Booze | April 5, 2022 5:45 am

Review: Avión Reserva Cristalino Elevates a Controversial Tequila Category

Instead of stripping out flavors, this crystal clear expression brings out the best in agave

a bottle of Avión Reserva Cristalino, in shadows
Avión Reserva Cristalino is a newcomer in an unofficial tequila category
Tequila Avión

What we’re drinking: Avión Reserva Cristalino, the second release from Tequila Avion in their Reserva Range 

Where it’s from: Tequila Avión is known for cultivating its agave at very high elevations. The distillery has both a core line and a Reserva line of premium tequilas that undergo additional aging and, here, a unique filtration process. 

Why we’re drinking this: I have mixed feelings about cristalinos. They’re not an official category of tequila, according to the Tequila Regulatory Council, but they are recognized and do have rules — the tequila producers have to show proof that the spirit underwent maturation in oak barrels and they must also specify the color removal process. 

Essentially, a cristalino is an aged tequila filtered (primarily through charcoal) to remove any color added by the barrel during the aging process, which leaves the agave spirit completely clear. At best, you’ll get the best of both worlds — an aged tequila that maintains its agave flavors but also adds the vanillins and other notes you’d associate with a matured spirit, all in a refined (and crystal clear) package. At worst? You’ll get something too sweet or with too much character stripped away by the charcoal filtering process.

“Cristalino is not a category I loved to drink,” admits Virginia Miller, a fellow drinks scribe (and long-time spirits judge) who helped put together Avión’s new release. “With tequila, I want that complexity from aging, but I also want that agave flavor, the minerality and the earthiness.” 

A cocktail made from Avión Reserva Cristalino with a slice of orange peel
One advantage of cristalino tequilas? The ability to make crystal clear cocktails that would normally utilize dark spirits.
Tequila Avión

“It plays with your senses,” adds Carlos Andres Ramirez, Global Advocacy Manager for House of Tequila, Pernod Ricard. “You’ll see a clear spirit, and you’ll get some agave notes, but then you’ll have vanilla, chocolate, candied orange notes. You can use it in place of dark spirits, or even use it to make a martini or a premium margarita.”

Ideally, that would mean Avión’s Cristalino would highlight all the best parts of tequila (aged or not), while also exhibiting a strong versatility in cocktails. Let’s see if it works.

How it tastes: Avión Reserva Cristalino is a blend of añejo and extra añejo that is double charcoal filtered. 

That desired tequila balance is certainly achieved here. The nose is very reminiscent of a blanco tequila — you’ll get the minerality and grassiness. But on the palate, there is a candied citrus note, plus vanilla and a surprising amount of chocolate. As for mouthfeel, it’s very refined and almost silky in texture. I don’t think I’d use it in a margarita, but it’s great to sip and it does feel like a whiskey alternative for cocktails (a clear Old Fashioned — why not?). 

Fun fact: Some people attribute the cristalino category’s birth to the release of the 70th-anniversary bottle of Don Julio 70 in 2012; Maestro Dobel, on the other hand, claims their Dobel Diamante was the first Cristalino to market. 

Where to buy: Avión Reserva Cristalino is now available in the United States for $145.