We had such great feedback for our Top 10 Irish Whiskeys for St. Patrick’s Day piece that we decided to do something similar for Cinco de Mayo. After tasting over 20 different tequilas and mezcals, we’ve come up with our Top 5 Tequilas and Mezcals for Cinco de Mayo.
Since this is our first year doing the list, there are some notable omissions, and, as with the Irish Whiskey list, we hope to build and refine it every year. After tasting over 20 spirits in this class, we’re excited to bring you the ones which stood out the most.
Top 5 Tequila (Blanco)
- Don Julio Blanco Tequila
- Tequila Avion Blanco
- Z Blanco Tequila
- Clase Azul Plata
- Gran Dovejo Blanco
Top 5 Mezcal
- Del Maguey Chichicapa *
- Del Maguey Tobala
- Illegal Mezcal Anejo
- Los Nahuales Mezcal Blanco
- Del Maguey San Domingo al Albarradas
Don Julio Blanco Tequila
As you nose the Don Julio Blanco Tequila, there’s no mistaking that you’re smelling a highlands tequila. With a bright sweet agave nose and light floral hints backed with light citrus/lime, this blanco tequila is extremely inviting. The entry is very soft and easy with sweet floral notes and light pepper. The fresh agave from the nose is very apparent on the palate and comes together beautifully with the floral and peppery notes. The finish is very nice with a light sweet pepper which tapers out into a nice cool clean mouth.
Don Julio Blanco Tequila – A quintessential highland blanco tequila that highlights all the notes that define this terroir. Light, clean and sweet, this eminently drinkable blanco tequila is one of the best.
Tequila Avion Blanco
Avion is also an incredibly clean tequila. While it can get spicy, it never burns. This is thanks to a patented filtering process which, along with a unique barreling process, really defines Avion. Tequila Avion Silver has clear aromas of fresh agave with an undercurrent of black pepper and a hint of hot pepper. The entry is soft and slightly sweet with a superb mouthfeel which is neither too thick nor too thin. Instead of a pepper kick in the mid palate, Avion has a pepper ramp with intensifying black and hot pepper. Things get a little spicy at the end of the mid palate with a hint of grapefruit rind. The finish is nice, long, and super clean.
Clase Azul Plata
The Clase Azul Blanco tequila has a very soft and sweet nose with just a hint of pepper. The sweetness of the nose and the undercurrent of spice come together into a nose that is downright seductive. The nose has no bite or vapor whatsoever. The entry for the Clase Azul Blanco matches the nose perfectly. Lightly sweet, fresh agave leads right into a pepper spice which builds to a moderate level, peaks, and then finishes all without losing a step. The balance between sweet and spice here is sublime, and the finish leaves both the sweet agave and pepper spice in a clear invitation for another sip.
A great spirit in a great package is a rare combination, but Clase Azul manages to deliver something really special, and for the tequila connoisseur, something to seek out.
Gran Dovejo Tequila
Gran Dovejo Tequila has delightful nose that combines fresh agave notes with green pepper. The entry is immensiely smooth and flavorful with delicious herbal and peppery notes backed by very slightly sweet agave. The finish is very long and dry with the slightest bit of pepper spice to it. Grand Dovejo Tequila is incrediably smooth and clean, a superb ultra-premium sipping tequila.
Z Blanco Tequila
A delightfully peppery nose with a mix of white and black pepper backed by slightly spicy bell and jalapeno pepper notes. There’s just a suggestion of briny pickle which brings everything together in a wonderfully complex and inviting nose. The entry has some real finesse with a soft mouthfeel that has an elegance to it. The flavors unfold in the midpalate with the pepper notes up front, and the vegetal green pepper and spicy jalapeno right behind, along with a slightly sweet, fresh agave note. The spice comes to a peak at the end of the midplate and then gently fades out for a long finish that ultimately finishes clean. It’s hard to capture just how delightful Z Blanco Tequila is. With its inviting nose, delivery of flavor, mouth feel, and finish, it’s one of the best blanco tequilas we’ve tried.
Farming is an incrediably important component of tequila, and it’s an industry that the Alderete family know very well. The Alderente family run a harvesting company in the US but looked to their roots in Mexico for their latest venture Alderete Tequila. Bringing along modern farming and irragation practices used in the United States they worked closely with mexican farmers to produce an exceptional highland tequila.
