Tequila is on quite a roll right now. One that still seems to catch many casual drinkers by surprise. They still associate Mexico’s favorite spirit with face-squinching shots and tales of catching a worm in your teeth. Well, let me tell you, those days are long gone. Nowadays, there is a whole universe of high-quality agave-based spirits that are fantastic to sip and effortlessly blend into cocktails. There is no better time to dive into the ever-expanding world of tequila.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that a boom in high-quality tequilas has suddenly surfaced. Much like bourbon, a spirit misunderstood for decades, tequila has a long lineage of producers producing excellent liquid for centuries. While most of the world was distracted by margaritas and other blended concoctions that drove sales of basic tequilas, the true tequila maestros of Mexico were experimenting and refining their liquids.
When, finally, in the early 2010s, American bartenders discovered this hidden treasure trove of fantastic bottles just south of the border, today’s modern tequila boom started. According to Statistica, in 2022, sales of the spirit hit an all-time high in the United States, its biggest market, at 30 million cases. That’s a lot of bottles for consumers to sort through to find the best of the best.
To help simplify things, we turned to the top international spirit competitions to help narrow down the field to the “best” tequilas, much like we did for bourbon and rum. These events see distillers send in their top bottles to be blind taste-tested by panels of industry experts. If they can’t be trusted, who can? Here are the five best tequilas; any would be a worthy addition to a collection.
El Tesoro Tequila Blanco Tequila
It was quite a banner year for El Tesoro Tequila. All their expressions seemed to appear near the top of every major awards event. At the International Wine & Spirits Competition, one of the oldest such events in the world, three of their bottles took the top five spots in the tequila category, earning gold outstanding medals. While their Reposado and Extra Añejo are both fantastic, ultimately, their Blanco Tequila was awarded the overall Tequila Trophy.
An un-aged distillation bottled right after production, it shines a spotlight on the highland blue agave used and the minerality of the soil and waters used to produce it. Here is what the judges had to say about it. “This is a perfect expression of a 100% agave tequila, fantastically classic and bursting with character. Flavors of freshly cut grass combine with citrus peel and seep smoky undertones, Elegant, soft and rich; remarkable balance throughout.”
LANA Tequila Blanco
This certainly isn’t the tequila you reached for in high school. Launched in 2023, LANA Tequila is a luxury tequila designed to highlight the subliminal smoothness that high-quality tequilas can offer drinkers. It will stand out on any shelf due to its striking design and is sealed by a one-of-a-kind cap crafted from marble and onyx. Made from 100% Blue Weber Agave and aged for at least six years, it has wowed tasters across the board at numerous events.
One was the San Francisco Wine and Spirits Challenge, an event commonly called the Oscars of Spirits in industry circles. It was named the Best of Class Silver/Gold (Unaged) Tequila, earning 92 points and a double gold medal. It does an excellent job of balancing spicy black pepper and poblano flavors with hints of vanilla, leather, and fresh herbs.
El Perro Grande Blanco Tequila
If you were looking for a product that shows that tequila has retained its sense of humor, look no further. Packaged in a bottle shaped to look like a feisty Chihuahua, this tequila is yet another new entry into the market. Conceived by Renard Johnson, an entrepreneur from El Paso, Texas, it is premium tequila that is made in Jalisco, Mexico, yet is proudly Texan. Keeping with its mutt motif, the brand also donates part of its proceeds to the Humane Society.
The brand won a gold medal at the Bartender Spirits Award (BSA) and was named the Grand Tequila of the Year. Designed to give a voice to the folks who pour our drinks, the BSA shines a light on many smaller brands that sometimes get overshadowed by more prominent brands. The judges at the event had this to say about El Perro. “Fresh vegetal notes, long complex finish of stone fruit. Very well balanced.”
JAJA Tequila Blanco
Since its launch in 2018, JAJA Tequila has routinely appeared at the top of the awards circuit. It won the Tequila of the Year Award at the London Spirits Competition. An affordable tequila, it was designed to make people smile. Its name is Mexican slang for ha-ha, and it’s the brainchild of the band The Chainsmokers and one of the founders of Jerry Media. Part of the reason it has had so much success in its first few years is the juice in the bottles.
The Master Distiller behind every bottle is industry legend Marco Anguiano, the founder of Cristalino Tequila. It is made with 100% Blue Agave grown for eight years and loaded with flavors due to the volcanic water it is made in and the minerality of the surrounding soils. It is a smooth sipper with notes of cooked agave, green apple, and vanilla.
Volcan De Mi Tierra X.A. Tequila
If you are looking for the perfect bottle of sipping tequila, this is it. Made from a mixture of reposado, añejo, and extra-añejo tequilas Volcan De Mi Tierra X.A Tequila is one complex bottle. It’s aged Grace Casks, a specific barrel made with American Oak, and it takes ten years to produce one bottle.
Designed to introduce the art of blending into the tequila world, it is produced by industry powerhouse Moët Hennessy, the folks behind some of the finest champagnes, scotches, vodkas, and cognacs in the world. It won the Best Overall Tequila Award at the New York World Spirit Competition, besting twelve other finalists. Its balanced flavor profile shows hints of agave, vanilla, caramel, and dried fruits with a hint of spices and smoke.