The relationship between warm weather and agave spirits reaches its annual highpoint today — National Tequila Day. It’s summer, it’s hot, we all need a drink. And while we love a good agave-based cocktail, we’re dedicating today to slow sipping our tequilas chilled and neat (maybe with a side of lime, at most).
Since so many of our fans love whiskey above all spirits, we’re tailoring our picks to their palates this time around. Many techniques used by tequila and mezcal creators are borrowed from whiskey makers. This is especially the case when it comes to the maturation process and making use of special finishes. There are also similarities between the whiskey world and that of tequila and mezcal when it comes to classification. For example, though mezcal and tequila are both made from agave, they do have some disparities. One of the key differences is in the categorization of the two Mexican spirits. All tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas (just like scotch and bourbon are types of whiskey, tequila is a type of mezcal).
Whether you’re savoring it solo or virtually with friends and family across the country, there’s a tequila that best suits your whiskey-loving palate to enjoy today. We gathered a handful of our favorites below.
Average Price: $42
The story: 1800 Tequila has been around for over 200 years, so you know they’ve put in the reps when it comes to the art of tequila making. Although we’re a sucker for their most recent release, 1800 Coconut, the true gem is their añejo – especially when it comes to pleasing whiskey-centric palates.
The taste: Throw out the notion that tequila is only made for shooters and mixed drinks. Using 100 percent Weber blue agave piñas, harvested at their peak – anywhere from 8-12 years old – this añejo is aged in French oak barrels for a minimum of 14 months, resulting in a spirit that’s perfect for summertime sipping. The añejo has a spicy-sweet nose, with a rich flavor profile consisting of toasted oak and butterscotch. The lingering, spicy finish that will have you going in for more.
Buy it if: You’re craving something outside your portfolio of whiskeys that still maintains a degree of oak and smoothness.
Greenbar Distillery’s IXÁ Reposado Tequila
Average Price: $60
The story: Husband and wife duo Melkon Khosrovian and Litty Matthew created Los Angeles’ first distillery since Prohibition, Greenbar Distillery. It has the largest portfolio of organic spirits in the world and also strives to function as a sustainable company (they plant a tree for every bottle of spirit and case of highballs sold).
The taste: Aged in both new toasted oak and charred rye whiskey barrels, this golden-hued spirit balances the ripe agave with a hint of vanilla and caramel notes from the barrelling. Aged for nearly one year, this tequila also has spice in the finish to give your palate some subtle heat, but without a “burn.”
Buy it if: You’re wanting a summertime treat that beats the heat as opposed to the beloved warmth of whiskey neat. Best served in a chilled glass, no ice.
Convite Mezcal Esencial
Average Price: $45
The story: Founded in 2013, but just launching in the American market this year, Convite is rooted in Oaxacan traditions. In fact, Oaxacan-born brand owner, Jorge Vera, alongside Convite producers, Daniel and Cosme Hernandez, have ties that go beyond business. Vera’s grandfather bought mezcal from the brothers’ own grandfather.
Convite is named for an Oaxacan term that roughly translates to “invitation to feast.”
The taste: This mezcal is produced from Espadín agaves with a maturity of eight years or more. It’s naturally fermented in wood vats and double distilled in a copper pot. The nose consists of smoke and stimulating citrus, while the palate is peppery with a lingering earthy finish. If you’re missing the sweet notes of whiskey, try this particular mezcal in a cocktail, such as the Honey & Smoke.
Buy it if: You like the smokiness of scotch, then this could very well be your next go-to spirit.
Casa Dragones Barrel Blend
Average Price: $150
The story: For more than over a decade, small-batch producer, Tequila Casa Dragones has released a portfolio of award-winning tequilas. In 2009, Casa Dragones launched Joven — a tequila designed for sipping and pairing with food. Then, in 2014, they unveiled their signature Blanco expression as a pure silver tequila. The latest expression released just last month is the Casa Dragones Barrel Blend.
The taste: This 100 percent blue agave spirit is matured in both new French Oak and new American Oak. At the end of the aging process, Casa Dragones blends both barrel styles together resulting in an agave-forward añejo tequila. The aromatic nose gives you a whiff of agave and honey. This Barrel Blend shines through in the palate with subtle spice, cacao, and oaky notes, finishing with a hint of caramel (sounds whisk-ish, right?).
This one’s too good for a cocktail, so drink it neat.
Buy it if: You’re a purist when it comes to whiskey, but you’re feeling adventurous this evening.
Jose Cuervo Tradicional Añejo
Average Price: $32
The story: In May, Jose Cuervo Tradicional launched its first añejo tequila, Tradicional Añejo. This premium tequila makes use of the original Cuervo family recipe dating back to 1795, is matured for over 12 months in new American oak barrels, and is finished for up to four months in Irish single malt whiskey barrels from the world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery.
The taste: Bold and complex, this añejo is easily the best transitional spirit for a whiskey lover wanting to add tequila to their drink reservoir. Nutty and sweet nose, with a welcoming palate of vanilla, baking spices, and agave.
Buy it if: You love all the nuances of whiskey and its delicious cocktails but want to give these libations a tequila twist. Tequila Old Fashioned, anyone?