom line is that this is good tequila, with the Rosa expression standing out in particular. It’s aged for one month in Napa Valley Cabernet French oak wine barrels that have not been charred, infusing the blanco with both color and flavor. If you have deep pockets, you can now find a 13-year-old extra anejo tequila from Codigo, with just 350 bottles available at $3,300 a pop. This tequila was finished for an additional six months in cognac casks after more than a decade in wine barrels.
If you’re interested in the concept of terroir and vintage in tequila, Ocho is a good brand to explore. Each batch of this single estate tequila is produced from a specific field or rancho, and the year of production and the name of that field are both included on the bottle’s label. There are expressions from plata to extra anejo available, as well as some single barrel offerings in the anejo and extra anejo categories that are bottled at cask strength of 109.6 proof. Tequilero Carlos Camarena (also responsible for El Tesoro and Tapatio) created this brand along with the late Tomas Estes, two people who have been involved in the tequila business for quite some time. The most recent release is the brand-new Puntas, an overproof plata expression made from agave harvested from Camarena’s own family rancho. “Puntas” means distiller’s cut, referring to the spirits taken from a particular point in the distillation process. Wild Turkey fans take note, as this tequila clocks in at 101 proof.
Volcan De Mi Tierra
This brand has been around for about 20 years, but was revamped and relaunched by Moet Hennessy in 2017. There are blanco, cristalino, and reposado expressions available, with the latter spending 135 days in American and European oak casks. According to Volcan, all of the tequila is additive-free. A recent release has some similarities to El Tesoro’s most recent expression, as far as secondary maturation goes. Blanco Smoke is said to be inspired by the volcano that towers over the agave fields of the Highlands, and is finished for ten days in peated Islay whisky casks (safe to assume these are from Ardbeg, which is also owned by Moet Hennessy). This gives the tequila a whiff of smoke on the palate, far from the assertive nature of many mezcals, but noticeable nonetheless. And Volcan X.A will be available at select bars and restaurants starting this summer, a blend of different aged tequilas that is meant to compete with other ultra premium bottles.
The Best New-School Tequila Brands
This tequila brand comes from David Ravandi, founder of 123 Organic Tequila. This is more of a relaunch than a completely new brand, but the three core expressions are worth checking out. The reposado and anejo are aged in French white oak barrels that previously held Puligny Montrachet wine, and the lineup also includes the higher ABV Distill-Proof blanco (55% ABV). The bottle design stands out, with drawings of lucha libre wrestlers gracing the labels.
This tequila was launched in 2019, and is made from a “Hi/Lo” blend of agave grown in the Highlands and the Lowlands of Jalisco. According to the brand, each brings different unique flavors to the palate—fruitier, sweeter notes from the Highlands, pepper and spice from the Lowlands. As of now, there are two expressions—a blanco and a reposado aged for eight months in American oak.
Latitude Beverage, the company behind Wheel Horse Whiskey, came out with this new tequila brand recently starting with a blanco expression. More recently, a reposado was released, aged for three to four months in ex-bourbon barrels. The tequila is made using a combination of traditional practices and “the family’s own methods,” which involves slow cooking in an autoclave and double distillation in alembic stills. This tequila is tasty, and is priced right at below $40 per bottle.
This tequila brand has the classic three expressions available, but if you’re looking to splurge on some fancier bottles check out the cask-finished options. The most recent release was the Extra Añejo Port Cask Aged, which was matured for a total of 42 months in port barrels to give it big blackberry and fruit notes along with some cinnamon and brown sugar. This comes just a year after the Extra Añejo Sherry Cask Aged, a tequila that rested for 38 months in sherry butts. These bottles are likely better enjoyed as sipping tequilas, but try and make an Old Fashioned or Manhattan with them as well.
Mijenta is another new tequila brand, led by Maestra Tequilera Ana Maria Romero Mena. The blanco and reposado expressions are delightful, but the new Gran Reserva Anejo is really one to look out for. It’s aged for 18 months in a combination of four different types of barrels—American white oak, French oak, French acacia, and cherry. Each one brings its own unique flavor notes as the tequila matures, making this an interesting new addition to the world of tequila.
