The Tequila Taste Test Slideshow
5. Don Julio
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.
Milagro’s smoothness and lack of sweetness was both loved, and hated, by our group of tasters. Some appreciated the agave aroma and the clean flavor, but others thought it was "medicinal" and not smooth at all.
3. Jose Cuervo Tradicional
The dark horse in the competition was a surprise to a lot of our tasters. Some noted that it tasted "different" from the others, and that it had more of a plant-like smell and bite to it than the other tequilas; one person wrote that it was a "quintessentially good, but not amazing, tequila."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Patrón won over our crowd of tasters, who noted its smoothness, distinct agave aroma, and complex flavor. It "maintains a classic tequila flavor," said one taster (who, in retrospect, may have had too much tequila). Some were fairly neutral on the tequila, but the majority ranked it as no. 1 on the lineup.
What the Experts Say
After our blind tasting of these five tequilas, we then talked to Mat Resler, the head of the bar program at Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria, for his take on what to look for in a blanco tequila, and to find out what he thought of each of the competing tequilas. Resler said when he tastes a blanco tequila, it has to taste of the plant it’s made from: agave. "They say that blanco tequila is the truest expression of agave," he said. "When distillers get together, when they bring a bottle of tequila to dinner, it’s usually a bottle of blanco tequila, because it tastes the most of agave." What exactly does agave taste like? Resler says you’ll taste a bit of honey sweetness, or a "green," vegetable tone that comes from a younger agave.
Resler noted Don Julio for its unique florals. "Don Julio is nice," said Resler. "[It has an] interesting floral characteristic that’s good for cocktails. I don’t usually drink that neat." And about Milagro, Resler said it’s a very clean tequila with a lot of flavor, more so than its select barrel counterpart. "The select barrel tequila is distilled to be cleaner [than the blue bottle Milagro]," said Resler. "I prefer the blue bottle Milagro."
The Tradicional label from Jose Cuervo is an interesting tequila, said Resler. It’s definitely the attempt by the brand to rectify the bad rap the Jose Cuervo Especial gets — and perhaps rightfully deserves. There are two types of tequila, he said; blue agave tequila that’s made from 100 percent agave, and mixto tequila, that’s made of 51 percent blue agave. Typically, Resler said, that 49 percent that's leftover is made up of sugar or sugar cane — which explains some wicked hangovers you may have had. The Especial label of Jose Cuervo is a mixto, but the Tradicional label we tried is a true 100 percent blue agave tequila. "I don’t think it’s bad," said Resler, who prefers the reposado Tradicional Jose Cuervo.
What the Experts Say (Cont.)
But as for Casamigos and Patrón? Resler is actually not a fan. He noted a "weird, fake sweetness" to the Casamigos tequila that he thought was masking a certain sharpness. "Maybe it would work in a spicy margarita," Resler said. And Patrón? Although Patrón may be responsible for the tequila "boom" that happened five years ago, he said, it’s not as full-flavored as some of his other favorite tequilas and mezcals. "[Patrón] distilled it so much to the point that it didn’t taste like agave," he said. "They made a tequila that drank more like a neutral spirit. So for the American palate that wasn’t accustomed to a more flavorful tequila — that wasn’t Jose Cuervo or what they drank in college or high school — everyone loved it." It may be no surprise that people (and ourselves) flock to Patrón like a bird flocks to water, but Resler says that in comparison to other tequilas and mezcals, Patrón just doesn’t stack up.
So now we know just how we like our tequila — while it may not line up with the pros' opinions, we're all in pursuit of a tequila that makes a night out just a little more fun. And who knew that Clooney would win us over, after all. Oh wait, it's Clooney.