Costco tends to release sleeper hits with their Kirkland Signature booze. Their bourbons this year all punched far above their weight class (with regards to price and name recognition), some of them by far. But how about their big ol’ bottle of añejo tequila? Does that 1-liter, $30 bottle also outpace the competition?
Let’s find out via a blind taste test!
Before we dive in, a little context. Costco’s Kirkland Signature Tequila Añejo is from NOM 1173, which is the Corporativo Destileria Santa Lucia in Tesitán, Jalisco. The distillery is a pretty standard contract distiller that produces 18 other brands, give or take. They’re probably most famous for having made Tres Agaves Tequila, alongside Costco’s budget bottles.
For this tasting, I’m looking at the flavor profile and how the Costco bottle stands up in blind tasting against eight other añejo tequilas. I’ve selected some true icons of the style that win awards, get all the hype, and deliver classic añejo flavor notes. I’m really eager to see how Costco’s $30-ish bottle measures against some titans.
Today’s lineup is as follows:
- El Sativo Single Estate Añejo
- Hornitos Black Barrel Añejo
- Lobos 1707 Extra Añejo
- Casamigos Añejo
- Kirkland Signature Tequila Añejo
- Gran Coramino Añejo
- Casa Noble Añejo
- Cazadores Añejo
- El Tesoro Añejo The Laphroaig Edition
Okay, let’s dive in and see how Costco’s tequila holds up against some heavy-hitting tequila icons.
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Part 1: The Tasting
The nose on this one opens with a layer of dark chocolate spiked with black pepper and a touch of nuttiness before the roasted agave kicks in. The palate has a soft vanilla impression next to raisins and more of that pepper, a touch of cinnamon, and burnt chocolate-covered coffee beans. The end has a bit more of that roasted agave next to white pepper with a semi-watery finish.
This starts strong but ends a little weak.
There’s a clear tannic note on the nose that leads toward a hint of burnt cacao nibs that are almost smoldering next to bold white pepper powder and a hint of sour crema. The palate has a sense of deeply roasted agave next to woody cinnamon sticks, allspice, and clove with a burst of burnt orange and singed vanilla pods. The end is soft and sweet with caramel and vanilla qualities leading back to spicy barks and wood tannins.
This was pretty nice with a solid beginning, middle, and end. The end was a tad sweet but not overly so.
This opens with a rush of deeply roasted agave with caramelized sugars over stewed plums, brandy-soaked raisins, and tobacco leaves dipped in salted dark chocolate cut with pink peppercorns and dried chili pepper. The palate has a deep and dark burnt orange spiked with clove and salted black licorice next to softer notes of stewed apricot and marmalade with a hint of brandy butter. The end sweetens lightly toward agave rock candy and sharp Tellicherry black pepper.
This is pretty delicious.
The nose opens with a bourbon aura of caramel and vanilla with a touch of cherry bark, singed marshmallow, and woody winter spices with a layer of roasted agave underneath. The palate has a cherry rock candy sweetness with a hint of winter spice cake full of dates and cinnamon with a touch of nutmeg and candied citrus. The end is fruity and spicy with a rich roasted agave base.
This was fine. It did feel like it was made for an American whiskey palate more than a classic tequila one though. Still, it was pretty tasty.
The nose has a nice balance of roasted agave with a hint of caramelization next to woody cinnamon bark with a touch of mild chocolate and coffee lurking in the background if you really dig deep. The palate is pretty light with hints of choco-chili tobacco and white pepper powder next to a whisper of mango skins and rock candy. The end has a note of sweet agave candy and cracked peppercorns with a semi-watery finish.
This was fine as well. It feels a bit standard and really sweet.
There’s a rich roasted agave and smoldering spice bark aura on the nose with a hint of butterscotch sweetness and vanilla smoothness. The palate has a slight nuttiness that leans into chocolate nut clusters with a shot of espresso on the side and a touch of vanilla just kissed with cinnamon and clove. The end has a mild almost musty oakiness with a rich salted caramel sweetness countered by bold white pepper and roasted agave.
This was pretty okay overall.
This is earthy on the nose with a hint of garden-center potting soil next to butterscotch, sour red wine spiked with winter spices, and old vanilla pods. The palate has a sense of cinnamon and clove with a toffee sweetness and a touch of peach and vanilla cake. The end holds onto the dirty earthiness with a sense of whole peppercorns, caramelized agave, and charred cinnamon bark.
The was a little funky but fine otherwise.
The nose opens with a medley of burnt orange rinds, chocolate-covered espresso beans dusted with salt and cinnamon, and a sense of roasted agave with a peppery base. The palate leans into the woodiness of the cinnamon with a hint of anise, marmalade, and white pepper. The end is a little watery but delivers a caramel and agave vibe next to smoldering cinnamon and burnt sugars.
This was perfectly fine but didn’t jump out at me.
