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Best tequila 2023: The top blanco, reposado and añejo tequila for smooth sipping and cocktails

Sharp, smooth, fruity and oaky, here’s our selection of the best tequila for every occasion

Whether you’re looking for something smooth to sip or a flavourful favourite made for a cocktail, we’ve tried, tested and rated some of the best tequilas for every palate.

When most people think of tequila they might be reminded of boozy, shot-filled nights, but there’s so much more to tequila than salty shots. If you haven’t already been introduced to the world of quality tequilas, you’re in for a treat because there are some truly fantastic options out there.

Here’s our guide to the some of the best tequilas you can buy, plus tips on what to look out for before you make your purchase. From Bohemian get-togethers to party nights, we’ll help you get your tequila choice sussed.

How to choose the best tequila for you

The name “tequila” is protected, so all brands and types come from Mexico. The spirit is mostly produced in the area surrounding the actual city of Tequila, and in the highlands of the central-western Mexican state of Jalisco. Here, the blue agave plant needs at least eight years to mature, after which harvesters extract the piaña (heart) from the plant’s core, stripping it of its leaves before distilling it.

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What types of tequila are there?

There are four main types:

Blanco – a white-coloured spirit, bottled or stored straight after distillation or aged less than two months in stainless steel or oak barrels.

Reposado – literally, a “rested” tequila, which has been aged in oak barrels for between two and 12 months.

Añejo – is aged tequila. This stays in the barrels for longer – generally between one and three years – and the barrels themselves are smaller, which adds to the flavour.

Extra añejo – tequilas that remain in the barrel for at least three years.

The different tastes are quite distinctive. With blanco, the agave flavours tend to be more intense, while reposado or añejo are usually smoother, mellower and more complex – and just like other spirits aged in casks, they can take on the flavours of the wood.

How do I know it’s tequila?

Look for 100% agave tequila printed on the bottle label. This designation is only allowed to appear on bottles containing tequila that have no added sugars. When sugar (or corn) get added to the fermentation tank, the tequila style is called a mixto.

How do you drink tequila?

In Mexico, tequila is usually drunk neat, often with a chaser of fruity sangrita. In the rest of the world, a shot is commonly accompanied by a dash of salt and a slice of lime – the salt to reduce the burn of the tequila, and the sour fruit to enhance its flavour.

If you’re wincing at the thought, however, you’ll be pleased to know that many of the higher-quality tequilas have no burn at all, and are made for sipping, not gulping. There’s also a range of great tequila-based cocktails, notably the margarita, matador and tequila sunrise.

How strong is tequila?

Tequila can be a stiff drink, but it’s no stronger than any other spirit. When produced for consumption in Mexico it’s usually 38% ABV, but in the United States it must be at least 40% alcohol to count as the real deal. For consumption in the rest of the world, it can be anywhere between 31% and 55% ABV.

How we test tequila

Realistically, there’s only one way to test alcohol and that’s by drinking it. Initially, we test our chosen tequilas without any mixers, allowing us to pick out those traditional flavours, as well as noting anything new or interesting. Following this, we test each tequila in a series of classic cocktails to assess whether it shines in a mixed drink and compliments the other ingredients.

Once we’ve completed our initial taste testing, we compare the flavour and quality of each tequila to similar products across a range of price points and ask an all important question – is it good value for money? Our lengthy testing ensures there’s a tequila for everyone on our list, whatever your taste or budget.

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The best tequilas you can buy in 2023

1. VIVIR Tequila Añejo: Best sipping tequila

Price when reviewed: £53 | Check price at Master of Malt

The delectable sipping tequila is made from 100% 12-year-old Blue Weber agave and aged in bourbon casks for at least 18 months, sometimes longer. It’s incredibly smooth and has a lovely sweetness that’s complemented by its aged richness. This is a great tequila to enjoy on its own, but it also makes a deliciously rich margarita.

If you’re looking for a complex tipple that’s dry and full of flavour, this is it. However, if you prefer your tequila on the milder side, you might want to check out some of the other offerings on this list.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 40%; Bottle size: 70cl; Type: Añejo

2. Tequila Ocho: Best cheap tequila

Price when reviewed: £25 | Check price at Amazon

With this one, the agave comes from a different field or rancho each year, which means that (rather like wine) you get a slight variation in the aroma and taste with each batch (although unlike with wine, it’s the different terrain, not the different year, influencing the characteristic flavour). The fact that it’s produced in conjunction with Tomas Estes, an official tequila ambassador for the Mexican government, probably tells you all you need to know about the quality.

