12 Best Tequila Brands to Drink Right Now
Americans are in love with their spirit to the south, tequila. Year after year, the category continues to grow in the States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Forget about
The traditional method of making tequila involves harvesting agave, cooking the piñas (the heart of the plant) in an oven, crushing them with the
Naturally, this method is unappealing to hardcore tequila fans who believe diffuser-made tequila is an inferior product. But some argue that using a diffuser 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
Patrón helped to define premium tequila 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 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
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. There is a
El Tesoro has the power of Beam Suntory behind it as far as ownership, but the tequila stands strong on its own with a history dating back to the 1930s. From
Espolòn, part of the Campari America family, is an inexpensive tequila option that still bursts 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 relatively recent addition to the tequila world, created by two friends in 1997. Apparently, they had a good amount of foresight about the future popularity of the category, and 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 (aged in both French and American oak), and Unico II, a blend of silver and aged tequila that is filtered to remove the color.
Partida, another newcomer on the scene, is named after the late agave farmer Enrique Partida. The brand came together in the early 2000s with the intention of creating another high-end entry in the premium tequila field. At the distillery, the agave is cooked in autoclaves before being fermented and double pot-distilled. It’s a lovely spirit—particularly the
Herradura is Brown-Forman’s popular flagship premium tequila brand. Several other brands are produced at the same distillery, like the cheaper El Jimador, that
The price tag might be high, but the spirit inside the beautiful bottles of Clase Azul is elegant and flavorful. According to a distillery rep, the brand does not use diffusers, only stone ovens to cook the agave, and no additives are used to flavor or color the tequila. The bottles themselves are towering ceramic pieces handmade in the town of Santa Maria Canchesda. Perhaps that helps explain the hefty price tag, which can reach as high as $1,700 for the Ultra expression (it’s aged for five years in sherry casks and bottled in a decanter with platinum, silver, and gold embroideries). In fact, the brand encourages you to upcycle your bottle after it’s empty and turn it into a lamp or use it for the legs of a bedside table.
The history behind Tequila Corralejo dates back a few centuries to the founding of Hacienda Corralejo in 1755. Nowadays agave piñas are slow roasted for 27 hours before being distilled using the Charentaise distillation method, taken from the French process of distilling cognac. This basically means that the tequila is distilled for a second time in alembic copper pot stills, along with a few other details, but it’s also a nice marketing story to help set it apart. Fortunately, the tequila lives up to the hype, with the reposado and añejo aging in American oak, and a few other products like the triple-distilled reposado and some extra añejo expressions.
Don Julio, which is owned by Diageo, has been around for close to a century. The brand is famous for its 1942 expression, an añejo aged for a minimum of two and a half years that has become a symbol of high-end, luxury tequila—and a staple of the nightclub scene. But the rest of the range is worth checking out as well, such as the recently released Reposado Double Cask that was finished in Buchanan’s
Yes, Jose Cuervo deserves a spot on this list, haters
Gran Centenario is an inexpensive tequila brand that is owned by Casa Cuervo and imported and distributed by Proximo Spirits. The agave is cooked using both traditional ovens and diffusers, according to the brand, to create various flavor profiles. There are three main expressions available:
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.