$20 And $50 Tequilas Face Off In A Blind Taste Test

A couple of weeks back, we pitted bottles of tequila under $50 against bottles over $100 and while that wasn’t a completely fair face-off, we got some interesting results. Generally (as you might’ve guessed), the pricier bottles faired much better but there were at least a couple of bottles that punched above or below what their price tags might suggest.

I don’t mean to sound like a total nerd, but as a hardcore tequila drinker, that’s exciting to me. When brands outkick their coverage it’s a big deal!

This week we decided to narrow the scope a bit by taste-testing budget bottles $20 and under against bottles in the $50 range. Does paying double the price always get you a better bottle? We’ll find out!

Methodology

Tequila
Dane Rivera

It was a bit tough finding bottles that perfectly hit this price point but we got it pretty close. Our eight bottles cover blanco, reposado, and añejo expressions. Six of our selections hit our price target, but two bottles strayed out of the price range slightly.

Here is our tasting class, along with the prices from low to high.

  • Astral Blanco — $16.99
  • Jose Cuervo Tradicional Plata – $19.99
  • Lunazul Reposado — $20.99
  • Espolon Reposado — $24.99
  • Lalo Tequila — $46.99
  • La Caza Reposado — $49.99
  • Flecha Azul — $49.99
  • Chamucos Anejo $52.99

Once we collected the bottles, my girlfriend shuffled them and served me a pour at random. I took a few sips of each pour and jotted down my first impressions. Here is how each performed.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Tequila Posts Of The Last Six Months

Part 1: The Blind Tequila Taste Test

Taste 1:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: A bit like nail polish remover. A heavy sniff will bring out the slightest hint of green pepper

Palate: Roasted agave and chocolate dominate the palate with the slightest spearmint coolness.

Finish: That mint takes over on the finish. The mouthfeel here is a bit sticky and the flavors linger very strongly on the tongue.

Taste 2:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: Surprisingly fruit-forward with notes of caramel and chocolate. This comes across as very dessert-like and inviting. Truly a joy to inhale.

Palate: Gentle spice and tropical fruits. I’m getting mango and pineapple kissed with cinnamon, some slight vanilla, and roasted agave.

Finish: Oak with earthy cracked peppercorns. Really nice and pleasing.

Taste 3:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: Maple syrup with floral jasmine flower petals and a touch of hazelnut.

Palate: I’m getting a heavy dose of oak and cinnamon mixed with butter and caramel. The flavors deepen in intensity on a second taste.

Finish: Spicy and oaky with an oily mouthfeel.

Taste 4:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: Warm roasted agave with gentle notes of geranium.

Palate: Zesty orange peel, agave, and a pleasing vegetal quality.

Finish: The finish kind of ruins this. It has a strong ethanol burn with a salty aftertaste that needs to be washed down.

Taste 5:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: Warm roasted agave with a kiss of warm citrus and vegetal notes.

Palate: A nice crackling chile de arbol quality with rich caramel notes and a bit of wet grass.

Finish: Green pepper on the finish with orange zest and a bright fruity citrus quality.

Taste 6:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: Vanilla and sugar with a bit of roasted agave and a slight hint of alcohol.

Palate: Very peppery and spicy with some minerality and rich caramelized agave.

Finish: A strong oak character on the finish. A bit bitter to my taste buds.

Taste 7:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: A nice bouquet of caramel, chocolate, vanilla, and roasted agave.

Palate: I’m getting juicy tropical fruits, wet grass, caramel, and black pepper. There is a heaviness here that I really like.

Finish: A bit harsh with some oak character and a distinct burn.

Taste 8:

Tequila
Dane Rivera

Nose: Really nice and inviting. Agave forward with a sweet caramel quality, but it comes across as very natural and not artificially sweetened.

Palate: Way more peppery than the nose would suggest, with a bit of vanilla and bitter grapefruit.

Finish: Very oaky on the finish. There is a nice buttery quality to the mouthfeel that waters the mouth. The experience here really ping-ponged around from sweet to earthy.

Part 2: The Blind Tequila Ranking

8. Jose Cuervo Tradicional — Plata (Taste 4)

Blind Tequila
Jose Cuervo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $19.99

Tasting Notes:

This Plata from Jose Cuervo is from its mid-tier Tradicional series. The tequila is made from estate-grown blue agave and undergoes a special bottling process that is designed to conserve its flavors at freezing temperatures. Because of this, Cuervo actually suggests you keep the bottle chilled in the freezer and serve it in a frozen shot glass.

We didn’t do that. Did it hurt its performance in the blind taste test? We doubt it, but it is ranking last for us so maybe. But a tequila that needs to be chilled to be palatable is probably not the best tequila.

The Bottom Line:

Good for Jose Cuervo, but it can’t compete with what else we have here.