A great tequila for those who like the intense agave flavour at the fore, it’s silky smooth, with citrus, almond and pepper flavours. Some people think the only way to drink this is straight up, but we think it mixes well, too.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 40%; Bottle size: 50cl; Type: Blanco

3. Cazcabel Coffee Tequila Liqueur: Best coffee tequila liqueur

Price when reviewed: £24 | Check price at Amazon

If you were a big fan of Patron’s now sadly discontinued coffee tequila, this sweet and sticky coffee delight from Cazcabel is the perfect replacement. Coffee and tequila fans alike are guaranteed to love this, as it has an incredibly strong coffee kick and a smooth, easy-drinking finish. It’s delicious in hot coffee and makes an excellent espresso martini, too. It also tastes great on its own with ice, thanks to its delightful sweetness. It’s made with tequila blanco that’s been distilled for a short time, for a clean and authentic taste.

We’re also big fans of Cazcabel’s coconut tequila liqueur, which is subtly sweet and tropical. Fantastic over ice in a coconut margarita.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 34%; Bottle size: 70cl; Type: Blanco

4. Calle 23: Best tequila for margaritas

Price when reviewed: £55 | Check price at Amazon

Sophie Decorbecq, the creator of this smooth, clean and ever so slightly smoky tequila, was a chemist in the cognac industry before upping sticks to follow her passion for tequila. This one is double distilled in traditional pot stills, then matured in oak casks originally used for bourbon. That gives it a delicate complexity: on the nose, you get oak, vanilla and cocoa, while taste-wise it’s a rich and balanced combination of dried fruit, fresh herbs and vanilla.

It’s light for a reposado – possibly too light for some – but its unique combination of flavours saw it take the gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2009. Great for sipping, and delicious for margaritas.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 40%; Bottle size: 70cl; Type: Añejo

5. El Rayo Reposado: Best mild reposado tequila

Price when reviewed: £39 | Check price at Master of Malt

This reposado tequila is just the ticket for anyone who wants a wonderfully smooth and equally mild drinking experience. El Rayo Reposado has a very subtle sweetness when first sipped, which quickly turns into a mild spiciness on the finish. It’s made from 100% Blue Weber Agave and is distilled in 105-year-old copper stills, before being matured for seven months in whisky casks.

This shorter maturing process is what gives this tequila its lovely mildness, but it does mean the flavour is somewhat lost when used in cocktails. This one shines brightest on its own. So if you want something that packs a bit more punch, we suggest choosing an añejo tequila instead.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 40%; Bottle size: 70cl; Type: Reposado

6. Storywood Speyside 14 Añejo: Best añejo tequila

Price when reviewed: £51 | Check price at Amazon

This luxury sipping tequila is the best añejo we’ve tried. Left for 14 months in scotch whisky casks, it has slightly sweet toffee notes balanced with a rich, oaky flavour. Unlike some longer-aged tequilas, it’s complex, while maintaining a smooth, easy-drinking finish. This makes it ideal both for sipping neat and for use in cocktails, as those delightful flavours still burst through even when mixed with juice.

Don’t just take our word for it, though: the Speyside 14 Añejo won double gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and nabbed a highly recommended medal in the 2020 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, too. It’s also just one of five in the Storywood range and not the only one to win an award.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 40%; Bottle size: 70cl; Type: Añejo

7. The Butterfly Cannon Blue: Best flavoured tequila for long drinks

Price when reviewed: £28 | Check price at The Bottle Club

This beautiful, colour changing tequila from The Butterfly Cannon is an instant favourite. Whether you’re already a die-hard tequila fan or new to the spirit, this modern take on tequila is guaranteed to excite you. Out of the bottle it’s pale blue in colour and transforms into a light purple once your mixer is added. Despite this excellent showmanship, it’s not all style over substance.

Bursting with traditional agave flavours, as well as hints of pear, clementine and melon, it’s a supremely drinkable, modern tequila that pairs perfectly with a variety of mixers. We loved this in a simple tequila and tonic but it’s also delicious with a dash of lime soda or even on its own with ice. While the Blue variety is our favourite, we also highly rate the Butterfly Rosa Pink Grapefruit tequila. Its beautiful bottle also makes a wonderful gift for any tequila fans or simply as a treat to yourself.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 40%; Bottle size: 50cl; Type: Blanco

Check price at The Bottle Club

8. Sauza Tres Generaciones Plata Silver Tequila: Best blanco tequila

Price when reviewed: £55 | Check price at The Whisky Exchange

This unaged, clear tequila is triple distilled for an exceptionally smooth sipping experience, with slight hints of citrus, floral notes and white pepper. There’s no throat burning with this premium tequila from Sauza, named for the three generations of their family who have been making their tequila since 1873.

In fact, they’re one of the most awarded families of tequilas, with six gongs at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, one of the most prestigious in the industry. It’s clean, fresh tasting and well balanced.

Key specs – Alcohol content: 38%; Bottle size: 70cl; Type: Blanco

Check price at The Whisky Exchange

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