There are several thousand tequila brands (literally) and seemingly more each week. And no wonder: the agave spirit has passed whiskey in retail sales, and the category grew 11.5% from 2021 to 2022 and shows absolutely zero signs of slowing down. But along with growth comes the nagging question — what are these newer brands actually bringing to the table?
Sure, Cristalinos were fun for a moment. And there are plenty of interesting barrel maturation concepts out there. But hunting down newer tequilas that offer more than just “100% Blue Weber agave” and have bottles beyond the standard blanco, reposado, añejo and extra añejo expressions took a bit of (fun) work. Below, 10 tequilas (and tequila liqueurs) that actually provide something a little special in a market saturated with similarity. If you’re looking for tequila with a new story and an interesting taste profile, we suggest buying one of the following bottles.
Drink a Margarita, save an endangered species. That’s the idea behind Alma Del Jaguar, new 100% Blue Weber agave blanco and reposado tequilas (both additive-free) that just launched in May. The juice was created, in part, by spirits entrepreneur McCauley Williams, who was inspired by his uncle’s commitment to wild jaguar preservation in northern Mexico (a portion of the bottle’s proceeds go to conservation organizations). We tried the blanco, made using Los Altos agave, brick ovens, roller mill extraction, well water and copper pot stills. Most of the tequila is fermented from natural wild yeast, and a portion is fermented from Champagne yeast imported from France. It’s a nice melange of citrus, black pepper, grapefruit and orange, with an underlying grassiness and minerality.
Aging tequila in wine barrels is relatively uncommon, but Inspiro claims to be the first to do so in rosé barrels (their Rosa Reposado is also finished in pinot noir wine barrels). Additive-free, this women-owned, woman-distilled, certified WBENC brand even has a uniquely-shaped bottle that’s easier to hold. Both releases have notes of vanilla, cooked agave and berries, with the repo adding some fruitier notes.
This rare single estate release hails from Julious Grant at The Brand House Group (OMAGE brandy, TEITESSA Japanese whisky), who was born and raised in Mexico. Each year, the vintage will actually hail from a new and different estate. We were able to try the Blanco and Reposado, which were 2021 vintages; the former is sweet, bright and fruity, and the Reposado has a nice touch of butterscotch.
Tequila Has Discovered Unique Cask Aging Just in TimePatrón and other tequila brands are using ex-sherry, Scotch and red wine barrels to great and new effect
Fermented with a proprietary yeast, this extra añejo tequila is distilled twice in copper pot stills and then aged in three types of oak barrels — ex-Scotch, sherry and brandy — for five years. The cooked agave flavors here remain intact, with some sweeter butterscotch, chocolate and dark fruit notes rounding out this exceptional sipper.
An organic, additive-free tequila, this reposado was finished in both ex-bourbon barrels and barrels seasoned with coffee from Chiapas, Mexico. The cooked agave aroma and flavor still stand out here, with the barrels adding hints of vanilla, chocolate, oak and roasted coffee.
Founder Michael Ballantyne is Scottish born and Texas-raised, and — according to the brand — he discovered Mexico in 2016 when he spent time in his mother’s hometown of San Miguel De Allende. That unique heritage may explain Storywood, which are reposado and añejo tequilas aged in whisky barrels from Speyside, Scotland. The reposado does a fine job marrying the two worlds of agave and whisky; the agave is powerful on the nose with notes of caramel, vanilla and oak on the palate. The añejo has already won a Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and it should appeal to whisky fans who want the earthiness of tequila with more pronounced barrel notes, along with hints of toffee, dark fruit and cocoa.
A sipping blanco tequila? I’d argue all the good ones are sippable, but that’s the stated purpose of Campari’s new luxury agave release, which offers some unique maceration and blending methods. Before the final distillation, the distillery macerates the roasted piñas in the base distillate “to invite the aromas and flavor of caramelized, cooked agave.” And they blend that with agave miel (an agave honey byproduct) into the base distillate. It certainly makes for a unique character, one where sweet, cooked agave notes truly stand out (along with honey, orange and citrus).
While the family has been making tequila for more than 40 years, Cantera Negra is a relatively new brand and new to the U.S. market — it was partially acquired by Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits near the end of 2022. Available in Silver, Reposado, Añejo, Extra Añejo and Café expressions, the last one is the most fascinating. Much like the new Cafe release from Cazadores, this is an agave-based coffee liqueur that should make up for the surprising discontinuation of Patron XO. As for the tequila itself, the Silver is a bit sweeter than other blancos to balance its earthier notes. We haven’t tried their aged tequilas, but they are rested in custom coal-fired barrels.
Inspired by Mediterranean winemaking and presented in ceramic bottles, these tequilas are aged in wine barrels and aerated to finish. Available in four expressions (Reposado Rosa, Añejo Cristalino, Añejo Reserva and Extra Añejo), the Extra Añejo actually scored the first 100-point score ever by The Tasting Panel. Our favorite is the Reserva — aged in French oak wine barrels, bourbon barrels and sherry casks, it achieves a wonderful and sweet jamminess with hints of cocoa and the earthy agave notes intact.
Can a luxury tequila conquer the low-alc market? Punta Santos is only 28% ABV and 77 calories per serving, and it’s still 100% Blue Weber agave and contains no additional flavors, colorants or sweeteners. Available exclusively online, this tequila — technically a “tequila liqueur” and featured in a wide, beaker-like vessel — features a balance of citrus, pepper and cooked agave on the nose and palate with, as intended, no burn (it’s soft and seems ideal as a mixer for a Paloma).
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