The nose on the Alderete is light and slightly spicy. There’s an etherial quiality to the nose that is incrediably inviting. The entry is silky soft and smooth with just a slight sweet quality to it. The core of the Alderete Tequila unfolds in the midpalate with a unique herbal quality that’s absolutely seductive. It grabs a little heat towards the finish, enough to leave your palate tingling. Alderente is an exceptional and unique tequila.
Casa Dragones Tequila
Setting to define the top end of the ultra-premium tequila market, Casa Dragones is a unique joven tequila that brings together a delicately refined platinum tequail with just a touch of extra-anjeo tequila. The color from the extra-anejo is taken out using an ultra-modern filtration process. Casa Dragones Tequila’s subtle floral and citrus aroma with notes of sweet agave is fresh and inviting. Swirling a glass reveals its rich, silky body and long, pronounced legs, which leave a sleek texture on the palate. One sip releases hints of vanilla and spiced undertones balanced with notes of pear for a uniquely smooth taste.
Arrogante Blanco Tequila
Impulsora Rombo made its name as the original producer of Sammy Hagar’s Cobo Wabo Tequila, but the brand was sold to Sky Spirits it moved production to another facility. This gave the Impulsora team an opportunity to regroup and look at making their own tequila.
Arrogante has big ripe fresh agave on the nose with a slight undercurrent of white pepper. The entry is soft with a nice mouthfeel and strong fresh agave flavor. It quickly opens up with a wide range of spice flavors including pepper, allspice and even some woodsy cinnamon notes. Arrogante picks up just a slight amount of heat at the end of the mid palate and has a long slightly salty finish.
Yeyo Ultra Premium Silver Tequila
The nice clean, soft, peppery, sweet nose with some mineral undertones is a lot softer than you’d expect for an 80-proof spirit and it held its nice soft properties even when I swirled it around in my glass (no real strong alcohol vapors). The taste follows the nose pretty closely with sweet peppery tones; it does have some hints of fire but they are extremely well balanced with the sweet and pepper notes. I found it to be fairly buttery and creamy with a very nicely balanced mouthfeel. The finish is long and gradual with nice sweet pepper and some very light spice.
Ambhar Platinum Tequila
Ambarh is a distinctively different tequial. Made from a blend of agave plants from both the highlands and the lowlands, Ambhar Platiunm Tequila is distilled five times to create a very smooth and clean tequila.
Ambhar Platinum Tequila has a nice clean peppery nose. The entry is very crisp and slightly sweet with a nice soft peppery spice. There’s a slight herbaciousness under the pepper and it maintains a lot of its flavor through a fairly long finish. Once the Abhar finishes it leaves a nice cool and pleasant feeling on the palate.
Siete Leguas Anejo Tequila
A very thin gold / pale yellow color, this anejo is one of the lighter ones we’ve seen. A thick sweet nose with salted caramel, sherry and a small amount of rubber give this anejo a pleasing and interesting start. The taste is white pepper, salt, pear and caramel with lots of heat on the tongue. As with the Siete Leguas Repasado, this Anejo has a terrific long soft peppery finish. Even tasting blind, our panel connected the Siete Leguas Anejo and Repasado as playing the same flavor notes.
Siete Leguas Repasado Tequila
A sweet nose with solid agave notes, wet paper and pine nuts, the taste is a nice subtle soft and sweet white pepper with just a hint of parmesan cheese. There’s lots of spice on the tongue without being too fiery. The finish is extremely impressive and it takes a very long time to fade – one of the longest finishes we’ve seen in this category. Expertly crafted with great delivery of flavor and finish,.
Siete Leguas Blanco Tequila
With a nice sweet nose the includes vanilla, white sugar, white pepper and mint, this tequila is pleasing from the start. The taste is a nice union of sweet, sour and spicy with white sugar notes, salt and white pepper. The finish is slow and long with a nice combination of white pepper and white sugar. This is a pretty straight forward tequila which is spicy and sweet and would be perfect for mixing in margaritas. It doesn’t quite have the depth for a sipping tequila but its mixing potential is solid.
1800 Silver Tequila
This tequila has a very sweet and thick nose with notes of honey, candied pear, coconut and the slightest bit of smoke. On the taste it’s cinnamon and honey, mixed with white pepper and huge brown sugar notes. There are some subtle chalky and earthy notes which round it out. The finish is nice and long, cool, sweet and very pleasing. We were shocked after our blind tasting that a $25 tequila scored so well with our tasters. Proof positive that you cannot judge a spirit by its bottle or price tag.
