Cinco de Mayo may come around once a year, but every day is a tequila celebration if you live in the United States, as the category is showing juggernaut growth.
In 2018, the agave distillate led our spirits category in both volume and value growth, according to Nielsen, while last year, the IWSR reported that America had retained its crown as the world’s top market for tequila imports. Though our current landscape already looks much different than recent history, early sales data suggests tequila is among a handful of spirits that have enjoyed a 75 percent sales spike at retail during the Covid-19 pandemic.
For those looking to stock up on booze now — or ever — tequila offers a broad range of options. There’s vegetal-accented blancos, lightly aged reposados, and luscious, complex añejos. Great examples of each can be found for $40 or less, while splurge-worthy, special-occasion bottles exist in abundance.
VinePair tasted more than 60 tequila brands to curate our best-of-the-best list, at every price point. Whether your budget is $25, $50, $100, or more, these are 30 of the best tequilas on the market today.
This affordable reposado pours a pale wheat color, with sweet aromas of agave syrup, vanilla, and brown sugar. It hits the palate with silky, medium-bodied richness, and finishes with a pleasant spice. Average price: $19.
The vegetal bite of this tequila’s aromas immediately capture one’s attention, followed by fresh flowers and grapefruit peel. The palate dials down the intensity, with soft vanilla sweetness and just a touch of spice. Average price: $22.
Pouring a striking pale gold, this tequila offers a baker’s delight on the nose, with sweet aromas that range from vanilla cookie dough to agave syrup. The palate is full-bodied, velvet- smooth, and seasoned with a crack of black pepper. Average price: $23.
A roller-coaster in a glass, this blanco tequila has a pungent nose, textured with earthy, dried fruit notes. The palate is similarly concentrated, but much more savory in character. Its higher proof (44.5 percent ABV) and intense flavors make this a truly memorable tequila. Average price: $23.
This easy-going tequila offers an attractive mix of floral, spicy, and fruity aromas. The palate is nicely balanced and well rounded, providing a cocktail-friendly blanco that can also be enjoyed neat. Average price: $24.
A wonderful pink-gold hue makes this reposado inviting from the get-go. The nose is fruity with a spicy kick that evokes grappa. The palate continues on a similar path, adding green vegetal notes to the mix. Enjoy with seltzer and lime in a refreshing Highball or mixed with grapefruit soda for a characterful Paloma. Average price: $27.
Notes of olives, jalapeño, and salty brine define this complex tequila. Its distinct, savory flavor profile promises to add character to cocktails and makes for a particularly interesting Margarita option. At this price, you can enjoy them by the pitcher. Average price: $28
This “Pre-Clooney” celebrity tequila brand was founded by Sammy Hagar (of Van Halen fame) in the ’90s, but is now completely owned by spirits conglomerate Gruppo Campari. Cabo Wabo’s blanco expression provides the best bang for buck from its lineup, serving vegetal, spiced aromas and a silky smooth palate. Average price: $32.
Much like the blanco, Elvelo’s reposado comes in hot on the alcohol scale, clocking in at 44.5 percent ABV. While the prior is well suited to cocktails, this could absolutely be enjoyed neat and will appeal to those who drink overproof spirits or enjoy the bite of a rye whiskey. Average price: $35.
Añejos at this price point typically share two things in common: They look artificially colored and taste overwhelmingly sweet. Neither is true of Centenario’s offering. Aged for upwards of 18 months in French Limousin oak barrels (best associated with Cognac production) this tequila’s aromas could well be those of a blanco or reposado. The palate is fiery (read: spice not booze) with a pleasant undertone of oaky sweetness. Average price: $36.
Triple-distilled for a “smoother-than-glass finish,” according to the brand, this blanco offers black pepper, cranberry, and olive brine on the nose. The palate skews more toward dried fruits, such as prunes, as well as cedar and fresh agave. This is a well-balanced, vegetal option. Average price: $37.
Twice-distilled in stainless steel pots, this blanco matches mineral aromas with the pleasant salinity of juicy green olives. There’s a light caramel profile to the palate, making it an approachable option for those who mix their Margaritas on the sweeter side. Average price: $40.
Tanteo offers a range of infused tequilas from chipotle to habanero to jalapeño. Its unflavored blanco expression doesn’t break that mold (at least in spirit), with a nose that opens like a jar of spicy pickled cactus. The palate is also remarkably vegetal, making this a tequila for true aficionados. Average price: $40.
This bottle stands out with a sharp rectangular design and minimalist labeling. The liquor inside has briny, slightly dusty aromas with a faint hint of cloves. That spice continues to lead the palate, but is kept in check by dried fruits and a hint of honey. Try it in a Negroni in place of gin. Average price: $41.
Pouring a light maple color, this tequila smells like an aged grain spirit, with notes of raisins, oak, figs, and just a hint of spice. The agave character comes out much stronger on the palate, while the flavors from oak aging take a comfortable back seat. This añejo is full of personality and priced so you can experiment in cocktails. Average price: $41.
