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Best tequila 2021: The best blanco, reposado and añejo tequila for smooth sipping and cocktails

Kate Hilpern
14 Sep 2021

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 something flavourful for a cocktail or two, 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 piña (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.

READ NEXT: The best whiskies – from the smoothest scotch to a perfect peat

The best tequilas to buy

1. VIVIR Tequila Añejo: Best-value añejo tequila

Price: £39 | Buy now from 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

Image of VIVIR Tequila Anejo, 70 cl

VIVIR Tequila Anejo, 70 cl

£43.89 (£62.70 / l) Buy now

2. Tequila Ocho: Best cheap tequila

Price: £20 | Buy now from The Whisky Exchange

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

Image of Ocho Blanco Tequila, 50 cl

Ocho Blanco Tequila, 50 cl

£34.01 (£68.02 / l) Buy now

3. Cazcabel Coconut Tequila Liqueur: Best tequila liqueur

Price: £25 | Buy now from Amazon

If you're looking for the perfect liqueur for those fruity cocktails, this coconut delight from Cazcabel is a delicious alternative to classic tequila. Coconut fans are guaranteed to love this, as it has an incredibly strong coconut flavour and a smooth, easy-drinking finish. It makes a fantastic frozen coconut margarita and, as there's a touch of sweetness there, also tastes great on its own with ice. 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 coffee tequila liqueur, which is incredibly sweet and coffee-heavy. Fantastic over ice in a creamy espresso-martini style cocktail.

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

4. Calle 23: Best tequila for margaritas

Price: £46 | Buy now from 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

Image of Calle 23 Anejo Tequila, 70 cl

Calle 23 Anejo Tequila, 70 cl

£52.95 (£75.64 / l) Buy now

5. El Rayo Reposado: Best mild reposado tequila

Price: £37 | Buy now from 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: £50 | Buy now from 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. Casamigos Reposado Tequila: Best sweet tequila

Price: £50 | Buy now from Amazon

The brainchild of George Clooney and Rande Gerber, friends who could never find a tequila quite good enough to serve in their Mexican homes, this is a spirit that has unsurprisingly attracted a lot of publicity. So is it really worth the hype? Absolutely, especially if you like your tequila on the sweeter side, with vanilla and caramel coming through on both the nose and pallet, balanced with spice and tobacco.

Aged for seven months in previously used whisky barrels, we can confirm there is absolutely no burn, although we were less convinced by their blanco tequila, which we found disappointingly unsophisticated for the price. Drink neat, on the rocks or mix in a cocktail.

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

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

Price: £54 | Buy now from Amazon

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

Buy now from The Whisky Exchange

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