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Taste Test: Best Tequilas

Taste Test: Best Tequilas

Tequila matches scotch in price—and deliciousness.

The 3 Tequilas: Blanco is aged less than two months, and some say the vibrant "green" flavors of agave come through best. Reposado is aged in wood up to a year—and it's a bit sweeter and rounder. Añejo is aged one year to three and can have sweet brandy flavors.

BEST AÑEJO: WINNER: Tequila Siete Leguas, $50 for 750ml
A sweet caramel nose in this straw-colored spirit makes way for creamy, velvety butter-scotch notes with just a hint of agave and pepper. This is a sipping tequila for folks who like a smooth brandy.

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BEST REPOSADO: WINNER: Pueblo Viejo, $25 for 750ml
A delicious bargain for a reposado. Zingy citrus and pine give way to salty-sweet agave flavor. But not all the feisty edges have been worked off: It's a lively drink.

BEST BLANCO: WINNER: Tequila Siete Leguas, $40 for 750ml
If you want to know what the agave plant brings to tequila, try this and imagine a vodka beside it: pure agave joy, with classic grassy flavors and a smooth, peppery finish.

HOW WE TESTED: A panel of Cooking Light staff sampled 18 nationally available tequilas, selected with help from mixologist Philip Ward, of Mayhuel bar and restaurant in New York City, in three blind tastings. Tequilas were tasted alone and in a margarita mix.

The Tequila Taste Test Slideshow

What we said: Don Julio, which is sold right up there in the ranks of Patrón, was one tequila that prompted a range of opinions, from sweet to rough. Some really liked the sweetness of the tequila, but others thought that the aroma was "off," or even a bit vegetal. But, as some of our tasters noted, it may not be the ideal tequila for sipping, but rather for mixing.

The First Big Taste Test Leave a comment

The goal is to craft the ultimate Margarita … not find the best tasting tequila. Therefore, we followed the suggestion first seen on The Goodist, and created a taste test to showcase tequilas in a standard Margarita recipe.

The classic Margarita recipe was just too tart for the family members that were tasked to sample some of the preliminary mixes. The classic margarita recipe has a proportion of 3:2:1

The Goodist suggested a “tequila forward” recipe of 4:1:1, but that was similarly unacceptable to our palates. We settled on a 6:5:4 recipe, as follows:

Further, we decided that we would not put ice in the samples, as that would dilute the recipe based on when the sample was drunk. Therefore, we addded a cup of water to the Margarita Mix recipe, (hopefully) simulating the melting of ice. Hey, it’s our taste test we made up the rules.

We then had to choose 13 tequilas to go into the final test. In the weeks leading up to the first big taste test, we had “pre-gamed” with almost all of the tequilas, and there were already strong opinions on those that just wouldn’t do. Therefore, we excluded 3 tequilas from the first formal tasting. Excluded:

  1. Jose Cuervo Gold … In our first preliminary and blind taste test with 4 tequilas, all 4 judges rated this tequila the worst sampled. “It tasted like fish.” I advocated keeping this in, as it is the # 1 selling tequila in the world, but I was overuled. Excluded.
  2. Pueblo Viejo Reposado … A relatively inexpensive reposado, it also didn’t make it out of the preliminary tastings. Cheap, but no good.
  3. Reserva del Maestro Dobel Diamond Reposado … an expensive artisan tequila that had a too bright, perhaps over-filtered flavor. I’m not a brewmaster, but I’ll tell you this tequila tasted awful. I bought it at BevMo, where another tequila buyer commented on what a lovely bottle the tequila came in that’s true. They should have invested in the product, not the packaging, IMHO.

The 13 remaining tequilas were all mixed about 3 hours before the taste test, and refrigerated until they were poured into the tasting cups.

Each drink was rated in 4 categories: Aroma/Nose, Initial Taste, Finish and Smoothness. Perfect rating would be a 20 from each judge, and we had 11 judges.

This was a blind taste test the only person who knew which tequila was in which bottle, initially, was me. By the time the tasting began hours later, I only remembered the number of one of the tequilas. After the tasting, I didn’t know which was which and I didn’t care.

All tasting cups were put in a tray with crushed ice to keep the samples cool.

