We’ve been doing a lot with premium tequilas lately (enough that we’ll need to do a couple of dedicated posts in the near future to let y’all know what’s going on, and why the premium, artisanal, segment of the tequila market is one of the most exciting areas in all of spirits sales)…but I digress. While many of these truly world-class tequilas can be had in the $40-70 range, today is about the harder-to-find, more expensive luxury bottlings (and a rarely-seen staple!) from NOM 1139 (La Alteña, the #9-rated distillery, of 114 rated) on TequilaMatchMaker).
Tapatio 110 (‘Black Label’)-Tapatio is one of those cult tequila brands. The bottles look…well, they look distinctly bottom shelf. Kinda like someone back in the 1990s threw together a basic design template in Microsoft-something-or-other and printed it on shiny paper. But the stuff in the bottle, from NOM 1139, is excellent. It’s traditionally-produced (cooked in brick ovens, open-air fermented in wooden tanks with fibers, and double-distilled in copper pots), agave-forward, zero-additive, and delightfully old-school. The 110-proof ‘Black Label’ is very rarely seen in the wild, but I finally scored some. It’s clean for such a potent spirit, with fresh agave, loads of peppery spice, and a taught mineral character. Sip it neat if you dare, enjoy it in a large wine glass with a sliver of ice (what I do), or make your best-ever margarita. This received an excellent 89pt rating from the Panel at Tequilamatchmaker.com.
El Tesoro Extra Añejo-This extra-añejo was aged for 4-5 years in ex-bourbon barrels. It’s thoroughly traditional (oven-roasted, tahona-crushed, open-air, wooden-tank fermented with fibers, copper pot-still distilled, zero-additive) and increasingly hard to get. It received a stellar 90pt rating from the Panel at Tequilamatchmaker.com
El Tesoro “Paradiso”-Similar to the Extra-Añejo in terms of its ultra-traditional, artisanal production methods, the Paradiso differs in two key ways: instead of ex-bourbon barrels, it’s aged in French Cognac barrels. On top of that, it’s aged a minimum of five full years. The different type of oak (French vs. American) and spirit in the barrel (Cognac vs. Bourbon) gives this tequila a unique character that’s all its own. It received a whopping 97pts from the Beverage Testing Institute in 2021 and an impressive 86pts from the (much harder to please) Panel at Tequilamatchmaker.com
These tequilas may not be the ones you see on social media, and they ay not come in elaborately-shaped bottles, but here’s what I’m quickly learning about tequila at all price levels. The good bottles, the truly amazing bottles, are the ones whose distilleries lean firmly on traditional production methods and quality. They may not be the flashiest. They may not be the prettiest bottles. But when you taste one…it’s all over, man.