If you want to get a feel for the agave and basic distillation quality of a distiller's products, taste their blanco tequila. Unlike the reposado and añejo, the blanco's flavors aren't influenced by the oak used in aging.
So, which types of tequila is "best?" There isn't one.
The one that tastes best to YOU is the best for you. But, if you're a gin or vodka fan, you'll likely prefer the blancos. If you're a whiskey
or scotch drinker, you'll likely prefer the añejos. It all comes down to whether you like your alcohol aged in oak or not.
It's funny- Being a scotch drinker, I've felt that the more refined, smoother tequilas
were "better." But that's not entirely true- One of my favorites is the El Tesoro de Don Felipe Reposado. It's generally the one I've opened when I come home from
work and pour a shot (and that was the case BEFORE my meeting Carlos Camarena of El Tesoro de Don Felipe). Ordinarily I prefer the añejos to the reposados to
the blancos. But that's not always the way they shake out: Sometimes I prefer a distiller's products in the reverse order, sometimes in no order at all.
It's all about keeping an open mind, and letting the aromas and tastes speak for themselves.
What Do I Like?
A conversation with someone made me realize that something needs to be made clear: Everyone must understand that my preferences are just that- MY preferences. If I rank someone's favorites poorly, it's just the way my tastebuds see things. It's no reflection on someone else's taste. I now have a lot of experience in tasting tequilas, but my training has been more casual instruction from experts, as opposed to my being classically-trained in school. While I do judge tequilas in competitions, I still like to consider myself an enthusiastic amateur, despite others wanting to call me "expert." Besides, I have no right nor inclination to contradict what someone else happens to enjoy!
Going a step further, on many occasions I've recommended tequilas that I don't particularly like to other people. If I know someone's preferences, I can recommend something that suits them whether or not it suits me. That's part of the reason for all the notes I take! Now that I'm adding "identity tags," it's getting easier to find a tequila with certain traits that'll suit a particular preference.
That being said, my preferences tend to lean more towards earthy tequilas, with complex flavors. A balance of subtle complex flavors, sweetness, fire, and earthy characteristics is ideal in my mind (and mouth). Now, there are a lot of tequilas coming out that seem to be designed to cater to the average U.S. American's taste for sugar. I find many of these new tequilas to be way, WAY too sweet, with the sugar overpowering any subtle complexity they might have. As such, I tend to rank those lower- Because at the end of the day, I'm only writing down my impressions of how a tequila tastes appeals to me. But exceptions can also happen- Many extra añejo (or XA) tequilas feel a bit too sweet and over-refined to me, but I sort of look at them as a "dessert tequila," much as port would be to wine. While they're not what I'd have on a normal basis (due to the price as well as flavor), for special occasions they can be interesting.
Oh, and by the way, a disclaimer- My comments about all the brands are simply my own personal opinions. I do not necessarily have verified information as to a given brand's production methods. I neither sell nor market brands, nor do I receive any financial compensation for expressing my opinions, whether pro or con for any particular product.
I've compiled a list of the tequilas I've tasted, saving a number of pieces of information about each of them.
I track the number of the distillery where it was produced, where I've tasted it, whether it's a highland or lowland variety,
prices for a bottle of each where possible,
as well as a brief description of my impressions of it and a note as to whether or not I
should consider buying it for myself.
So check back often, the spreadsheet (and this page) seem to get updated fairly frequently.
No, Cuervo Gold isn't on the list- It doesn't count. Only true 100% Blue Agave tequilas are listed, although I do list some unusal specialty tequilas at the bottom. And in fact, there are a few sotols in the tequila section, and a few raicillas in the mezcal section.
|Kelly's Spreadsheet ranking Tequilas and Mezcals|
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