There’s a sense of supple agave on the nose with a caramelization that leads to salted black licorice and dark chocolate with a mix of smoldering woody spice and fine white pepper powder with a whisper of sour cream. The palate has a deeply roasted agave flavor note that leads to smoked oysters and smoked apricots with a sense of mineral-forward sea salt, a dash more of those burnt spices, and rich toffee. The end leans further into the smoked nature with a dash of charred orchard wood and oyster shells over caramelized tropical fruits and agave with a white pepper sharpness.
This is by far the most complex tequila on the panel, and pretty damn tasty.
Part 2: The Ranking
9. El Sativo Single Estate Añejo — Taste 1
Average Price: $54
This tequila is a “single estate” product, meaning all the Weber agave comes from the farm around the distillery. The agave is roasted in brick ovens and then crushed with a roller mill to extract the sugary juices. After fermentation, the juice is twice distilled and then filled into ex-bourbon barrels for a 16-month rest. Finally, those barrels are vatted, proofed down, and bottled.
This tequila just never lands for me. There’s nothing really at fault here besides that it’s the thinnest flavor profile on this list. It just has a somewhat gaunt vibe.
8. Kirkland Signature Tequila Añejo — Taste 5
Average Price: $32 (1-liter bottle)
This is pretty standard tequila from a process POV. Blue Weber agave, autoclave, and roller mill extraction. The juice is twice distilled, but in this case in a stainless steel pot still. There are additives involved, but it’s unclear how so.
This was a bit overly sweet but still delivered a standard roasted agave body. Still, this was pretty subpar.
7. Hornitos Black Barrel Añejo — Taste 2
Average Price: $32
This is classic Hornitos Añejo that’s finished in heavily-charred oak barrels for another four-month rest before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This had a decent vibe but was a little tannic, which subtracted from the overall body of the sip. This is definitely a mixing tequila.
6. Casamigos Añejo — Taste 4
Average Price: $61
Famously known as George Clooney’s billion-dollar tequila brand, Casamigos delivers the goods. The piñas are slow-roasted in brick ovens. The juice is then fermented for nearly four days, allowing the flavors to run deep in the juice. Finally, the tequila is aged for 14 months — resting through the hot highland days and cool nights.
Again, this was fine. It felt a little bourbon-forward, which made it feel more like something I’d mix with than sip neat.
5. Casa Noble Añejo — Taste 7
Average Price: $68
This classic tequila — made with Blue Weber — is all about the slow aging process. The tequila is barreled in new French oak barrels for two long years before vatting, proofing, and bottling.
This had an interesting funkiness that didn’t really go anywhere interesting on the finish.
4. Cazadores Añejo — Taste 8
Average Price: $40
This version of Cazadores is made with classic Blue Weber agave, of course. The hot juice is aged for 12 months in small-format new American oak casks. Once those hit just the right spot, they’re batched and the tequila is proofed and bottled.
This was a pretty standard but well-made añejo. I can see mixing a tequila old fashioned with this one.
3. Gran Coramino Añejo — Taste 6
Average Price: $113
Kevin Hart’s new tequila is a collaboration with an 11th-generation tequila maker, Juan Domingo Beckmann. The agaves are roasted in traditional stone ovens and the juices are open-fermented. After double distilling, the tequila mellows in American and French oak for 12 months. Lastly, the tequila is batched and re-barreled into old cognac casks for a final rest before proofing and bottling.
This was nice all things considered. It felt like an easy sipper that’d also make one hell of a cocktail.
2. Lobos 1707 Extra Añejo — Taste 3
Average Price: $176
This tequila spends three years resting in American oak from the jump. Those barrels are then batched and re-barreled into Pedro Ximénez sherry casks using the solera method (never really emptying the casks before new juice goes in). Finally, those barrels are batched, proofed, and bottled.
This was pretty delicious overall. It had a great body with clear and concise flavor notes that told a story from start to finish. That makes this a nice sipper, especially with a rock or two and a twist of lime.
1. El Tesoro Añejo The Laphroaig Edition — Taste 9
Average Price: $145
This is the inaugural “Mundial” barrel release for El Tesoro. Their añejo tequila was vatted and then re-barreled into used Laphroaig barrels from Islay, Scotland for a final maturation. Then those barrels were batched and the tequila was proofed and bottled.
This had the most complexity by far. There was a mild sense of edging toward smoky mezcal that worked with the briny smoky peated aura of the Laphroaig barrel in play. Overall, this is the good stuff, folks.
Part 3: Final Thoughts
Costco’s tequila didn’t stand up — really at all — to this panel of tequilas. It wasn’t undrinkable but it was certainly overly sweet. To me, that screams that it’s really built for mixing into cocktails than sipping.
In the end, any of the top five would be a better buy than the Costco bottle (unless you’re making a punch for a party and want a tequila note in the mix). And if you want a solid añejo, the Gran Coramino, Lobos 1707, or El Tesoro are the way to go. They’re vibrant, deep, and all pretty goddamn tasty.