Excuse this picture, it contains Maestro Dobel, which is not a blanco, but a reposado that’s been double-distilled, and so is clear (sort of the opposite of a Joven). However, its crisp, clean taste and clear appearance mean it is often confused for a blanco at a bar. On the store shelves you can see Dobel has a collection including a reposado ‘classico’ that is not clear and blanco that is not as tasty. They also have a Humito, which I have not had, but seems like a Mezcal (smoky flavor) they are calling a tequila. The Diamante though, is a great starter for anyone who is not familiar with Tequila, because it is so smooth. Likewise for Tequila Cabeza’s and Villa Lobos. These are great starters pre-food because they are simple, have a snap, little burn and a nice aftertaste.
I have written about the ArteNom tequilas and it should be noted that while every bottle they produce is worth buying and drinking, especially their Anejo, the Clase Azul Añejo is so crazily delicious that it might knock ArteNom off its throne.
You may know Clase Azul from its unique blue and white porcelain bottle and its best of class reposada. The anejo, which is prohibitively expensive, even more so than an extra añejo and not easy to find, is a special bottle that likely deserves the extra effort and attention. Their website does a good of explaining how they make the tequila and how ‘every bottle is a one-of-a-kind work of art. That just tells me that art-haters who are budget-conscious tequila lovers should have an option of getting it in some plain bottle, too.
Did I say it was prohibitively expensive? If you’re not sure you want to go on the journey, I recommend you try the reposado (about $85-$100) because it is a good reposado (except for artenom) that you will find. Once you’ve savored that, and your mind is blow that is another level of smoothness you could get to, you might want to embark.
And then, if perhaps you hit the lottery, you can seek out the $2,000 bottle of Clase Azul “Ultra” that is aged for five years and each bottle, according to their website, “features a 24k gold label and is hand-painted using pure liquid platinum by Mexico’s most talented artisans. Adorned with the signature Clase Azul agave medallion in .925 Ley sterling silver, each bottle is truly one of a kind!” So if your stimulus check is burning a whole in your wallet and you love tequila and precious metals, this is the one to get! But don’t forget to have me over for a taste when you get it.
Even if you don’t know about all the kinds of tequilas there are, you probably have discerned that there are different colors of tequila, and that the one you buy is probably called ‘white,’ ‘blanco’ or ‘silver,’ because you have purchased it for mixing.
I am no expert, just a tequila-lover, but I have found that every ‘class’ of tequila is different. That is, knowing the ‘type’ you like may not regularly result in a good tequila drinking experience. And while blanco, reposado and anejo have very mixed results, I have found that Extra Anejos, most often, though not always, are pretty reliable.
The thee pictured here: Diabolito, Tapatio Excelencia and the Arette Gran Clase are among best tequilas I have ever tasted. They are all very very smooth, and not at all viscous (a bad quality in any drink but chilled Sambuca). They are deliciously nuanced drinks, have little burn and finish with warm, caramel notes.
These rich, well constructed tequilas are great if you are trying to win over people who have been scarred by a Cuervo or alternate Joven tequila, or fans of good Rums or Bourbons.
These are sipping tequilas. They should not be mixed and while it’s fun to shoot, it does deprive you of the pleasure of enjoying it slowly and purposefully. They cost between $100 and $150 (and sometimes more) and so that’s another reason not to shoot them.
The Diabolito is part of the organic 1-2-3 series which are all excellent and deserve to be in your liquor cabinet. I am not a regular buyer of other Tapatio tequilas but their blanco is fun. I am surprised at how much I love the Arette because I really do not like their lesser grades— they even have a $23 bottle that is very close to Jose Cuervo (especial) and that is not good. Once again, the label ‘extra anejo’ does not guarantee a great drink, but I can tell you about three that are worth every penny.
If I told you how many times I was at a liquor store, in any state, lingering over the tequila section, assessing my choices of blue agave weber drinks, trying to discern between the promising labels, pretty bottles and half-remembered reviews which one I should get, when my operations would be disturbed by a single person, usually on a cell phone, asking someone which tequila that should get. I know they don’t love tequila, they don’t tequila, and no matter what, they will be consuming it in a way that is likely in conflict with best practices (i.e. with some sugary mix). It is precisely because of these situations that I have been forced to write about what I would tell them. I call them the five tenets of tequila:
- KNOW YOUR TYPES. You should know what you like, even if you don’t know tequila: there are some that are closer to a vodka, some closer to a rum, and some closer to a scotch. Their are four CRT standards (blanco, reposado, anejo, extra anejo), two common variants (Joven, Cristolino) and then the stuff that is kept locked behind glass that you have no business looking at anyway.
