What is a luxury tequila? It’s certainly not an official tequila category. But “luxury” is a word that gets thrown out a lot in the agave spirits world, along with “premium” or “super-premium.” But what makes it luxury? Is it simply price, availability, packaging, unusual barrel maturation or a marketing gimmick?
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) defines luxury in the drinks world as simply “spirits brands that have a 750ml retail price of $50 or more.” This is fairly nebulous because there are plenty of great tequilas that cost less than that amount, but a two-figure price tag probably isn’t what most people consider luxurious.
That said, DISCUS created a Luxury Brand Index a few years ago to analyze sales of brands at its defined top end of the spirits market. As of last year, luxury spirits grew just 4% after a bigger surge post-Covid in 2021. The trade organization blamed inflation and higher interest rates for the modest 2022 increase, but a couple of categories bucked the belt-tightening trend — most notably tequila, which saw a 21% annual growth rate in the over-$50 luxury category.
This Luxury Tequila Is So Exclusive You May Never Get to Try ItVolcan X.A was built exclusively for clubs and high-end restaurants. We flew out to Las Vegas to get a taste.
“The tequila market continues to grow at a remarkably fast pace, providing increasing levels of taste and quality, and increasing visibility and desirability in the trendiest bars, restaurants and clubs worldwide,” Julien Morel, the President and CEO of Volcán de Mi Tierra, told us last year right after the launch of that brand’s Volcan X.A. bottle (which is about $180 and mainly available in clubs). “With the return of nightlife, events and social gatherings, consumers are excitedly seeking out ultra-premium, exclusive offerings and experiences. This insight, coupled with the current consumer trend of ‘trading up,’ will contribute to the number of limited-edition, ultra-luxury tequila offerings on the market.”
Ultra-premium. Ultra-luxury. Even the tequila brands themselves are playing around with the wording. At Patrón, they use another word entirely for their newest release. “Patrón El Cielo is a ‘prestige’ tequila, and it is the first time, four-times distilled silver prestige tequila on the market,” says D-J Hageman, Vice President of Brand Marketing at Patrón, who defines the prestige segment as tequila that costs more than $100. “It’s a segment that we are very focused on, as it is forecasted to double in size by 2025.”
We first sampled El Cielo during late summer in the Hamptons, where Patrón had been keeping an active presence. The brand also threw seven parties around the globe and a series of ongoing events in places like Mykonos, London and St. Tropez to celebrate the tequila’s launch. As with Volcan and other recent luxury spirits releases, you’re more likely to find these tequilas in clubs or high-end restaurants and bars. So it’s not just about taste or rarity; it’s also about lifestyle.
“We identified a whitespace in the category since there really isn’t a prestige silver tequila on the market right now that is perfect for the high-energy day as well as nightclub occasions,” says Hageman. “This is exactly the audience for Patrón El Cielo. We were also finding that consumers are gravitating towards prestige tequilas as premiumization continues to be a trend. Consumers are drinking less, but they’re drinking better, premium products.”
To Hageman’s earlier point, El Cielo is one of the few high-priced silver/blanco tequilas on the market. Most of the brands that utilize the phrase “luxury” focus quite a bit on maturation, blending and barrel aging (along with the special artwork and packaging design, which is often used to justify those higher prices). Interestingly, Patrón also recently debuted an aged luxury bottle, El Alto, which features extra añejo tequila aged for four years and blended with añejo and reposado tequilas.
Are luxury tequilas better? Some are, sure. Many feature something unique in the blending or maturation process, while the bottles themselves are usually quite eye-catching. Below, we offer up some of our favorites in this vaguely defined luxury tequila category. We’re going above the $50 benchmark set by DISCUS and making our luxury picks on a combination of price ($100+), distinctiveness and, obviously, flavor. Note that prices listed may vary by region or availability.
If you don’t care for the sticker shock, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives. But if the category piques your interest, here are our picks for the 10 best luxury tequilas.