We mixed the equivalent of 5 cocktails for each tequila. We then poured 11 samples, which were roughly the equivalent of 2-1/2 cocktails total of each. If you consumed all of each sample … which most did not … then you were drinking 2-1/2 cocktails. Too much for a taste test? Probably. But everyone filled out their ballot after drinking perhaps half of each sample. No one thought their judgement was impaired. Later on … when all of the excess samples were dumped into the “number 14 Margarita” … well, it was a good night.

When the tasting began, the 11 judges were seated around the dining room table. Everyone had water to drink, as well as access to tortilla chips (salt!) and guacamole.

The results? I was surprised.

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Jennifer Wilcox

This bottle is super authentic, because it shows the Jimador (the person who collects the agave) harvesting the agave plant. When you show up to a party holding this bottle, you can impress all your friends by explaining what a Jimador is.

As I cracked open this bottle, I instantly smelled cinnamon. Once I tasted it, it was a little sweet and I tasted a little bit of that cinnamon flavor. It was very oaky and gave me a warm feeling, almost like a scotch. I recommend sipping on this tequila rather than taking a shot of it.

Best Reposado: Partida

This estate-grown, “crowd-pleaser” from the Tequila Valley is made using a 7- to 10-year-old agave that has matured to full ripeness and complexity. Aged in reclaimed whiskey barrels from two months to a year, as per the definition of reposado, Partida offers a caramelly and slightly floral nose, a creamy mid-palate, and big, spicy agave finish with a bit of honey and butter on the end. Though it’s lovely to sip with an ice cube in it, this tequila is also popular for cocktails, like the rich and boozy Notorious F.I.G. from StripSteak by Michael Mina in Miami, in which it’s blended with mezcal, calvados, and fig purée.

Best Cask Finish: Don Julio Reposado Double Cask Lagavulin

Don Julio has a variety of different expressions available, from blanco to extra añejo, but Holguin likes the reposado in particular. He describes it as having notes of “soft fruit on the nose and a sweet chocolate and cinnamon spice finish.” The reposado is given a smoky infusion in the Lagavulin Aged Edition, which is finished in casks that were used to mature this peated Islay whisky. Use the tequila for a margarita with a distinctive spicy kick.

Tequila Reposado Tasting

I spent the weekend with 40+ of my closest friends and on Friday evening we conducted a blind tequila tasting. I will qualify this by saying that we aren't professionals and the tasting was relaxed. I am posting this here because it was an interesting exercise in tasting, but also because about half the tequilas are not mainstream tequilas. The tasters were mostly in the 55-70 age range and have traveled extensively in Mexico for many years. Most enjoy tequila and over a lifetime have tasted the good, the great, the bad and the oh-my-god-what-was-I-thinking in tequilas and mezcals.

* All the bottles were reposados
* The bottles were all wrapped and the labels not visible
* Each bottle was given an arbitrary identifier that contained a letter and a number. B-26 for example
* Raters were provided a worksheet that explained what to look for in a tequila and how to taste it.
* Raters were asked to rate each tequila they sampled on a scale of 1-5 (1 being not so hot, 5 being very good) in the following areas:
1) Aroma/Nose
2) Initial Taste
3) Mouth Feel
4) Finish
Tasters could also make comments if they wished.
Scored were compiled and averaged to arrive at a final score.

We started out with 9 samples, but the 9th bottle was only a partial and 2 friends and I finished it before the tasting. It was a bottle of Volcan de mi Tierra (NOM 1523) and was actually the best of the tequilas we had.

In order from least favorite to favorite, the results were:

#8. Jose Cuervo Tradicional (NOM 1122). Overall score - 2.38

#7. Arette Artesenal Sauve (NOM 1109). Overall score - 2.47. Comments included: grassy, no taste, watery mouth feel, smooth finish. (This happened to be a bottle I donated to the taste test. I agree that the flavor was a bit light and not terribly distinctive. I don't agree with the watery mouth feel. This is a medium bodied tequila and the mouth feel is actually very pleasant on this bottle)

#6. Chinanco (NOM1127). Overall score - 2.74. Comments included: strong cinnamon in aroma, nice burn from the alcohol, nice aftertaste, flinty and strong mineral hit in the flavor. (This was the most expensive bottle at $60, purchased at BevMo in CA. It was also the most polarizing of the tequilas. The tasters either really liked it, or really strongly disliked it. No one was in between on this one)

#5. Milagro (NOM 1559). Overall score - 2.99. Only comment was that it had a classic tequila taste (though what the taster meant by "classic tequila taste" was not defined).

