Americans love their agaves. While we’re big fans of mezcal and are thrilled to give you the lowdown of our favorites, it’s clear tequila is still King of the Agave Hill on American shores. So to celebrate National Tequila Day, we’re sharing some of our favorite new expressions — from bottles aimed at the discriminating under-$40 crowd to rare juices aged in wood sourced from far-flung corners of the world. Needless to say, all tequilas selected are made of 100 percent Weber blue agave, without diffusers or other dumb industrial corner-cutting. Salud, amigos!
El Tequileño Reposado Rare
Although not yet a household name in America, El Tequileño was founded way back in 1959 by Don Jorge Salles Cuervo, Jose’s proud descendent. Since it is only recently making inroads onto US shelves, keep an eye out for their Reposado Rare. What makes this reposado “rare,” you ask? Instead of aging its juice for two months (as required by law for a reposado), the La Guarreña distillery — which has only produced El Tequileño for the past 60 years — ages in large 600-liter American Oak pipons for over 6 years, or twice that required of an extra añejo. They credit this long, undisturbed sleep in wood with bestowing their tequila complexity, depth and character. Expect notes of vanilla, pepper and marzipan. $189
One of our favorite of all the tequilas here, and definitely when price comes in play. ElVelo was created by bartenders for bartenders, where reasonable pricing is everything when talking cocktails. Their Reposado was specifically crafted to bring out the bold, gutty character of agave so it could shine through in a Paloma (or any variation thereof), and yet ElVelo promises they use no additives, shortcuts or industrial practices in one of Jalisco’s best artisanal distilleries. One taste of their Reposado — which stands firm as a neat sipper, with surprisingly voluptuous body — has us believing. $39
The concept of Penta Tequila was to combine innovative winemaking techniques with the founders’ obsession of agave spirits. A Napa Valley vintner (and agave documentarian), founder Steve Reynolds and partners wanted to apply processes developed in vineyards like terroir obsession, blending and fermentation not typically used in the tequila process. So they blend agaves from tequila’s four lesser-known Denomination of Origin states (Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas) in with a majority from the famous Jalisco highlands. Hence their name Penta, or “five” in Greek. This emphasis on soil gives them a starting juice different than most — then they proceed to age it in American, Hungarian and French casks, sometimes blending in up to 30-year-old barrels for added complexity. The Penta Reposado — aged at least 9 months — features floral notes and bright citrusy layers over vanilla, caramel and roasted brown sugar. $125
There are lots of ways to celebrate National Tequila Day with Maestro Dobel, but our favorite would unquestionably be their Humito expression. To recreate how tequila was made in the 17th century, more like mezcal (that’s a long story), mesquite wood used in the cooking adds notes of smoke and cooked agave to Dobel’s famously bright blanco — as if a mild mezcal and savory blanco birthed a delicious, mischievous bastard child. Leaning into the former’s feral side, the "World's First Smoked Silver Tequila" is one of the more interesting blancos we’ve tried this year. $50
Tears of Llorana
Arguably the most special tequila on this roundup. Master Distiller Germán González innovates his spirit with a unique take on aging, opting to mature his small batch distillate in three different barrels: Islay scotch, Spanish brandy, and Spanish Sherry oak. Borrowing concepts he learned from the world of fine cognacs and Armagnacs where the Master Blender is king, after aging each barrel independently for five years González masterfully blends them together to create only one single expression: Tears of Llorona. The packaging of the extra añejo matches the product, its beautifully painted bottle topped with a Quillfeldt stopper to provide air-tight protection for the gold within. $250
Patrón Extra Añejo 10 Años
Some like to throw shade on Patrón because it was co-launched by an American marketing genius (Paul Mitchell’s John Paul DeJoria), and initially not sold in Mexico. But we’ve been to the Hacienda Patrón, and the amount of effort spent crafting some of the best volume tequila in Jalisco cannot be questioned. Using tahona wheels, pine wood fermenting vats and other artisanal processes, they also pay the most for agave piñas, ensuring Patrón always starts with the best raw materials possible.
They’re also one of only eight distilleries recently authenticated as 100% additive-free (along with El Tequileño, also on this list) by Tequila Matchmaker (take that challenge, Casamigos). So it’s noteworthy when they set out to make their oldest aged tequila: Extra Añejo 10 Años. The golden honey juice started its long journey from Jalisco field to blown glass bottle almost 20 years ago. Aged in barrels made of American oak and a hybrid of the former plus French Limousin wood, this limited-edition offering boasts rich notes of vanilla and dried apricot. It’s got a price to match its profile. $349
Los Arango Ańejo
Mexico’s greatest freedom fighter and national hero, Pancho Villa — known to his madre as Jose Doroteo Arango — is the inspiration for Hacienda Corralejo’s flagship Los Arango line. Its Blanco won Double Gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, but we actually prefer the Ańejo of their three core bottles. We’re not huge on packaging, but Corralejo has always owned the branding game so all three of Los Arango’s expressions come beautifully packaged in blown glass with a leather label and wooden twist-off top. $54
There are way too many celebrity-backed tequila these days — and when you find yourself emulating Turtle from Entourage, you may want to rethink your life decisions. Cincoro is the rare exception that proves the rule. This heavyweight NBA owners club (GOAT/living meme/Charlotte Hornets’ Michael Jordan, Boston Celtics’ Wyc Grousback and Emilia Fazzalari, Los Angeles Lakers’ Jeanie Buss and Milwaukee Bucks’ Wes Edens) clearly have an eye on owning the LIV VIP tables while still committing to a quality juice.
Attribute part of that quality to sourcing agave from small farms in both the highlands (San Miguel el Alto) and lowlands (El Arenal) of Jalisco. With significantly different terroirs the agaves are slow cooked, distilled independently and then blended together for the perfect balance. While the crown jewel Extra Añejo goes for a Championship celebrating $1,600, the surprisingly smooth Blanco — which clearly cribbed test answers from the success of Casamigos — matches the sweetness of dried papaya with black pepper. $70
Following the success of George Clooney's Casamigos — earning the actor a bigger paycheck than all his films combined — it’s no surprise we’re going to see every celebrity with a YouTube channel throw their hat in the spirits ring. Given the supernova wattage of Dwayne Johnson, it’s little surprise The Rock is getting in on the action. Teremana is a new ultra-premium, highlands tequila crafted in a small town in Jalisco, Mexico and available in Blanco and Reposado. The smooth finish of Teremana is ideal for sipping neat or adding to your favorite cocktail to kick off the weekend. $29.99-$32.99
Flavored spirits understandably raise suspicions regarding quality and purity, but lower those eyebrows now—Ghost is simply a quality small-batch blanco tequila with an extra kick. Beginning with hand-picked Weber Blue Agave grown in Mexico's venerated Jalisco region, the clear spirit is twice-distilled and infused with a proprietary essence of ghost pepper (aka Bhut jolokia) before bottling. While the chili has a respected reputation for setting palates ablaze in the hot sauce world, the heat it brings to Ghost is pleasant and balanced, making the spice-infused spirit perfect for punching up margaritas or tickling taste buds on the rocks. $29.94—Brandon Friederich