Tequila is booming these days. And just like rum, whiskey, and beer, the shelves are getting increasingly saturated. That’s a good thing, generally speaking. It means more great tequilas on the market. Of course, it also means more middling tequilas. And even a few trash expressions. That’s how it goes when capitalism rushes in to meet surging demand.
As a result of this tequila explosion, awards ceremonies, detailed tasting notes, and expert picks are all more vital than ever to help you separate the wheat from the chaff. Remember, these judges, writers, and bartenders will never be able to fully predict your unique palate — but they can definitely point you in the right direction as you embark on a tequila journey.
The New York International Spirits Competition recently concluded in (you guessed it) New York City. What sets the NYISC apart from other annual spirit tasting competitions is the double-blind judging panel made up of industry insiders. Every judge is either a restaurant beverage director, hotelier, distributor, importer, retail store buyer, sommelier, or works in the drinks and hospitality sector — meaning they’re constantly interfacing with real people and have an intimate understanding of what everyday drinkers look for in their favorite spirits.
No stuffy judges in ivory towers here. These are people who live and breathe the tequila industry on a day in and day out basis.
Below, we’ve laid out all of the NYISC’s Double Gold Award-winning tequilas. Check the tasting notes (and the prices) and decide whether any of these expressions will score a coveted spot on your shelf.
CaliFino Tequila Añejo
Distillery: Grupo Tequilero Mexico
Average Price: $64.99
Using agave hand-harvested from southern Jalisco slow-cooked in traditional stone ovens, CaliFino’s Añejo is double distilled and aged for 24-36 months in American White Oak barrels resulting in a rich amber hue with a creamy finish. CaliFino only uses the hearts of the agave heads in their tequila making process, which helps to produce more complex notes of that vegetal-tasting agave, making this a very distinct sipper.
Tasting Notes: (From CaliFino Tequila)
Deep agave aroma with hints of citrus and caramel… hints of baked agave and sweet fruits. Warm, full body, deep toasted oak and agave creamy texture.
At $64.99, CaliFino certainly isn’t the most affordable high-quality ańejo but it’s far from being the most expensive. With the Double Gold recognition from the NYISC and a pirate-inspired bottle, it feels like an easy buy.
Cierto Tequila Reserve Collection — Extra Añejo
Average Price: Currently Sold Out
Even though it has yet to be released, Cierto’s Extra Añejo is winning awards left, right, and center. The brand scored high accolades from both the Ultimate Spirits Challenge and the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and now here it is again, recognized by yet another spirit tasting competition. Priced slightly higher than Cierto’s black-labeled Private Collection, this silver-labeled Reserve Extra Añejo offers a smooth natural tasting agave made to be sipped neat or accompanying a highly decadent dessert.
Tasting Notes: (From Dram Street)
This luxurious and complex tequila imparts deep notes of tobacco, vanilla, and oak while surrounding the palate with an amazing honey and spice finish. Perfect to sip neat or pair with a fine dessert.
Set to release in 2021, this is an expression you’re going to want to get early.
Cutwater Tequila Blanco
Distillery: Tequila Orendain de Jalisco
Average Price: $32.99
Cutwater Spirits source their agave straight from the Tequila Valley in Jalisco, slow cook it in traditional brick ovens, and use an open-air fermentation process before double distilling in traditional alambique stills resulting in a traditional and bright tequila perfect for mixing in a margarita.
At just $32.99 a bottle, Cutwater is extremely affordable for a double gold-winning tequila.
Tasting Notes: (From Cutwater Spirits)
The slight grassy aroma gives way to heavy sweet notes of cooked agave and ends with a finish that stays true to tequila’s traditional roots.
Cutwater Spirits Blanco is a superb tequila for mixologists ready to tackle the bright grassy bite of agave.
Bribón Tequila Reposado
Distillery: Tequilera Don Roberto
Average Price: $27.99
Bribón use hand-harvested fully matured agave from Jalisco that is cooked for 18 hours at 100°C before being crushed, fermented, and double-distilled utilizing a column-equipped copper pot distillation process. To reach the Reposado state, Bribón rests the Tequila in toasted American oak barrels for six to nine months, resulting in a glittering light gold hue with a smooth finish.
Tasting Notes: (From Bribón)
The appearance is light straw and the aroma is slightly woody notes, nuts, and cooked agave and the taste is soft, balanced, smooth and creamy on the palate with notes of vanilla, dried fruit, and cooked agave
Bribón is an easy pick up at just $27.99 a bottle whether you like to sip your tequila on the rocks or prefer a more complex tequila to mix into drinks.
Vamanos Riendo Mezcal
Distillery: Somewhere in the Sierra Madres
Average Price: $64.95
Okay, so it’s not exactly a tequila, but Vamanos Riendo is the only mezcal to score the NYISC’s Double Gold award and that makes it worth mentioning. Vamanos Riendo harvests their tobala (a rare agave) in the Sierra Madre Mountains, 6,500 feet above sea level where the sun is intense, and the oxygen and water are scarce. Vamanos Riendo claims that that added stress on the plant results in more intense flavors in the heart of the piña, which are then blended with an 8-year-old espadin to create a small batch artisanal Mezcal with a distinctly bright bite.
Tasting Notes: (From Vamanos Riendo)
On the palate, taste a medley of melon, pineapple, grapefruit, and mandarin balanced by the sweetness of cocoa with notes of mint and anise. Long velvety smooth finish of caramel with a tantalizing citrus bite.
Not the easiest way to wade into the waters of Mezcal, considering it’s $64.95, but if you’re a mezcal connoisseur you’ll find a lot to love here.