Drinking

Friday Tastings: Tequila

From shooters to margaritas, we bite the worm and find the five best tequilas on the market right now.

The author's testing grounds. What your apartment looks like after an actual Friday tasting.

Tequila is having a moment. Makes sense. Distilled from the cooked hearts of the blue agave plant that thrives in the desert landscape of Mexico, tequila is arguably the ultimate warm weather spirit, and goes with the sunshine like a drop top Coupe. But what with the Entourage boys shooting Avion, and bottles of 1800 pouring shots for Michael Imperioli, we thought it time to cut through the hype, sort the contenders from pretenders, and present our official, Gilt MANual list of essential tequilas. Many were tasted (someone had to do it). Five were undeniable.

El Tesoro Platinum De Don Felipe
Meet your marooned-on-a-desert-island tequila. Sourced from the highlands of Jalisco, where El Tesoro has been handcrafting tequila for over 70-years, this Platinum is still the most complex and rewarding blanco on the market. Pineapple, pungent agave, sweet pepper, and a gripping finish surprising in a young spirit. Craft margaritas with satisfying depth, or leave it be. This full-flavored tequila can do most anything.  SRP: $55

Chinaco Blanco
Chinaco is the only tequila made in the lush state of Tamaulipas, under the peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains. We’ve long appreciated the reposado and anejo, but in this comprehensive tasting, Chinaco Blanco was a revelation. A subtle and delicious expression of sugary agave and clay earth, mellowed with hints of cream soda. A completely different experience from El Tesoro. Perhaps too delicate for a cocktail, but if you think silver tequilas aren’t for sipping, Chinaco Blanco will disavow you of that notion.  SRP: $39.99

Casa Noble Reposado
This tequila first grabbed our attention last fall, when NYC’s Park Avenue Liquors bottled a limited edition extra-Anejo from the owner’s private collection. Turns out Casa Noble’s standard reposado is similarly outstanding. Aged for 364-days (the maximum allowed for a reposado) in French white oak, this gorgeous tequila coats the mouth in vanilla, white chocolate, and soft oak spices. A masterful marriage of oak and agave from a historic distillery outside the town of Tequila.  SRP: $49.95

Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Anejo
Milagro provided the biggest surprise of the tasting, overcoming our bias against its silly rainbow packaging with a simply lip-smacking distillate. And to be fair, their Select Barrel Reserve line is bottled handsomely, with a glass agave plant visible in the center. But enough about the bottle: Milagro’s Select Barrel Reserve Anejo is a chorus of crème brulee, cinnamon, and baked agave. Aged for three years in French white oak, it’s technically an extra-Anejo (a new designation for tequilas three years or more in the barrel). Classify it however you like, this relative newcomer from the highlands of Jalisco has earned its place on our top shelf.  SRP: $98.99

Don Julio 1942
Of all the heavyweight tequila brands, Don Julio is a clear stand-out in quality and flavor, consistently typified by a light and nuanced sweetness that’s darn hard to resist. In 1942, young Don Julio Gonzalez founded his distillery in Atotonilco el Alto, in the Los Altos region of Mexico. Sixty years later, the brand released this expression to mark the occasion. Don Julio 1942 spends at least two and a half years in American white oak, and the result is a truly singular tequila that is almost unrecognizable as such. It’s got a bold, buttery, orange creamsicle character that may spoil you for other after dinner treats.  Where did the alcohol go?  SRP: $125

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