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Las Vegas bartender Alexandra Farrington, an expert when it comes to artisanal tequila production, recommends sipping on this Blanco expression by Caballito Cerrero, a cult favorite among agave enthusiasts. “This liquid is a time machine in a bottle—it has a richness uncommon for unaged spirit, [with] vegetal notes, mineralogy, and just a slight sweetness,” she says.
Legally speaking, this isn’t a tequila—Farrington notes that the producers dropped the designation in 2018 in favor of tradition instead of changing the recipe or process to follow government regulations—but technicalities aside, this is a very special 100 percent Blue Weber distillate (the only agave type that can be used to make tequila) that is thoughtfully made using sound farming practices.
On the nose, expect earthy tones, citrus blossom, and baking spice, and on the palate, black pepper, cooked agave, and smoke leading into a long, complex finish.
"Aldez became my favorite sipping tequila because of its stunning flavors, unique personality, and high quality,” says Camila Fernandez, bar manager at Osamil Upstairs in New York City. This small batch, certified organic tequila sits in ex-bourbon casks for eight months, and Fernandez loves it for its vanilla, cooked agave, and salted caramel aromas.
On the palate, notes of caramel and vanilla lead into a “long, warm, sweet finish that makes it enjoyable to drink on its own,” she says. In addition to being organic, Aldez uses recycled materials for its bottles and labels, and Fernandez points out the importance of supporting smaller brands, especially ones providing jobs to Mexican families.
Aged for two years, Tequila Tromba’s Añejo expression—like the rest of its range—is a family affair overseen by owner and distiller Marco Cedano, an industry veteran of nearly four decades, along with his son, Rodrigo. Tromba is an artistic endeavor through and through, from hand-harvesting each agave piña and employing distinctive cooking and fermentation practices to enlisting artisan glassblower Hipólito Gutiérrez and fine artist Marina Pallares to create their striking bottles.
Tromba Añejo is tasted monthly by the father and son duo and bottled when they both agree upon its readiness; on the nose, you’ll get ripe red fruit and cacao, and the palate brings nutty dried fruits, caramel, and baking spice. This is a solid Añejo made by a team that cares immensely about its product every step of the way.
“I love El Tesoro Paradiso Extra Añejo Tequila,” says Cindy Augustine, a freelance editor and journalist based in New York City. “It’s not cheap—but it’s worth every penny—and is best on its own.” This rich, golden tequila is aged for five years in former Cognac barrels and is the product of a collaboration between El Tesoro Master Distiller Carlos Camarena and A. de Fussigny Cognac. This herbaceous Extra Añejo is rife with butterscotch notes, layered with subtle smoke and tropical fruits. According to Augustine, this is a true post-meal treat. “[It’s] better than dessert,” she shares.
“From the roasted green chile on the nose to the palate of black pepper and ripe fruit, this masterpiece from Carlos Camarena is endlessly engaging,” says Ben Rojo, partner at Black Emperor in New York City. “Untouched by wood, the verdant soul of the agave is on full display—at 55 percent ABV, the high proof of the 110 lends to the tequila's incredible texture, and its decadent oil content really cements its place as something to be savored. [It’s] my absolute favorite pick from the genius who's brought us such genre-expanding bangers as El Tesoro and ELVELO.”
Camarena, Rojo adds, has been a pioneer of the tequila industry’s sustainability efforts and is counted as one of the first major producers to “consistently allow a portion of his agave crop to come to flowering maturity, a loss on the business end that helped the pollinating Lesser long-nosed bat recover from the brink of extinction.”
Javier Gomez, head bartender at New York’s ATLA, is a proponent of agave spirits that are not only palate-pleasing but also represent meaning and purpose. For him, few tequilas fit the bill more than Siembra Valles Reposado. “Siembra Valles represents agave expressions of the terroir within the valley: mineral, pepper, citrus, and earth,” he shares.
This spirit is aged in Missouri white oak for three months, to which Gomez attributes a delicate complexity that doesn’t compromise the agave’s flavors. “We find a beautiful harmony between roasted agave and oak on the nose and the palate; on the nose, [there’s] roasted agave, white pepper, grapefruit peel, and finally toasted almond with an elegant texture and notes of honey.”
Siembra Spirits is both kosher-certified and dedicated to sustainable and ethical practices, Gomez adds, and the company’s president, David Suro, is also directly involved with two industry non-profits: the Tequila Interchange Project, where he serves as president, and the Siembra Suro Foundation, which he founded.
If you’re looking for a solid Añejo for the price of a Reposado or Blanco (and an organic one at that), Tres Agaves is your best bet. It’s the product of a fully organic operation—meaning no pesticides or chemicals used in farming or production—and is double-distilled and aged for approximately 18 months in ex-bourbon and Tennessee whiskey barrels. The Tres Agaves Añejo expression is one of vegetal and cooked agave notes with plenty of baking spice and caramel, a palate that is shockingly complex and balanced given the price point.
"Many purists contend that Blanco is the purest expression of the agave plant, but this Reposado would give them a run for their money, just with slightly darker and deeper flavors than what a Blanco might offer,” says Erik Delanoy, a longtime New York City bartender. How does Tequila Partida achieve this? The award-winning highland spirit, which took home a 97-point score and a Chairman’s Trophy Award from the 2019 Ultimate Spirits Challenge, is aged for four additional months more than the minimum requirement for the Reposado category, which is two months.
Delanoy also notes that the cooking, fermentation, and distillation all occur in stainless steel in an effort to preserve the flavor of the agave. According to Delanoy, this lends a leading note of freshly-roasted agave supported by vanilla, stone fruit, and butter notes, with the agave still shining through strongly. Atop these notes, this Reposado offers citrus peel and nuttiness on the nose, the palate following suit with the addition of a hint of smoke.
Beth Martini of Entente in Chicago has a long, steady relationship with Tequila Chamucos Reposado. “I started drinking it in my early 20s as my shift drink with a pint of Negro Modelo—I was attracted to the pebble-textured bottle and the illustration on the box and label. I later found out that the bottle is handmade from recycled glass,” she tells The Spruce Eats. “I loved the tobacco characteristic and the spice. I didn’t know the vocabulary about spirits then that I know now, but it has some similar characteristics of an unpeated Scotch or an aged Agricole, herbaceous and petrol, smoothed out by the wood aging,” she adds.
Not only is the Chamucos bottle appealing to the eye, but a foreshadowing of the care that’s gone into what’s inside it. The brand has been practicing organic farming for 18 years and is the only certified non-GMO Tequila on the market, among many other efforts, so this is a bottle you can feel especially great about buying.
At Chablé Yucatán, Food and Beverage Director Ivan Tejeda is the gatekeeper of one of the world’s largest tequila collections, so it’s safe to say he knows a thing or two about sipping it. When it comes to carefully aged tequilas, Tejeda recommends following Augustine’s lead and sitting down with a nice pour following a meal. “For after dinner, I highly recommend an Extra Añejo tequila as a good digestif to complete the experience,” he says.
Gran Patrón (Patrón’s ultra premium range) is responsible for one of the most special limited releases within the category—Burdeos is a rare and rich Extra Añejo that is aged in American and French oak before being re-distilled and finished in Bordeaux casks, resulting in a deep amber déluge of velvety vanilla, dried fruit, honeyed wine, and black pepper notes. It’s a dessert unlikely to be forgotten.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Céline Bossart has spent the past seven years reporting on the spirits business, and much of that has involved agave spirits and the category’s experts in one way or another. If she’s not sipping on a Tommy’s Margarita, you can catch her tasting an aged tequila or mezcal either neat or on the rocks.