Best Luxury Tequilas
It’s rare for a tequila to be distilled four times. Thankfully, the process here doesn’t strip out the agave flavor, though now there’s a slight note of melon and a bit more sweetness (and yes, smoothness) than Patrón’s Silver bottle. Speaking of bottles, this glass vessel is outfitted with gold designs inspired by the volcanic tahona stone used to produce Patrón’s tequila, with other elements inspired by the agave fields.
Given the strikingly sleek and tall bottle (co-created by a Nike guru and Michael Jordan, one of the brand’s co-owners), it’s no surprise that pretty much any release by this celebrity brand would constitute luxury. If you have to pick one, you can skip the four-figure extra añejo and go with the three-figure añejo, which offers a cinnamon-y, dark chocolate profile with a creamy mouthfeel. We haven’t tried it, but the more recent Cincoro Gold is actually a blend of all four of the brand’s tequilas in a gold-hued bottle.
A blend of reposado, añejo and extra añejo tequilas that have undergone a gentler, cellar-aged maturation, you’ll find this one in clubs in a long and heavy decanter. X.A. was a rather surprising release from a brand best known for its modestly priced, zero-additive tequila. Here, you’ll still find those cooked agave notes, but also vanilla, caramel and dried fruits.
While the distillery has certainly released more expensive and rare offerings, Casa Noble’s Marqués is the most recent luxury offering (and slightly easier to find). Organic, estate-grown and aged in toasted French Oak barrels, this one — a blend of 21 añejos and extra añejos — is rich, balanced and yet still a little earthy, with notes of cooked agave, vanilla, white chocolate, pepper, baking spices, ripe fruits, green pepper and more. It gets more complex and interesting with each sip. The bottle itself resembles an agave spear.
A tall and decidedly tactile (and spike-topped) black bottle that’s somewhat evocative of the Chrysler Building, Laneta is more about the design than other brands listed here. Otherwise, you’re drinking an extra añejo, double-distilled tequila that’s aged three years in ex-bourbon barrels. Nothing too unusual there, but this one has a lot of butterscotch, date and cocoa notes that don’t drown out the more vegetal and earthy agave flavors.
Tequila Komos offers a winemaker’s approach to tequila — and thanks to the bottle design, price and flavor, any of their core releases could be justified as luxury. But let’s talk XO. It’s produced in a single batch as a limited-edition bottle with tequila that’s aged three to 11 years in a combination of American oak bourbon barrels and both French oak red and white wine barrels. Komos Xo is then finished in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and has notes of dried fruit, vanilla, chocolate and oak spice. It’s housed in an etched clear crystal decanter.
A 100% organic joven rosa tequila, this single-estate distillery from the Jalisco highlands rests its tequila in red wine barrels from Napa Valley. Beyond the pinkish hue, those wine barrels add a lovely red berry note to the earthy, peppery, citrusy agave flavors (it also has a lush, creamy mouthfeel). Each bottle features a handcrafted marble top with a unique marbling pattern, and the bottom “push-up” in the bottle resembles an agave heart.
Don Julio was started in 1942, which explains the name of the distillery’s iconic sipping tequila that you see on the top shelf of most bars. Produced in small batches and aged for a minimum of two and a half years, this one has notes of roasted agave, chocolate, vanilla and oak. (Another cool luxury release of theirs? The new Don Julio Rosado, a reposado rested in ruby Port wine casks, also in a distinctively spiky bottle.)
This is how one of our writers described the Clase Azul tasting room in Los Cabos: “The signature blue and white hand-painted bottles with shiny silver tops adorn the shelves like delicate masterpieces, standing tall alongside limited edition bottles with price tags ranging anywhere from $158 to more than $6,000. It’s a candy store for tequila aficionados.” You may want to seek out Ultra, which spends five years aging, first in American whiskey casks, then in Spanish casks that previously contained sherry.
The least ostentatious bottles of the best luxury tequilas, Paradiso — from this additive-free tequila brand — is an extra añejo aged for five years in French oak ex-Cognac barrels. It’s herbal but also full of butterscotch and fruit notes.
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