#4. Casa Amigos (NOM 1416). Overall score - 3.08. Comments included: Nice mouth feel, strong hit on vanilla in initial taste which became stronger as an aftertaste. (We used this tequila for margaritas the next night and the vanillas was very pronounced. Some people really enjoyed it, I, personally, did not.) (Yes, this is the George Clooney tequila, which is why it was included. For the novelty of it)

#3. Fortaleza (NOM1493) Overall score - 3.21. Comments included: nice citrus in the aroma, thin mouth feel, some bitterness in the finish. (I agree very much with the comments about the mouth feel and the bitterness in the finish. This is a nice summer tequila because it's light, it also makes a really nice margarita)

#3. Herradura Double Barrel (NOM 1119) Overall score - 3.21. Comments included: slightly medicinal, not impressive, good burn, some bitterness in the finish (I disagree with this assessment. I've had several bottles of Double Barrel over the last couple of years and in general, I think it's quite a nice sipping tequila, fairly smooth with some nice spice. Tends to be a bit earthy)

#2. La Misión Siglo XXI (NOM 1564) Overall score - 3.83. Comments included: somewhat watery mouth feel (I did not agree with this), smooth finish, slight sweetness in initial taste, pleasant hits of butter and caramel in the taste, easy drinker, good balance.

#1. Don Ramon (NOM 1420) Overall score 3.94. Comments included: Wow, smooth, great taste, spicy aroma, good spice in the initial taste, as well as motor oil/metalic.

The Epicurious Blog

Each year, millions of Americans race to their electronic devices in a panic to find out one thing: How the heck do I roast a Thanksgiving turkey again?

More than 40 percent of the country types in "turkey recipe" on Google each Thanksgiving, getting a jillion results from countless food sites to figure out how they&aposre going to cook that massive bird. Turkey can be pretty terrifying to prepare -- it&aposs large and inherently difficult to cook perfectly. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend five hours cooking something only to hear complaints of how dry it is from Uncle Larry.

But finding that recipe online can be daunting: There&aposs no shortage of roast turkey recipes on the internet. How are you supposed to make sure that overgrown chicken you just paid a bunch of money isn&apost a total fail?

So, in an act of public service, we tested classic turkey recipes from some of the most respected food sites out there -- Martha Stewart, Real Simple, Food Network, The New York Times, and The Kitchn -- to find out who had the best classic roast turkey.

The Best Non-Alcoholic Beers: Epicurious&apos Official Taste Test Results

Inspired by, yet unable to participate in, our tequila taste test, I thought it would be fun to apply the same concept to non-alcoholic beer. Okay, okay, I know that non-alcoholic beer isn&apost widely appreciated for its taste, but I figured there must be a couple good ones out there. Right?

The Best Tequilas of 2014: Epicurious&apos Official Taste Test Results

Tomorrow is National Tequila Day, arguably the greatest holiday of the year, and we at Epicurious saw an opportunity to hold a little taste test (for research, of course). If there is one thing we like here at the Epicurious offices, it&aposs great tequila. In fact, Nilou Motamed, our EIC, keeps a rather expansive selection of artisanal bottles in her office bar at all times. Needless to say, no arms were twisted in conducting this taste test. Under the watchful eye of NYC tequila guru Jason Silverman, we sipped our way through 21 blanco and reposado tequilas, and we did it all for you.

Ever wondered which tequilas are best for making margaritas and which are smooth enough for sipping? Want to know which tequilas taste amazing AND cost less than $30? Whether you fancy yourself a tequila snob, are looking for a killer mixer, or just want to get the best bang for your buck, we&aposve got you covered. Read on to see which tequilas reigned supreme.

The Epic and Semi-Definitive Epicurious Jelly Bean Taste Test

Easter is just a bunny hop, skip, and a jump away and we&aposre getting ready to celebrate. For our best holiday ever, we&aposre stocking up on our favorite chocolate bunnies, brushing up our egg decorating skills, and looking for the best jelly beans to fill our baskets.