7. Astral — Blanco (Taste 1)

Blind Tequila
Astral

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $16.99

The Tequila:

Astral is produced at NOM 1607, Grupo Solave, home to Kendall Jenner’s 818, and similar to that brand, Astral shares easy drinkability that makes for a smooth and bright tequila.

Astral’s Blue Weber agave is tahona extracted, utilizes agave fibers during fermentation, and is copper pot still distilled.

The Bottom Line:

A minty tequila that is easy to drink but not exactly what I look for when I’m sipping tequila.

6. Lunazul — Reposado (Taste 6)

Blind Tequila
Lunazul

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $20.99

The Tequila:

Lunazul’s blanco tends to surprise me in blind taste tests so I was eager to see how the reposado would perform. While I think I like the blanco better, this one held its own against the competition. For its price, I think it’s a steal, but it’s not quite the best in its range.

Produced at NOM 1513, Tierra de Agaves, where it is one of two brands produced, the agave here is sourced from the Los Valles region of Jalisco and cooked in a high-pressure autoclave before being roller mill extracted and two-times distilled in a stainless pot with a copper coil.

It is aged for 6 months in ex-bourbon barrels to reach the reposado state.

The Bottom Line:

Oak forward with some vanilla sweetness. For its price, I think it’s a good reposado despite not performing the best in this particular lineup.

5. La Caza — Tequila Reposado (Taste 3)

Blind Tequila
La Caza

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $49.99

The Tequila:

Does music have any effect on the flavors of tequila? We’re pretty sure it doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop La Caza from cooking its agave and fermenting the juice for over 90 hours to “the sounds of Mozart.” At least the staff at NOM 1414, Feliciano Vivanco y Asociados, have something nice to listen to.

The classic music-infused agave is cooked in stone brick ovens, roller mill extracted, and aged in American white oak barrels for four months.

The Bottom Line:

Well-balanced and full-bodied. A damn good tequila that lives up to its price point.

4. Flecha Azul — Tequila Reposado (Taste 8)

Blind Tequila
Flecha Azul

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $49.99

The Tequila:

I’m not sure if Flecha Azul is on sale right now or what, but usually this bottle tips into the above $60 range, so it’s a welcome addition here even if it didn’t take the top spot.

Flecha Azul is produced at NOM 1110, Tequila Orendain de Jalisco, using agave cooked low and slow in stone ovens before being roller mill extracted. The juice is then fermented in stainless steel tanks and twice distilled in a stainless pot with a copper coil.

To reach the repo state, Fleca Azul is rested in six months in ex-bourbon American oak barrels.

The Bottom Line:

Spicy and sweet and a steal at this price. This bottle usually retails for more so if you can find it for under $50, pick it up without hesitation.

3. Espolòn Reposado (Taste 7)

Blind Tequila
Espolon

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $24.99

The Tequila:

Espolòn is simply a great budget buy, for the price you’re not going to find another tequila that is this deep in flavor and complexity. Having said all that though, this still ultimately tastes like a budget bottle. It has aspects to it that can turn tequila snobs away.

There is a prominent alcohol aroma and flavor to this repo. It’s not quite as mellow or agave-rich as what we’ve ranked higher.

Produced at NOM 1440, Campari Mexico, Espolòn cooks its agave in a low-pressure autoclave before roller mill extracting the juice and twice distilling it in a stainless pot with a copper coil. The tequila is then rested in American White Oak barrels to reach its reposado state.

The Bottom Line:

The biggest surprise of this tasting. Espolòn is well known for being a good tequila for its price (it just edges over $20, but it’s worth it), and it beat out some of the more expensive bottles in this tasting — that’s a testament to just how good it is.

2. Chamucos Añejo (Taste 2)

Blind Tequila
Chamucos

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $52.99

The Tequila:

Chamucos is a brand that started with a reposado expression, so I had high hopes for this añejo tequila because I think the brand knows its stuff when it comes to aged tequila.

Chamucos is an additive-free tequila produced at NOM 1586, Destileria Casa De Piedra, where the agave is cooked slowly in stone brick ovens before being roller mill extracted. To reach the añejo state, Chamucos is aged for one to three years in French Oak barrels.

The Bottom Line:

A great additive-free aged tequila. Not quite as complex as more expensive bottles, but for its price, it’s kind of a steal.

1. LALO — Tequila Blanco

Best Tequila
Lalo

ABV: 40%

Average Price: $44.99

The Tequila:

I’m not surprised by this one taking the top spot. My love for LALO is well documented on this website, it’s just what my taste buds are geared to. Because of that, we might have to stop including it in blind taste tests, but I wanted to take this one on as a personal challenge to see if it’s really the flavor that charms me. It is.

LALO makes a single tequila expression, blanco (my favorite), made from agave sourced from the highlands of Jalisco and cooked in stone steam ovens for 20 to 32 hours before being rested for an additional 18 hours, then roller mill extracted.

The Bottom Line:

An agave-forward and complex additive-free tequila. It easily outperforms everything else in this price range.

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