Life

Breaking Down The Award-Winning Tequilas From The SF World Spirits Competition

Finding the best tequila in the world right now is no easy task. There are a lot of tequilas on the shelves and a good number of them are … just okay. Still, there are people out there fighting the good fight to find the best tequilas on earth for you to drink. In this case, it’s the judges of the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. They recently dropped their list of best tequilas for 2020 and we’re here to break it down.

There’s a lot of variance in tequila from how and where the blue agave is grown to how that plant is processed. Purists will scream to the heavens about diffusers versus autoclaves. In case you don’t know, a “diffuser” breaks apart the uncooked agave with high-pressure water before fermentation and results in an almost neutral spirit. An “autoclave” cooks the agave by using high pressure and steam. Traditionally, blue agave would be slow-roasted in earthen or brick ovens and then crushed by stone. As a layperson, you probably don’t care about any of this, especially if the end product is drinkable.

This year, there were eight double gold medal winners in the tequila category. That double gold medal is the highest award the group can bestow and those are the bottles we’re looking at today. We also decided to add this year’s best mezcal at the end to round out the list.

Single Estate El Sativo Reserve Blanco (Best Tequila Overall)

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Tequila Las Americas, Amatitan, Jalisco
Average Price: $40

The Tequila:

This organic tequila has been making the rounds at trade shows, competitions, and the bar community for a while now. The big selling point is the four-generations of family distilling behind the brand, alongside the fact that it’s certified both organic and kosher. It’s a legitimate crowd favorite, especially if you’re looking to build a cocktail.

Tasting Notes:

Sweet notes of roasted agave are pronounced. The sip leans into peach orchards with a clear sense of the grassy floor. Minor notes of florals dance with the vegetal agave on a brisk, mineral-rich, and lush finish.

Cutwater Tequila Reposado (Best Reposado Overall)

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Tequila Orendain de Jalisco, Tequila, Jalisco
Average Price: $40

The Tequila:

This is a sourced tequila for distiller and bottler Cutwater down in San Diego. They source tequila that’s been brick-oven roasted, open-fermented, and double-distilled to their aging facility. The juice is then loaded into their used whiskey barrels for an undesignated amount of time.

Tasting Notes (from the bottler):

“The rich cooked agave flavor melds perfectly with hints of vanilla and oak to create this distinctly Cutwater Tequila Reposado.”

Dano’s Dangerous Añejo (Best Añejo Overall)

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Casa Reyes Barajas, Tequila, Jalisco
Average Price: $47.99

The Tequila:

This is another solid expression from a classic still in Tequila. The process is very typical of tequila at this level: Hand-harvested agave pinas, slow-roasted in an oven, and open fermentation. But it’s really the two distillation runs through Casa Reyes Barajas’ old copper stills that bring out a unique … little something. The hot juice then goes into new French oak to rest for nine months.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Aroma: Gently toasted agave. Taste: Hints of almond and vanilla, with a soft oak flavor on the finish.”

Excellia Blanco

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Tequila Orendain de Jalisco, Tequila, Jalisco
Average Price: $47.99

The Tequila:

This tequila marries French winemaking with traditional tequila-making to create a truly unique line. This expression is a rare aged blanco. The expertly crafted spirit spends time mellowing in grand cru Sauternes (wine) casks and Cognac barrels before being blended into this deeply satisfying sip.

Tasting Notes:

Roasted agave is met by a sense of peppery spice and crisp, tart green apples. The vegetal nature of the agave takes a backseat to the fruit as it edges between sweet and tart and the spice brings heft to the body of the sip. A moment of fresh herbs arrives late as the sweet apples bring about a very mellow end with a touch of vinous oak.

Hotel California Reposado

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Hacienda Capellania, San Jose de Gracia, Jalisco
Average Price: $45

The Tequila:

Handcrafted from the agave to the actual bottle, this tequila cares about the process. They only use 100 percent organic blue agave from Jalisco’s Highlands. From there, this expression spends around six months in ex-bourbon barrels before going into hand-blown bottles.

Tasting Notes (from the distiller):

“Aged for a minimum of six months in former bourbon barrels, revealing elegant florals, with sweet, lightly toasted vanilla. Deep toned in both appearance and taste, boasting rich, fragrant aromas. Its smoothness will charm connoisseurs and tequila newcomers alike.”

Los Arango Blanco

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Tequilera Corralejo, Abasolo, Guanajuato
Average Price: $45

The Tequila:

This tequila is a rare one that’s made outside of Jalisco. The Guanajuato tequila — named after Pancho Villa — uses the purist-dreaded pressurized steam of an autoclave to cook its blue agave before stainless steel fermentation and double-distilling in copper pot stills.

Tasting Notes:

Thin tropical fruits and roasted agave mingle upfront. There’s a real pineapple sense that leads towards more agave with a hint of brininess and vegetal pepper. The sip ends quickly with the salt and fruit lingering on the senses.

Rey Supremo Gran Reserva Silver

View this post on Instagram

That bottle 😍💎 @reysupremospirits

A post shared by BTC Production (@btcproduction) on

ABV: 40%
Distillery: Unknown Source (Canadian Brand)
Average Price: $75

The Tequila:

You’re probably not going to find a bottle of this stuff south of the (Canadian) border. The juice is handcrafted in Jalisco, Mexico and very little else has been released about the process or juice.

Tasting Notes (from the brand):

“Aroma: Youthful notes of pepper, hints of honey, citrus and herbs. Initial Taste: Sweet, creamy fresh agave and fruit, light citrus. Body: Citrus and pepper. Finish: Spiced lavender with a warm mouth feel.”

Storywood Tequila Speyside 14

ABV: 40%
Distillery: La Cofradia, Tequila, Jalisco
Average Price: $26

The Tequila:

Here we have Mexico and Scotland coming together to create a hell of a sip. This tequila asks what would the stuff taste like if aged in single malt whisky barrels instead of the usual old bourbon or Cognac barrels. Turns out that spending 14 months in a whisky cask is great for tequila.

Tasting Notes:

That oak comes through with a toasted edge and a hint of orchard fruit next to clear signs of roasted agave. Rich, fatty nuts with a smidge of salt accompany a sweet sense of whisky toffee as hints of spice marry the oakiness. The sip lingers with the toffee, spice, and roasted agave lasting the longest on the senses.

BONUS: Best Mezcal — Mezcal Carreño Ensamble 7

ABV: 45%
Distillery: Hacienda Carreño, Oaxaca
Average Price: $119.49

The Mezcal:

The traditions of Hacienda Carreño go back to the 1840s with earthen ovens, clay/copper stills, and a real agave-to-glass focus. Carreño Ensamble 7 is mezcal made with seven different wild agave varietals that are roasted together. In this case, that’s Espadín, Tobalá, Tobasiche, Tepeztate, Coyote, Lumbre, and Cuishe agave plants that have aged five to 25 years on the surrounding hillsides. The stone-ground roasted agave then goes into pine vats for open fermentation before double distilling in clay/copper stills heated with wood fires.

Tasting Notes:
There’s no denying the boldness of the roasted agave on the opening. There’s a rich sense of grilled pineapple with a nice pinch of salt next to a clear billow of dry wood smoke. The sip lingers and warms as the pineapple and agave fade away.

×