We tasted our way through 13 varieties of jelly beans to find the best of the bunch. See our taste test to find out which of the sweet, fruity, chewy candies we liked best.

This Is What $50 Worth of Seven-Layer Dip Looks Like. So How Does It Taste?

I&aposve written here before about my fondness for Seven-Layer Dip, a much-loved staple of family parties in my native Midwest. I make Seven-Layer Dip every year for the Super Bowl, using what I&aposve been raised to believe is the one, the only, the canonical Seven-Layer Dip recipe.

But recent years have seen the rise of chef-driven, small-batch, hyperlocal updates of dishes once considered the lowest of lowbrow, including the chicken wing, the burger, the meatball, and the pizza. Why shouldn&apost Seven-Layer Dip have its turn in the spotlight? Using the Auntie&aposs recipe (faithfully reproduced in full after the jump), we decided to make an "Artisanal" version of Seven-Layer Dip, to see how it matches up against the old-school Midwestern Auntie&aposs version, the primary difference being how we sourced the ingredients.

Want to know which one tasted better--the $50 version or the version that cost half as much? Read on.

One Hot Sauce to Rule Them All

We&aposre continuing our preparations for Super Bowl XLVIII. We&aposve got our delivery pizza pick down, so the next step was to find the best ingredients to make delicious game-day chicken wings.

A meaty wing and proper preparation are important, but it really all comes down to the hot sauce. Without the right spicy sauce your wings might lack the signature flavor and zesty after burn all wing-lovers crave.

We tasted 10 of the top hot sauces on the market to find out which one fired up our palates the most.

(Photo: Louis Wallach/Corbis)

Which Tastes Best: Pizza Hut, Papa John&aposs, Little Caesars, or Domino&aposs?

In preparation for our Super Bowl Sunday celebrations, we decided to find out which of the big pizza delivery chain restaurants had the best pies. We tasted cheese and pepperoni pizzas from the big four (Pizza Hut, Domino&aposs, Papa John&aposs, and Little Caesars) to find out which one was worthy of a place in our game day spread.

See the results after the jump >>

Gluten-Free Cracker Taste Test

With holiday party season in full swing, hosts have been asking us for recipes, suggestions, tips, and ideas to accommodate their gluten-free guests. So, we set out to find tasty, crispy gluten-free crackers to satisfy hungry guests this holiday season. We tasted six of the most widely available brands of gluten-free crackers and found two that we wouldn&apost turn down.

Here&aposs what the judges though about the top two:

Blue Diamond Nut Thins - "Salty and Airy," "I could eat a box of these," "dry and crisp," "tastes like corn." We recommend serving these with a mild, soft cheese spread that will let the cracker&aposs great crunch and subtle sweetness come through.

Mary&aposs Gone Crackers - "Tastes like a blend of seeds and spices," "nice, surprising crackle," "they look like a rock crystal: glittery, chunky, and shiny." We recommend serving these with a fresh guacamole to complement the earthy flavor of the seeds and grains in the cracker.

Even though these crackers were tasty, they didn&apost get us terribly excited. We&aposre determined to keep tasting until we find a gluten-free cracker that is just as good as its flour-filled counterpart.

Check back for the next installment of our gluten-free cracker taste test to find out which brands crumble and which come out on top.

(Photo: Kendra Vizcaino-Lico)

We Go Loko So You Don&apost Have To

I thought that when Four Loko was temporarily banned in New York City in 2010, the malt beverage craze was over. I attended a party this weekend that was BYOM (bring your own malt) however, and I realized Four Loko and its competitors are far from passe.

It is possible that my friends were trying to resurrect the popularity of these beverages. But it is also possible that malt beverages are on the brink of a major comeback--and if that is the case, I want you to be ahead of the curve.

I have taken it upon myself to endure the relentless heartburn and a stinging hangover to taste and rate the malt beverages that are available at your local bodega, party store, or gas station.

I chose to stick with fruity malt liquors because in recent years they have been trendier than the classic malt drinks, such as Olde English 800 and Schlitz.

Potato Chip Taste Test

Our Executive Editor, Siobhan Adcock, was absolutely right when she said "Sometimes this job is fun." We recently got to munch and crunch our way through 12 brands of potato chips to find out which one was our favorite. Chowing down on all the salty snacks definitely made our average day at the office more enjoyable.