- PRICE MEANS ALMOST NOTHING. There is no discernible connection between the cost of a tequila and its quality. I have had some amazing $28 bottles and some terrible $100 bottles. That said, the yellow Jose Cuervo is always terrible no matter what the cost is.
- YELLOW IS CHEAP AND CHEAP IS BAD. The ubiquitous Jose Cuervo that I, and maybe you, drank in college, is not representative of all tequilas and should be avoided at all costs, even as a prank. No amount of mixer will make it taste good or mitigate its effect on your body. You may also traumatize a group of people for years to come from enjoying tequila. These “Mixto” tequilas by law only have to be 51% agave, and have all types of stuff added, or have bad stuff not taken out. Besides yellow, if it’s on the bottom shelf, comes in a gallon size, or has other flavors added to it (cinnamon, coffee, mango) avoid at all costs.
- NIGHT OF TEQUILA DRINKING? AVOID MIXING. Every human is different, but mixing tequila and other alcohol beverages results in a sub-optimal experience. Some pair nicely (like beer) but others not so much. Experiment at your own risk.
- BE A STRAIGHT SHOOTER. I know there’s no accounting for taste, but with the wide world of tequilas out there, there is every reason to find one that you can sip, drink with a little lemon/lime or soda/water on the rocks, or shoot straight. Many different bottles require a different treatment. Skip the margarita, which adds unnecessary calories, and blocks the true savoring of the tequila.
About 10 years or so ago, my brother and I found ourselves a bit outside Philadelphia, at a celebration honoring my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. Flying with young families is a tiring thing and our wives and children had taken to bed at an early hour, leaving us at about 9:30pm in strange city with no car and very few ideas of what to do– the rest of the family was not due until the next day. So we retired to the bar at the hotel, which happened to be a Bennigan’s (or something very much like that).
I asked him what he was drinking. He is a spirit enthusiast, and is always furthering his own knowledge of different ones, though I believe Scotch and Rum are favorites. On this evening he said “Tequila.” As nearly everyone would have done at the time, I recoiled in horror at the memory of the paint-thinner like gold substance that had left me and my college roommates flattened of affect, dizzy and ill of constitution after a night spent with the drink. The whole idea of the lime and salt seemed like lipstick on a pig (and in actuality, better, because at least pigs are made of bacon). Seeing this look he sought to reassure me. “No, it’s better now. They have high end Tequila. He ordered two neat glasses of Patron silver, whose brand was unknown to me (and I suppose, hundreds of rap stars) at the time.
On tasting it I did not spit as in a double take. The flavor was smooth, cool, and refreshing. Based on what I thought it would be, I was surprised at the mild and restrained quality of its agave flavors. It was like discovering you like Jazz– a creaky door opens in your mind where you realize you might have judged a thing too harshly, too quickly, or based on a poor candidate for its entire cannon.
Since then I have discovered not just that I like Tequila— and certainly it seems my timing makes me part of the tequila revolution—but that it might be my favorite spirit of all. Previously I had been consigned to some version of a blended scotch, or vodka with some juice but tequila had a flavor that I actually liked—a bit of lime and ice were enough, and eventually no lime at all was necessary, and the salt stayed where it belongs- in the shaker.
I suppose the epilogue is that I feel strongly enough about the spirit to actually write about it, during a time when there is very little in any day to do so. So it may not be often, but it will be passionately felt. So today, on what is apparently National Tequila Today, I wish you a responsible and happy celebration. I am likely to have a glass of Arte Nom 1580.
Of all the tequila I have had, far and away, the best, at any price range, is the Tequila ArteNOM Seleccion. As I understand it, the tequilas are numbered following the casks they are aged in, which include Sherry and Port casks. The numbers do not stay the same, as their current blanks are 1549 and 1579, which followed the infinitely superior and now out of stock 1079 (pictured, above). The Blanco is smooth, crisp and surprisingly delicious. The Reposado, which is usually my favorite in any tequila line has a delicious carmel-like taste. The Anejo is the crown jewel, a superior sipping tequila that should be enjoyed slowly and likely after dinner. For fans of tequila, you cannot go wrong with anything in this line. These are in my opinion, after sampling many different tequilas, the finest spirits available today. If you want to serve me tequila, please have this in your cabinet.