Tequila exists as a singular yet multifaceted entity in the spirits realm. With myriad guises that span vegetal blanco and oak-influenced extra añejo, drinkers encounter a broad range of identities in tequila — a chameleon spirit bound only by the use of Blue Weber agave as its foundational building block.
In the $50-and-under price range, almost all of these identities find notable and remarkable ambassadors. There are blanco tequilas that highlight the complex potential of agave distillates, reposados that introduce the deft hand of brief oak aging, and añejos and clear cristalinos that serve as a letter of recommendation for taking the spirit to a new level via carefully considered maturation.
In the first of three tequilas roundups, VinePair explores the bottles that best demonstrate these principles and are more than deserving of a place on your bar cart or liquor shelf. Here are the 10 best tequilas under $50, tasted and ranked.
There is no shortage of options around the $20 mark, but few deliver the same level of quality as Olmeca Altos Plata. Its aromas include notes of cooked piñas with a whisper of banana and baking spices. The flavor profile is enjoyable and balanced, with just the right amount of spice. This is a great option for batching Margaritas. Average price: $21.
Arriving in a slick new bottle design, this blanco tequila has expressive aromas and an approachable palate. The nose captures the earthy side of tequila via scents of green olive and pineapple husk. The palate is headier and delivers a juxtaposition of richness and spice. Average price: $36.
Touted as the “world’s first” cristalino tequila, this expression incorporates a blend of reposado, añejo, and extra-añejo tequila that’s filtered prior to bottling to remove its color. It delivers spicier character than most cristalinos and retains vibrant aromas. Each sip lands with luxurious weight and a depth of flavors that encapsulate both agave’s character and the influence of oak aging. Average price: $43.
Another wonderful option that clocks in around the $20 mark, this blanco tequila kicks off with alluring peppery spice and zesty grapefruit aromas. With flavors that dance between cloves, citrus, and rich agave, it promises to pour a dazzling Paloma. Average price: $22.
This is a standout reposado whose profile confidently veers off the beaten path. It begins with a bouquet of lavender and violet aromas, and continues with complex green tea and cinnamon notes. Each sip returns a generous helping of fresh tropical fruit, and recalls its time spent in oak with a kiss of vanilla on the finish. Average price: $32.
While smooth-sipping and approachable in nature, this blanco tequila nonetheless delivers botanical-like complexity. Its aromas flitter between herbaceous, peppery, and briny notes. The palate exudes concentrated character, with an interesting contrast between sweet fruit, caramel, and floral flavors. Average price: $40.
A bright and attractive blanco tequila, La Gran Señora begins with expressive black pepper, lemon peel, and earthy agave aromas. The intensity of those scents is matched and exceeded by the concentration of flavors that follow, with an overall perfumed character to the palate’s profile. Buy this bottle for elevated blanco tequila cocktails. Average price: $48.
Such is the reputation and hype that surrounds Patrón that it’s easy to hold it to a higher standard. But every tasting of this bottle delivers pleasant satisfaction and a reminder that it is deserving of reverence. The aromas are attractive and complex, capturing the true essence of agave. The palate builds on a rich agave syrup core with lively spice and a balanced dose of green, vegetal notes. Average price: $48.
This tequila delivers an enticing representation of agave, expressed via vegetal and grassy aromas, and an undercurrent of vibrant flowers. There’s similar concentration on the palate, and an enjoyable black pepper spice that lingers well onto the balanced and persistent finish. This is complex and nuanced sipping tequila, but don’t shy away from using it in cocktails. Average price: $46.
To spend some time with this tequila is to learn the full potential and impossible allure that pure, unaged tequila can offer. It has a graceful, delicate character, but suffers no lack of depth or nuance. Pineapple husk and bell pepper aromas stand out on the nose, with a streak of enchanting sweetness. The palate springs to life with spiced and floral notes, transitions to underripe tropical fruit, and finishes with a spray of green olives. Average price: $46.
Published: April 29, 2021