Good-yet-affordable tequila shouldn’t be hard to find. But as with any booze, there’s often just as much mediocre to outright bad stuff on the shelf as there is to good-to-great stuff — even in the premium categories. To help you sift through it all, I’m conducting a blind taste test of affordable tequilas in the low(ish) range of the premium category.
For this blind taste test, I’m really looking for quality tequilas — “premium” if you will. I’ve grabbed a selection of special barrel finished reposados, añejos, extra añejos, and cristalinos (aged but filtered to clarify). The price points is in the $50-$150 range with only one bottle sneaking over $100.
In the grand scheme of things (where $1,000+ bottles are becoming more the norm in high-end tequila), bottles in the $50ish to $190ish tend to be the lower end of the premium bottle selection these days with $200 to $500 bottles hitting the mid-range of premium selections, and then the $500, $1,000, and higher bottles hitting the highest end of the premium category. The point is that you should be able to find most of these bottles and enjoy them without breaking the bank (even if one of them is just north of $100).
Our lineup today is:
- El Sativo Single Estate Tequila Añejo
- Cazadores Tequila Extra Añejo
- Casa Noble Tequila Añejo
- Casamigos Tequila Añejo
- El Mayor Tequila Extra Añejo Port Cask Aged
- Tequila Codigo 1530 George Strait: The Limited Edition Rosa Reposado
- Tequila Don Ramon Platinium Añejo Cristalino
- Tequila Lobos 1707 Reposado Finished En Barrica Espanola De Roble
As for the ranking, it’s pretty simple: What tastes the best? I’m looking at the depth of flavor, how washed out the palate is from proofing water, and whether it delivers on what’s promised on the label (especially with special finishes).
Let’s dive in!
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Part 1: The Tasting
This has a classic nose with hints of dark cacao, black peppercorns, and a hint of tropical fruits next to a whisper of burnt pecan and roasted agave. The palate opens with soft vanilla that leads to raisins and baking spices with a hint of almost burnt chocolate in the background. The fades pretty fast and is a bit watery overall with the roasted agave and peppercorn lasting the longest on the senses.
This was really good right up until the watery finish.
The age is pretty evident on the nose with a light tannic oakiness accented by peppery agave and a light touch of vanilla. The palate is soft and smooth but a little listless with minor keys of burnt orange, winter spice, and roasted agave next to soft vanilla and a hint of caramel. The end is a tad washed out but does hit on mild dark chocolate and spiced red fruit.
Again, this just got too watery by the end.
This has a very French wine nose with tons of potting soil and the fertilizer aisle of a garden center with an underlying sense of butterscotch and vanilla next to a whisper of cinnamon and clove. The palate is largely the same, with a sweeter black soil vibe next to toffee and vanilla with a dash more of that wintry spice and a hint of dark stone fruits. The end is subtle and doesn’t get watery but stays on the earthy end of the flavor spectrum with a hint of agave and pepper.
This was pretty nice and held on to a solid flavor profile to the very end.
There’s a big not of caramel and bourbon-y vanilla on the nose with a hint of cherry and singed cedar. The palate leans into the cherry with a rock candy vibe as sticky toffee pudding with a lot of dates and cinnamon leans into dried and candied red fruits next to a little nob of marzipan. The end has a mildly spiced cherry tobacco chew that leans sweet.
This is a pretty nice tequila, though clearly calibrated for a bourbon drinker’s palate.
There’s a deep tannic nature to the nose with plenty of dark figs, prunes, and dates with a light mustiness and a hint of woody old spices and agave hearts. The palate has a twinge of sour grapes countered by a rich vanilla sauce cut with bright orange zest and salty caramel. The finish created a soft and spice plum jam with a hint of cinnamon doughnut next to a mild and dry vanilla-laced tobacco leaf wrapped around a black-tea-soaked date with a black peppercorn in the middle.
This is clearly a winner. It’s so deep and musty and interesting.
The nose on this is classic with layers of roasted agave and freshly cracked black pepper next to sour cherry and a hint of orchard wood. The palate leans into a musty earthiness (French wine again) with orange peels and a hint of lime next to sour red wine cut with winter spices and a smidge of vanilla. The end leans into the old and soft oak with a sweet edge next to red cherries and old agave spears.
This was also very nice and easy drinking.
There’s a light woody spice on the nose with a hint of roasted agave and black pepper next to a dash of lime and orange oils. The palate is so soft and smooth with a hint of river rock next to aloe vera oils and a flutter of vanilla creaminess. The end is short and sweet with a light sense of mineral water next to more of that citrus and agave.
This was fine. It was super easy to drink with an ultra-smooth body.
