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It’s no longer just a question of whether to mix tequila into a Margarita or a Paloma (although frankly, we’ll order one of each, thanks). Today, the question to ask is: What type of tequila? The varieties seem to be ever-widening and, in some cases, blurring.
For those who love crisp, bracing blancos, a growing number of celebrities are adding their names to the labels. Some are even a two-for-one deal, as with Santo (Sammy Hagar and Guy Fieri) and Villa One (Nick Jonas and John Varvatos). In terms of reposados, Partida has introduced a single-barrel reserve, a designation once seen only on whiskey bottlings.
And for those who enjoy longer-aged añejos or even extra añejos, the category has grown ever more luxe. The emphasis on “ultra-premium” bottles in the tequila space has resulted in some pricey bottles but also some that are remarkably delicious, including new entrants from Gran Centenario, El Tesoro and Patrón. With some bottles holding spirits aged 10 or even 15 years, these are special occasion sippers, to be sure.
Among the growing number of cristalino tequilas, aka aged tequilas with the color deliberately filtered out, this newcomer starts as an extra añejo, aged in oak for more than two years. This gives the finished spirit robust flavor. It’s still clear in the glass, but in place of blanco’s brisk, citrusy bite, it’s tinged with mellow almond and vanilla tones.
This rich, cocoa and coffee-tinged tequila, released in October 2019, is a permanent addition to El Tesoro’s portfolio. It’s aged in ex-bourbon barrels for four to five years. The first batch was put in barrels years ago by the late father of current master distiller Carlos Camarena, a third-generation distiller.
Previously available only in Mexico, this ultra-premium extra añejo is made with a core of four-year-old tequila married with a smaller amount of reserves aged up to 15 years. According to the producer, this special blend was originally created as a special sipper for guests and family. Expect a smooth, nutty maple sip with plenty of cinnamon and clove spice.
Launched in January 2020, this estate-bottled reposado tequila is the culmination of efforts by Partida’s master distiller, José Valdez. He sampled more than 100 barrels, eventually winnowing them down to just 30 barrels, each aged a minimum of six months, that featured the most complexity and depth. Look for the layers of smooth honey, vanilla and pear that mark Partida’s trademark reposado, amped up even further.
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The brand’s oldest tequila to date, this limited-edition expression, released in September 2019, was aged for 10 years in a blend of used American oak and hybrid American and French Limousin oak barrels. This extra-aged, ultra-premium tequila is aimed to lure cognac and whiskey fans, so expect plenty of dried-fruit richness layered with maple and vanilla.
A collaboration between rock star Sammy Hagar and TV food personality Guy Fieri, this “Old World tequila” is designed to be light and sessionable. Rolling your eyes? Not so fast: Hagar is also behind the decade-old Cabo Wabo tequila brand, now owned by Gruppo Campari, as well as tequila-mezcal hybrid Santo Mezquila, launched in 2017 with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine, so he has some boozy bona fides.
Usually, most brands start with unflavored spirits and work their way toward flavored expressions later. Tanteo rolled out of the gate several years ago with infused tequilas, including spicy jalapeño and cocoa. In November, the distillery owned by an agave farmer cooperative released a blanco, bottled at 85 proof. It’s slightly floral and slightly sweet, finishing spicy and bright. Its higher proof means it’s specifically designed to enhance a classic Margarita, according to the producer.
This newcomer is backed by singer/songwriter Nick Jonas and menswear designer John Varvatos. While it may be tempting to write it off as just another celeb tequila, it sips light and clean, with mellow hints of almond, coconut and clove heat.