Tequila Ocho Agaves De Rancho Las Pomez (Single Estate)
This tequila starts with a very nice and delicate nose with soft notes of mint and vanilla. It’s cool on the mouth at first and then moves through pepper to sweet. It’s a very focused spirit that plays its notes well.
Tequila Ocho Agaves De Rancho Corrales (Single Estate)
This tequila has a nice platinum tint to it with a thick nose that’s quite vegetal with notes of asparagus, cut grass, vanilla and some hints of leather. The taste is strong white pepper combined with lush sweet undertones. It delivers a very solid mix of sweet and peppery with a finish that lasts a long time.
Illegal Mezcal Anejo
Golden yellow in color, this mezcal has very pronounced notes of pineapple on the nose combined with caramel, oak, and even distinct notes of gorgonzola. The taste is beautiful with sweet caramel, butterscotch, pepper, pineapple, smoke and wood. The finish is a nice balanced smokey, sweet and buttery finish that leaves you wanting more. A clear standout, this Illegal Mezcal is head and shoulders above their Joven and beautifully crafted. We fell in love with this Mezcal and heartily recommend it.
Del Maguey Tobala
A very funky and sweet butterscotch nose makes this mezcal one that you’ll want to spend time sniffing. Its nose is elusive but delicious. The taste is extremely flavorful with excellent funk, pepper, smoke and wood. The finish is extraordinarily long. With an extreme depth and flavor, the Tobala is something to be savored. Made from uncultivable agave plants, this is one of the rarest and most expensive mezcals on the market.
Los Nahuales Mezcal Blanco (Joven)
A funky (in a good way) nose with notes of smoke, cheese rind and salami. The taste is smokey and savory with notes of white pepper, habanero, honey, and funky, cheesey salami. It has a very nice full mouthfeel with a strong flavorful finish. There is some nice depth here in this likable mezcal.
Del Maguey Mezcal Vida
Mezcal Vida has good funk on the nose combined with sweet dark fruits like dates and raisins. The taste is very funky with nice pepper on the tongue combined with sweet and smokey goodness. There’s a floral undertone and some sour tones which result in a symphony of sweet, smokey, sour and spicy. The finish is very long and strong. Beautifully crafted and wonderfully complex, it’s hard not to fall for the Mezcal Vida.
Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal
Very pale yellow color with a nose of funk, rubber, petrol and walnut, the taste of Crema is unexpectedly heavy and sweet with notes of pure agave, honey, funk and smoke. There’a little heat on the back of the throat that rounds out the experience. The finish is rich, sweet and smokey. Some of our tasters found this to be too sweet while others raved about its taste. It’s a softer and more affordable way to get your feet wet with mezcal but expect to outgrow it in favor of things like the Chichicapa and San Luis del Rio.
Del Maguey San Domingo al Albarradas
If you didn’t know you were drinking mezcal, you wouldn’t know it from nosing this one. An extremely vegetal nose with bright green notes of green onion, bok choy, grapes and vanilla, this mezcal is hot and sweet on the tongue with strong white pepper notes. There are some unique whiskey-like notes along with the heat and it has a very dry and very long finish. The San Domingo al Albarradas is a unique and intriguing entry into the mezcal space – one worth seeking out.
Los Nahuales Mezcal Reposado
Pale yellow in color, this mezcal has a very pasty nose with vanilla and chalk notes. The nose smells a lot like Elmer’s glue with a little smoke. The taste is strong wood, smoke and pepper that dances on the tip of your tongue. It has a nice slow smokey finish. There’s enough going on here to make this a mezcal worth trying.
Los Nahuales Mezcal Anejo
This mezcal has a light golden caramel color, and a very sweet nose with buttery sugary notes that remind you of chocolate chip cookie dough, with deeper notes of caramel, honey, cardboard and even a dusty old box. The taste has heavy notes of smoke with some more muted white pepper and caramel companion notes. Underneath is a nice tone of dried fruit especially dried cherries. This mezcal has a noticeably cool mouthfeel, almost minty. The finish is long and smokey, nice and dry. This is a well distilled and crafted spirit, but its flavor profile may not be for everyone.
