Tequila: a word that can strike fear into the hearts of anyone three quarters of a way through a night out drinking with friends.
But fear not, tequila is not what it might seem. In fact, we know, through a mixture of mixing it into tequila cocktails and simply sipping away, that tequila is not just for slamming.
In fact, ‘tequila’ has some unique and tasty cousins, also produced in Mexico from the agave plant, such as mezcal, sotol and raicilla.
The best tequila taste tested
Del Maguey Vida mezcal
Del Maguey is the brainchild of Californian artist turned mezcal maestro Ron Cooper, who has been importing this agave spirit since 1995. It has since become the darling spirit of the hipster world. This example shows how different it can taste from tequila, with smoky elements and an earthy undertone.
Tapatio Reposado tequila
One of the most masterful tequilas around, this reposado (meaning ‘rested’ for between two and 12 months) is made from 100 per cent blue agave by one of the true godfathers of tequila production, Carlos Camarena. Rich buttery notes, alongside a distinct citrus freshness and a slightly earthy note, come from the ex-bourbon casks in which it is rested for around four months.
Patrón is the game-changing tequila brand of the past decade or so, making this spirit category much more approachable and premium through an innovative distillery which allows them to make a consistent and delicious product that works exceptionally well in cocktails.
Hacienda de Chihuahua sotol añejo
The spirit ‘sotol’ is exclusively produced by just a handful of distillers not far from the US border and Hacienda de Chihuahua is probably the most well-known. It’s produced from the desert spoon plant, which can take as long as 15 years to fully mature. With a more spicy, herbaceous note than tequila, it works well for sipping.
This is a reposado tequila, which starts out with around 10 months maturation in French wine casks. It’s then blended with other tequilas which helps to develop a distinct vanilla-tinged floral top note like nothing else.
QuiQuiRiQui, which means ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ is a mezcal which has as good a flavour as it does name. The taste ranges from smoky to sugary sweet and has a peppery finish. This comes from Matatlan, the home of mezcal in Mexico.
An añejo is a tequila that is rested in oak for longer than year, but fewer than three years. This example is from a house founded in 1870 and still makes its product in the same way today, as it did back then. Notes of sweet vanilla, toffee popcorn and black pepper mark this out as excellent example of a añejo tequila.
This spirit places heavy focus on what makes tequila, tequila: the agave flavour. This is Mexico in a bottle. Each batch comes from a different field or rancho contributing distinctive characteristics of that terrain. This has been produced in conjunction with Tomas Estes, an official Tequila Ambassador for the Mexican Government!
This is a more specific version of the original Olmeca tequila, with the name ‘Altos’ reflecting the highland region of Tequila, in Mexico from where they source their agave. This is a fresh tequila which works brilliantly in a margarita.
This is a tequila for really treating yourself – and it should be at the price. An extra añejo (very old in tequila terms) produced by Patrón. Made from 100 per cent blue weber agave from the highlands of Jalisco and matured in both American and French oak casks, it has notes more akin to a whisky than a tequila.
Tequila cocktail recipes
This review was last updated in July 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Which tequila do you drink? We’d love to hear your product suggestions below…