The growth of tequila and mezcal over the past decade has been nothing short of meteoric. According to the latest tracking data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the US, sales of Mexican agave spirit totaled $6.5 billion in 2023. That marks a 7.9% increase on American shelves from the previous year. Meaning that it’s not only one of the fastest growing styles, but in terms of total numbers it’s now second only to vodka.
In fact, within the next two years tequila, by itself, is on pace to overtake vodka in the US as the most popular category of spirit. Think about that for a moment. Vodka can be—and is—distilled anywhere on earth. It can be distilled from absolutely any fermentable ingredient you can imagine. Tequila can only come from one particular region of Mexico: Jalisco or one of four neighboring states. And it can only be made from one specific type of one specific plant: the Blue Weber agave. Truly exceptional.
The runaway success of tequila, however, also means that there is a glut of product on shelves—and not all of it is worth your money. The Tasting Alliance is here to make sure you’re spending wisely. Last week we talked extensively about the organization and how it has just unveiled a sort of international spirits olympics. Now we exclusively unveil what bottle of tequila its world class panel of judges selected as the best of the best: Don Vicente Extra Añejo, please step up to the top of the podium.
The tequila in profile was produced in the Highlands of Jalisco at Destileria El Pandillo. It’s the same prestigious outpost responsible for ArteNOM Selección de 1579. Agave is crushed here via tahona (traditional stone roller mills) and cooked in brick ovens. As with any extra añejo, the liquid spent a minimum of three years maturing in cask. In the case of this specific 80-proof spirit, the aging occurred primarily in American white oak barrels.
Attention to detail during fermentation, distillation and maturation has resulted in a tequila of supernatural character. It’s almost explosively aromatic, brimming with tropical fruit and toffee. But the real beauty is in the sip. An oily mouthfeel coats the tongue in vanilla custard and the creaminess holds true though the finish, where fresh cracked black pepper and a tickle of molasses are suspended for several moments. A drinking experience that most certainly ought to be enjoyed neat.
Don Vicente had previously been named the Best In Class tequila at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. To take home this top honor, it had to outperform—in a blind tasting—the Best In Class tequila from the New York Spirits Competition as well as the Singapore World Spirits Competition; Volcan De Mi Tierra Extra Añejo and Cierto Reposado, respectively.
You can currently find the esteemed Extra Añejo on shelves for around $170 a bottle. Prestigious awards such as these, however, have a tendency to affect pricing. So don’t be surprised to see it listed for more in the months ahead. Stay current as more world champion spirits are named throughout 2024; follow along for news as it drops.