Illegal Mezcal Reposado
Pale gold in color, the nose on this mezcal is notably funky with butterscotch, rubber and chipotle spice. The taste has strong notes of rubber with monster black pepper combined with white pepper, caramel and smoked cedar. The finish is also extremely long with smoke, pepper and caramel clearly lingering on long after the last sip. There’s some fantastic complexity here, although we didn’t love the rubber notes in it. Still a delish mezcal that we give
Illegal Mezcal Joven
Strong vegetal and savory notes dominate the nose for this mezcal, including fresh asparagus, nutty cheese and smoked bacon. The taste is intensely smokey with notes of white pepper, bacon, beef jerky and unripe green apple. On the mouth it feels a little thin and the finish is very dry, sour and smokey. While there are some nice things going in with this mezcal, it doesn’t fully deliver.
Fidencio Mezcal Joven
Strong notes of banana dominate the nose along with vanilla notes, combining to make a nice sweet tropical nose. There are some rubbery tones that also can be picked up on the nose. The taste is white pepper with smoke underneath, sugar, caramel, and pear. The banana note from the nose is also well represented in the taste. The finish is medium sweet and sour that ends pretty dry. The nose on this mezcal is fantastic but the taste doesn’t quite live up to the promise. It’s a unique mezcal that is much less funky than many of the other jovens we’ve tried. It is a nice mix of tropical and spice, but falls just short of wow.
Scorpion Reposado Mezcal
White gold in color, almost like a chardonnay, this mezcal has a very thick nose with vanilla, deep caramel, honey, funk and currant. The taste is a nice mix of white pepper, cherry, caramel, green apple and smoke. The finish is dry, slightly sour and smokey. As with the Scorpion Silver, this mezcal has a dead scorpion in the bottle. This is a huge issue for several members on our tasting panel who would never buy it because of the scorpion. With the silver it’s hard to argue against that, but there’s more case with the reposado.
Scorpion Anejo Mezcal
With a very dark gold color, this mezcal has a strong sweet nose with caramel, honey, butterscotch, pepper and honey. The nose is notably thick and creamy. The taste is strong with heavy smoke, bacon notes, charred burnt wood (maybe cherry) and an artificially sweet undertone like Splenda. This mezcal is very heavy and syrupy on the palate and finishes with a charred pepper finish. As with other Scorpion Mezcal we’ve reviewed, the fact that there’s a dead scorpion in the bottle was a huge deal breaker for most people on our tasting panel. Tasted blind this mezcal scored low, not nearly enough to overcome the issue of the dead scorpion.
Scorpion Silver Mezcal
A sweet nose with light floral notes combined with rubber, wet pavement and roasted nuts, there’s something about it that doesn’t quite work and isn’t altogether pleasing. The taste is pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and sugar cookie with very subtle notes of smoke underneath. The finish is pretty clean and dry but we did get some burning on the roof of our mouths (not a good thing). Tasting blind it gets a 2 1/2 stars,but then there’s the bomb drop: the bottle has a scorpion IN it. Many of the people on our panel were mortified and said they’d NEVER buy this spirit because of it. If it were an amazing mezcal I think we’d have an argument, but it isn’t.
Mijes Joven Mezcal
With a blue-grey platinum color, this mezcal has a very nice sweet, thick nose with pear, vanilla and strong notes of butterscotch. The nose also has some nice funky notes to it. The taste is very rubbery with pepper, cedar and paper notes. It’s also a little dusty on the palate. The experience of drinking this is extremely unpleasant with the rubbery notes dominating the longer it sits. The Mijes Joven is overly hot (chokingly so) and the finish is all fire and rubber. How can a spirit with such a promising nose taste so off? Taste this one and you’ll see.
Oro de Oaxaca Mezcal
Pale yellow in color, this mezcal has a very funky, smokey and oily nose with undertones of cork, plastic and rubber. It enters the palate very, very, very hot with notes of smoke and pepper, walnut and rubber. It feels thin on the mouth and is extremely hit and run – it’s a blast of heat and then quickly vanishes. Ultimately too thin and fleeting to really like, it is so out of balance that it feels like something went awry in its distillation.
Be sure to check out our piece An Exploration of Tequila and Mezcal for a look at how these spirits are made and what makes them so special, as well as some additional recommendations for other tequilas and mezcals we’ve tasted and enjoyed. We also have a review of Tequila Avion from Entourage posted.Top 5 Tequila and Mezcal for Cinco de Mayo by Geoff Kleinman