There doesn’t seem to be any reason, historical or otherwise, behind the idea of “National Tequila Day,” which is this Saturday, July 24th.
And that’s fine. We’re all for choosing a random day — especially in summer — to celebrate an excellent spirit that people seem to be enjoying in extraordinary numbers. The Distilled Spirits Council notes that tequila sales have grown 180% since 2002, with high-end and super-premium releases showing 3-5x that growth over the same period. As of last year, tequila is third-largest spirits category in the U.S., having overtaken rum.
Outside of statistics, it also feels like everyone drank a lot of tequila last year — with limited dining options plus the proliferation of to-go cocktails during the beginning of COVID-19, I spent plenty of days in 2020 wandering around New York with a plastic-cup spicy margarita in my hands (only thing stopping me now is the lack of to-go cocktails in NYC).
This year we’ve already highlighted the best tequilas for margaritas and an overall 30 best tequilas list to coincide with Cinco de Mayo. But those rankings are far from complete — there are more than 1,000 (and probably closer to 2,000) active tequila brands, and it seems like there’s a new one each day.
To make our latest list below, the tequila had to be 1) something new-ish, 2) something interesting (beyond “100% blue weber agave”) and 3) actually good (natch).
Let’s get this out of the way — celebrities like putting out their own tequila. Some of it is quite good, some of it seems less than authentic. As for quality, we initially suggested Kendall Jenner’s 818 tequila could be quite good, as it’s won awards (Best Reposado from the World Tequila Awards) and done well in blind tastings. Plus, it “sold out instantly,” but that metric is hard to gauge.
We finally got a bottle of 818 Reposado — it’s 100% Blue Weber agave from both the lowlands and highlands, and the brand is part of some nice sustainability efforts, but the draw here is really Jenner’s name (FWIW, her signed initials are on the bottle, albeit in the tiniest font). Pale straw in color, the grassy agave is front and center on the nose with caramel and vanilla notes on the palette. The mouthfeel is nice (neither too thin or creamy) and it strikes a really nice balance between agave and the wood notes; the tequila is aged in French oak barrels and blended with a bit of extra añejo.
So, yes, it’s a really solid reposado tequila (side note: we tried Hiatus, a reposado from the same distillery — also good, but very different, so proof that you can get different tastes from the same NOM). How you choose to consume (or not consume) it is up to you.
Launched in the U.S. in June, Tepozán is part of a very small but important movement of tequilas that are additive-free, along with being fully grown, distilled and bottled at the source. Light on the nose, this is a grassy, almost minty blanco with a hint of cinnamon. And a wax seal on the bottle (which some people like, some don’t).
Also just launched, Severo (imported by San Francisco’s Hotaling & Co.) is the work of Tequilera Don Roberto, one of only two remaining Mexican-owned heritage tequila businesses. It’s also a 100-year-old recipe. The plata features notes of pepper and citrus that develop as you sip, along with a slight minerality.
Country star George Strait being an owner isn’t the interesting part here, nor is the seed-to-sip ethos (they utilize their own agave, production and bottling processes). What’s unique here is the aging process; the aged expressions are finished in oak barrels that once held Napa Valley cabernet, and there’s even a “Rosa” expression that’s pink and has a nice juicy and fruity element.
A celebrity tequila … with heritage! Co-founded in 2017 and launched in 2020 by Mexican-American PGA golfer Abraham Ancer and Mexican entrepreneur Aron Marquez, Flecha Azul is available in five expressions. The blanco is powerful — it’s earthy and a bit smoky, and you might mistake it for a (very good) mezcal on first sip.
Not only did Corazón win World’s Best Tequila at this year’s World Tequila Awards, it hails from a female-owned distillery headed up by a female distiller. Does the Reposado match the hype? It features nice flavors of cooked agave, cinnamon and vanilla, falling a bit more toward an añejo. It’s rich and pleasant.
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