Fermented in open wooden vats using ambient yeast, this blanco has robust agave character. The nose is floral and spicy, there are some tart berry notes, and just a hint of olive brine. The palate is incredibly smooth and well balanced, with a generous, full-bodied mouthfeel. Drink neat or on the rocks with a lime wedge. Average price: $46.
There’s a wonderful depth to the nose of this tequila, which has layers of floral, spicy, fruity, and vegetal aromas. It’s almost botanical in nature, similar to gin. The palate is intense, with the sharp spice of black pepper softened by some delightful rose petal flavors. It’s pricey, but this is one of the best blancos on the market. Average price: $49.
A favorite among bar industry professionals and agave aficionados, Fortaleza Blanco delivers from start to finish. Its aromas are spicy and slightly mentholated, with floral notes and underripe stone fruits adding nuance. The palate enters well rounded and full-bodied, before a tingling spice lingers on its lengthy finish. This is another blanco that begs (and deserves) to be sipped neat. Average price: $51.
Aged in former whiskey barrels, this añejo pours a dazzling honey gold. Its nose effuses sweet baking spices, starting with vanilla and ending on a distinct licorice note. The palate continues in similar fashion, with salted caramel and brown butter notes adding depth. Average price: $51.
While it’s one of the world’s best-selling tequila brands, Patrón doesn’t sacrifice quality in pursuit of quantity. This reposado shares the pale gold hue of a rich Chardonnay. Its nose is complex and full of citrus, vegetal, spiced aromas. The flavor profile is equally intense, with no hint of artificial sweetness. Average price: $51.
If Patron’s reposado looks like Chardonnay, this incredibly light bottling is a Sauvignon Blanc by comparison. There’s barely a hint of oak in its aromas, either, though dried fruits, vanilla, and cedar arrive on the palate. This is a lively añejo that hits all the right notes. Average price: $53.
El Tesoro Añejo pours honey gold, with a perfumed nose. White petal aromas lead to sweet but not cloying flavors, followed by dried fruits and a gentle spiced finish. This is nuanced, thought-provoking añejo at its finest. Average price: $54.
Pasote Añejo is light in color and body, and has an easy-drinking quality. Vanilla cupcake and cooked agave aromas lead the nose, followed by caramel flavors and a seasoning of tingling spice. The finish is clean and long- lasting. Average price: $58.
This añejo tequila spends 18 months in American white oak casks before it’s charcoal-filtered to remove the color. While it looks like a blanco, it has the oaky, butterscotch aromas of an aged tequila and a full-bodied palate with dried apricot and vanilla flavors. This bottle is perfect for sipping neat or adding an extra dimension to (baller) Margaritas. Average price: $61.
With an almost-maple hue, this reposado is darker than most on the market. The nose is unmistakably tequila, but also evokes other complex, aged spirits. The palate is remarkably smooth, but also spicy and layered, with an exceedingly lengthy finish. Average price: $69.
Sweet aromas lead the nose of this rich golden reposado, with vanilla and baking spices followed by vegetal, dried pineapple leaves. The palate is velvety and once again has a sweet core, which is textured by spice and the faintest smoky note. Sip this on special occasions. Average price: $90.
If you’re going to spend close to $100 on a blanco tequila, you’ll no-doubt expect a truly special bottle. This limited-edition release is made exclusively from agave grown on the grounds of the Patrón estate. And it’s more than just a marketing gimmick. This blanco’s aromas are intense and concentrated, with a nose that starts off spicy before perfumed floral notes enter the fray. The palate is perfectly balanced but not without complex character. Average price: $93.
Splurge (Over $100)
This pricey añejo is one for those who drink expensive brown spirits but have yet to find their preferred agave distillate. It shares the color of a light bourbon and many of the same aromas, from dried fruits to baking spices and oak. The palate is rich and raisined and introduces a hint of cooked agave. The price tag says it’s a sipper, but the flavor profile screams “mix me in an Old Fashioned.” Average price: $126.
By law, extra añejo must age for a minimum of three years before release. This tequila doubles down on that, spending six years in French Oak barrels that previously housed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. That combination imparts complex character, but also gives its range of flavors and aromas plenty of time to come together in one luxurious, harmonious pour. This is another great option for those who typically enjoy expensive whisk(e)y or Cognac. Average price: $298.
Let’s not kid ourselves, $375 is a lot of money to spend on any spirit, but this one-of-a-kind bottle does make it somewhat of a collector’s item. The liquid inside is equally precious. While not aged as long as the Origen (three to five years in American oak, in this case), this extra añejo is similarly layered and nuanced and has a beautifully perfumed nose. For many of us, the best chance to try this will be a pricey pour from a local agave-centric bar. Given the bottle, it shouldn’t be hard to spot on the top shelf. Average price: $375.
Published: May 1, 2020