We snacked on a dozen different chips to find the one that best embodied the classic. It had to have a strong potato flavor, an assertive saltiness, a great crunch, and a light airy texture. Some turned out to be terrific taters while others fell flat.

Wondering which brand of potato chip tantalized our taste buds the most? Find out the results in our taste test.

Read the Fine Print

Reject any bottle that doesn’t read “100% Agave.” All tequila is distilled from the spiky-leaved agave plant, specifically the Weber blue agave, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. After maturing to maximum sweetness for 6 to 10 years, the plant’s heart, or piña, is pulled up and stripped of its leaves. Weighing as much as 200 pounds, the piña is roasted, mashed, and milked of its sweet juice. That liquid is fermented, distilled, and, if it’s being made into aged tequila, stored in oak barrels.

Anything that doesn’t say “100% agave” is what’s called a mixto. That is, it’s a bastardized version of the real deal: a mix of fermented agave juice and up to 49 percent “neutral cane spirit”: fermented sugarcane with its flavor stripped out. Mixing the two is a cheaper way to make tequila, but the resulting flavor is less complex. Its yellow color will more than likely be artificial, only there to imitate the natural infusion of wood that aged tequila gets.

Anything that says “oro” or gold, is a mixto. So what’s that Cuervo Gold you’ve got in the back of the cabinet? The headache maker? Now that you know how to read the label, you know the answer. Get rid of it.

What to Look for in Añejo Tequila


As with any other spirit, your tequila should fit your budget. These bottles range from under $30 to more than $100. Your average añejo will probably cost more than $50. More time in (expensive) oak barrels will generally make your beverage more expensive


It’s worth considering how you plan on using your añejo tequila. Will you be making cocktails with it? Sipping it? Gifting it? If you’re throwing it into cocktails, you can probably get away with something less pricey. If you’re sipping on just that spirit, though, you want something that you’ll enjoy. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend more money, but it may make that extra $10 to $20 spent worth it.

You may also want to consider the type of oak used. New oak barrels are more expensive and will impart much more flavor—if you love those notes of vanilla and spice, it may be worth paying for the bottles aged in new oak. You’ll also see some that are aged in French barrels and others in American oak. Believe it or not, you will get slightly different flavors from each. French barrels impart rounder, more pastry-like flavors, while American oak imparts slightly more tropical, herbaceous flavors. If it mentions that it’s an ex-bourbon, -sherry, -etc., barrel, expect to find some of those flavors in your tequila.

That said, the intent of the producer is everything, and different yeast strains can be used to bring out the flavors that the producer is aiming for.


There are some great options from bigger brands, but generally, you’ll find incredible value from smaller companies. You do have to be selective, though—brands like Espolòn and Cazadores are good bets. It’s also worth considering how familiar you are with the category. If you’ve never had añejo tequila and start with a luxury, high-price options, you’ll likely enjoy it, but you may not be able to tell what makes it special because you won’t have much to compare it with. If you’re new to the category, it’s worth starting with some baseline options and then working your way up to the more expensive bottles if your budget allows it.

How do you drink añejo tequila?

Most prefer to sip añejo tequila straight or on an oversized rock, though it can be subbed into whiskey drinks, like an old-fashioned or Manhattan.

What is the difference between añejo, reposado, and blanco tequilas?

The biggest differences in these styles comes down to oak aging. Blanco is not aged in oak and will have more agave flavor than the others. Reposado tequila spends two months to a year in oak. Añejo spends one to three years in oak, and if you see a bottle marked "extra añejo," that spent more than three years in the barrel.

What makes añejo tequila dark?

Añejo tequila spends between one and three years in oak barrels. Its color comes from that aging process, as does the color from all dark spirits. All spirits start their lives clear and only gain color from contact with wood (or sometimes from added coloring).

Can you make a margarita with añejo tequila?

Can you? Sure. Will it be the same experience? No. The vanilla and spice flavors from the oak aging will take away from the freshness that you find in most margaritas. That said, there are some recipes online for añejo margaritas that play on that vanilla note by using pineapple juice and other tropical flavors.

Watch the video: Classifications of Tequila Best Types of Tequila Difference Between Tequilas