While Severo is made at a distillery that does have a diffuser onsite (Casa Don Roberto), according to a rep for the brand it is not used to produce Severo, and is only used for “high volume tequilas” like Don Roberto Reposado. Regardless, the reason it’s included here is that it’s a good tequila that was brought to market in the US last year (imported by San Francisco’s Hotaling & Co.). There are plata, reposado, and anejo expressions, as well as a cristalino, which was aged for 18 months before being filtered.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Patsch is definitively a premium brand, with prices starting at a hefty $60 for the blanco. Also, the bottle is kind of silly looking, with sort of a brass knuckle style finger grip on the neck, presumably for easier pouring. All that aside, the tequila is good, made using traditional methods with no additives, according to the brand. In addition to the core expressions, if you’re really looking to splurge you can try the extra anejo, aged for seven long years in ex-whiskey barrels, and priced at $350 for a bottle.
This is another additive-free tequila (according to the brand), with a simple and modern aesthetic, and bright flavor profile. Lo Siento is based in Los Angeles, and has just two expressions available for far—blanco and reposado. These are excellent cocktail tequilas, hitting all the right notes for what you’d expect from a classic agave spirit—citrus, grassy, earthy, and a bit of spice.
While Tres Agave has been around since 2008, the brand was acquired by Trinchero Family Estates in 2020. This is a solid tequila, with the blanco leading the lineup. The reposado expression is aged for eight months in Jack Daniel’s and Four Roses bourbon barrels, the anejo for twice as long in the same type of barrels. And Tres Agaves has a whole range of mixers available as well if that’s your thing, from various types of Margaritas to a classic Bloody Mary.
There’s a long story behind Siempre, including cofounder Alex Lacroix facing jail time for weapons possession charges. But really it’s all about the liquid, and in this case it’s pretty good. The makeup of the expressions is interesting as well: the reposado is aged in virgin American oak with a bit of extra anejo and aguamiel (sap of the agave plant) added; the anejo is comprised of still-strength, high-proof plata that’s put into ex-bourbon barrels for 12-36 months.
El Bandido Yankee
There’s some sports celebrity power behind this additive-free (according to the brand) tequila—NHL Hall-of-Famer Chris Chelios and former NFL player Jim Bob Morris. The reposado is a standout, aged in bourbon barrels that have been stripped and recharred. Try this one in a classic tequila cocktail for an extra flavor kick, it does wonderful things to a Margarita.
Chinaco is notable for being the only tequila made in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, one of five it can be produced in. Although it first became available in the US back in the 1980s, the bottle was just redesigned and relaunched in honor of its 50th anniversary. The maturation process is a bit different for Chinaco, with the reposado spending 11 months in casks from France and scotch barrels from the UK. The anejo spends 30 months in barrels, a mixture of the type mentioned before as well as bourbon barrels.
Here’s another additive-free tequila to check out (according to the brand). El Cristiano is made at Casa Tequilera Aceves, and in addition to the core lineup has some interesting expressions to try. XR: Clase Extra Reposado Tequila spends 11 months in barrels, and then is blended with a bit of eight-year-old extra anejo. And Black: Clase Extra Anejo Tequila spends three years in American oak before being bottled.
This new tequila brand was founded by Mexican chef Dafna Mizrahi, and in addition to being female-founded the brand says that 95 percent of the employees at the Leyros distillery where it's produced are women. It must be noted that a diffuser is used to make this tequila, something that is not appealing to everyone. That being said, it’s still a tasty tequila so it deserves inclusion here (no additives are used, according to the brand). Give the blanco or new reposado a try in your next cocktail and see what you think.
This is one of the best new entries into the tequila world over the past few years. Lalo was founded by the grandson of Don Julio Gonzalez, and is named after him (Eduardo “Lalo” Gonzalez). So far there is only a blanco, and it’s one that is equally good sipped as it is mixed. Lalo says that the tequila is additive-free and made using traditional methods, and it has a palate that is crisp, earthy, and complex.
From: Esquire US