A hint of sour cherry and funk lead to roasted agave, winter spice, and a hint of old oak in a dusty cellar. The taste leans into the soft agave with an earthy warmth next to soft white moss and dry firewood with a hint of Cherry Coke softening everything out and adding sweetness. The cherry vibes drive the end toward a finish full of grilled pineapple and black pepper next to dry sweetgrass and cherry tobacco.
This was another very nice pour.
Part 2: The Ranking
8. El Sativo Single Estate Tequila Añejo — Taste 1
Average Price: $54
This tequila is a “single estate” product, meaning all the Weber agave comes from the farm around the distillery. The agave is roasted in brick ovens and then crushed with a roller mill to extract the sugary juices. After fermentation, the juice is twice distilled and then filled into ex-bourbon barrels for a 16-month rest. Finally, those barrels are vatted, proofed down, and bottled.
This was the epitome of “fine.” There was nothing off-putting here it was just a bit washed out on the finish. That said, this would be a solid mixing tequila to build flavors into.
7. Cazadores Tequila Extra Añejo — Taste 2
Average Price: $57
Cazadores is made in the Highlands of Jalisco at the Bacardi distillery. The process is very modernized with automation and classical music playing during fermentation and aging. The juice is left in new American oak barrels for three long years before it’s vatted and proofed for bottling.
This was also fine. It was a tad tannic on the nose but had a good sipping base. It just didn’t quite land the finish or leave a lasting impression.
6. Casa Noble Tequila Añejo — Taste 3
Average Price: $68
This classic tequila — made with Blue Weber — is all about the slow aging process. The tequila is barreled in new French oak barrels for two long years before vatting, proofing, and bottling.
This was the first sip that really landed the finish and stuck with me. It was straightforward and easy to drink while offering a nice flavor profile, but nothing mind-blowing.
5. Tequila Don Ramon Platinium Añejo Cristalino — Taste 7
Average Price: $62
This Blue Weber agave spirit from Jalisco’s Highlands is double-barreled. The juice spends 12 months in both American and French oak. After vatting, the juice is then slowly filtered to remove all the color before proofing and bottling.
This was so smooth it was… almost too smooth. Still, that means this was super fine and easy drinking with some serious flavor left deep in the body of this sip. That said, this felt more like a mixer for cocktails than anything else.
4. Casamigos Tequila Añejo — Taste 4
Average Price: $61
Famously known as George Clooney’s billion-dollar tequila brand, Casamigos delivers the goods. The piñas are slow roasted in brick ovens. The juice is then fermented for nearly four days, allowing the flavors to run deep in the juice. Finally, the tequila is aged for 14 months — resting through the hot highland days and cool nights.
This is where things get very sippable on this list. This is nice and easy with a clear depth and classic profile. It’s basic but very good.
3. Tequila Lobos 1707 Reposado Finished En Barrica Espanola De Roble — Taste 8
Average Price: $51
Lobos 1707 also comes from the Highlands of Jalisco. The front end of the tequila-making process is pretty much the same as a lot on this list — Blue Weber, ex-bourbon barrels, etc. — with the finishing on this one standing out. After six months in bourbon barrels, this is filled into ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry casks from Spain for a final rest before proofing and bottling.
This was just a nice sipper all around. It had a nice depth from the finishing barrel that helped it stand out. Overall, it’s a little lower because the finish was a tad short.
2. Tequila Codigo 1530 George Strait: The Limited Edition Rosa Reposado — Taste 6
Average Price: $75
This tequila from country music legend George Straight is his personal favorite. The juice is rested for one month in hand-picked Napa Cabernet French white oak barrels. The red wine barrel adds a faint pink hue to the blanco tequila before proofing and bottling.
This was very subtle and very nice. The red wine really vibed with the tequila in the sense and made for a rich yet light drinking experience. This felt very summery and fresh.
1. El Mayor Tequila Extra Añejo Port Cask Aged — Taste 5
Average Price: $130
This tequila is made in the Southern Highlands of Jalisco via autoclave and roller mill. There’s a long fermentation and double distilling involved before the hot spirit rests in ex-bourbon barrels for a spell. Finally, the tequila is refilled into old Port casks for a final maturation before proofing and bottling.
This had the most depth by far today. It was complex yet accessible with a clear sense of tequila and that Port barrel finish. This was also the deepest sipper on the list. It’s just tasty, folks.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
There are eight quality tequilas on this list. Each one is tasty in its own way. It’s really only the bottom two that don’t quite land their finish but are perfectly fine otherwise, especially if you’re mixing cocktails.
In the end, the top four are all highly recommended with the top two being the ones you need to track down if you’re looking for unique sippers. Interestingly, the top four also have a wide price range that reaches from $50 to $130 but feel extremely close in quality, meaning price isn’t everything. In my mind, Codigo is a soft and summery surprise while the El Mayor is a deep and dark winter sipper… but you go ahead and drink them whenever you like!