Agave flavor in tequila
October 23, 2007 4:52 PM   Subscribe

Help me find a tequila I'll enjoy more.

In the last year I've come across a couple of tequilas that I actually enjoyed, which surprised me. Basically instead of an oaky, smoky, woody flavor (like El Tesoro de Don Felipe or Patron Añejo) or a musty, off, dirty-socks flavor (Sauza Hornitos), these tequilas had a strong, sort of fresh or green, cactus-y or agave-y flavor. I finally put it together when I tried some fresh blue agave nectar that was being used to sweeten margaritas. I love that flavor.

So far what I've enjoyed most is a tequila called La Cofradia reposado, a gift from Mexico, which I can't find at my usual liquor stores. My substitute has been Puerto Vallarta reposado, which I do enjoy. In general anejos are not to my liking and the reposados I've had I've liked better. I do occasionally sip tequila straight but more often I make a very tequila-heavy margarita on the rocks, with a little lime juice and Cointreau. When I can taste the cactus in my margarita I am happy!

I've heard that some of the silver or "blanco" - non-aged - tequilas have a more pronounced cactus-y flavor. But I've never tried one. I would like suggestions from tequila drinkers about what tequilas to try next!
posted by ikkyu2 to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Other tequilas that I've had that I'm just not so excited about include Cuervo, Cuervo 1800, regular Sauza, and el Jimador.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2007

By far the most important rule with tequila is this: It should say 100% agave on the bottle. If it says that, it'll probably be at least decent. Otherwise, avoid.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:01 PM on October 23, 2007

posted by kanemano at 5:06 PM on October 23, 2007

Don Eduardo? Don Julio?
posted by gnutron at 5:07 PM on October 23, 2007

Don Julio is a good choice for that vegetative agave taste.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:11 PM on October 23, 2007

Don Julio is my favorite. It comes in añejo, reposado, and blanco and I would agree with your tastebuds that the añejo isn't quite as "cactusy" as the others, although I still find it delicious and very sippable.

There are some incredible, and incredibly expensive, premium tequilas (and Don Julio makes a couple, the 1942 and the Real) out there but as far as something that I can easily get at a decent grocery or liquor store without having to crack into the living trust, Don Julio's my co-pilot.

I was fortunate enough to try Herradura Suprema once, and it was pretty fucking great. But the ordinary Herradura isn't all that much different, and ten percent of the price of the Suprema.
posted by padraigin at 5:13 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Milagro? I went through a bottle of their reposado and liked it a lot. Moderately priced, flavorful but very drinkable straight, so for a strong margarita it'd probably work very well.
posted by cortex at 5:14 PM on October 23, 2007

Patron silver might be good enough for your margaritas, to me it does have that clean/green taste you're talking about. I like it for mine when I have really good limes.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:16 PM on October 23, 2007

Yeah, the reposados are probably the style you're looking for - they're aged enough to lose a bit of the harshness that you might find in the blancos, but not so long that they take on too many of the sweet oak characteristics of the añejos, thus retaining more of that cactus taste that you're after. Have you tried the Herradura Reposado? It's not particularly fancy, but I quite enjoy its balance of smoothness with that bit of cactus kick. I use it for both sipping and mixing.

Another thing you might look into are the other (non-Tequila) Mezcals, which tend to have more pronounced plant flavours; again, you'd probably be looking at a reposado.
posted by bunyip at 5:26 PM on October 23, 2007

Thirding Patron.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:49 PM on October 23, 2007

Don Julio is ok...

my favorite "top shelf" tequila is called Corralejo... which comes in a very unique bottle.

my favorite "knockout" tequila is called "Espolon"... which is Spanish for a fighting rooster's talon... IE it will F your ass up.
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 6:17 PM on October 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Blancos in general have the most agave taste, because they're not aged at all. I think Patron silver is pretty good, but if you ever get the opportunity to have a shot of Gran Patron Platinum I highly recommend it.

(FYI, La Pinata in Alameda has over 300 100% agave tequilas at their restaurant.)
posted by oneirodynia at 6:22 PM on October 23, 2007

I'm not so big on tequila but my brother's absolute favorite is Cabo Wabo, I think the Reposado (blue bottle). You might also try the Blanco.
posted by 6550 at 7:05 PM on October 23, 2007

Tommy's in SF is also a good place to go tasting.
posted by padraigin at 7:19 PM on October 23, 2007

Cazadores (reposado) might fit the bill. I'd also second mezcal, but apart from those made by La Botica in Mexico City, which (based on a quick Google) doesn't seem to export, I don't have a specific mezcal recommendation.
posted by RogerB at 7:22 PM on October 23, 2007

Patron is where it's at for a reasonable price. Better than Don Julio, IMHO. One that flies under the radar but is up there with Patron though a bit more $ is Chinaco blanco. Good stuff. Of course, there are the $300 bottles of tequila you can gorge on, but I'm scared to touch them.
And Cuervo's shit.
posted by jmd82 at 7:35 PM on October 23, 2007

Uh, this is going to sound insane, but Sammy Hagar's own Cabo Wabo is the best tequila I've ever had. Costs a damn fortune in my terms, but good. It seems they have a blanco, a resposado, and an anejo. I had the resposado.
posted by loiseau at 8:26 PM on October 23, 2007

I agree about Cabo Wabo. I don't drink much tequila these days, but It has to be some of the best I have had.
posted by Climber at 9:09 PM on October 23, 2007

I, on the other hand, think Cabo Wabo (blanco) tastes like it has had cardboard soaking in it for a long time. I've had a bottle forever that I haven't been able to work through. But then I like regular Sauza, so judge accordingly.
posted by kookoobirdz at 10:03 PM on October 23, 2007

mr_roboto writes "Don Julio is a good choice for that vegetative agave taste."

OK; I just "checked" on this. I have a bottle of the añejo: it has a very clear "cactus" flavor but with some definite whiskey-like smoky notes and a bitter finish (which I like, but matter of taste...). The aroma is distinctly tequila: it smells aggressively of agave. The reposado is likely less smoky and sweeter, but I haven't tried it. My opinions here might be biased by the fact that the tequila I've sipped the most of is Gran Centenario añejo, which is almost like a scotch. So I suppose any tequila might taste vegetative in comparison.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:20 PM on October 23, 2007

Fourthing? Patron.
posted by 6:1 at 12:08 AM on October 24, 2007

Try the Gran Centenario Plata, the silver Gran Centenario. It has aromas of citrus and melon, a distinct agave flavor and is much softer than most silvers. It is my favorite tequila for the same reason that your looking for something new to try. The agave flavor is central to experience.
posted by Metametadata at 12:23 AM on October 24, 2007

2nding Tommy's, and also the recs for Corralejo and Chinaco. You might also like the Corzo silver.
posted by judith at 12:35 AM on October 24, 2007

Patron again. I have had bad experiences with tequila in college (who hasn't?) but Patron? Patron I like.

Weird combo to try: Cut limes into wedges. Pour some sugar and freeze dried coffee (like Taster's choice) onto a plate (not mixed). Dip one side of the lime into the sugar, dip the other side in the coffee. Shoot the Patron and suck the lime. Surprisingly delicio!
posted by like_neon at 2:07 AM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

What you want is not Tequila at all, but Mezcal. Tequila is usually very industrially distilled sometimes up to three times and is only made from one variety of one type of agave. Mezcal is made from the sweet pulpy center of several types of agave and is usually ditilled just once. Mezcal is baked in an underground stone pit and the agave is smoked with charcoal. Tequila is usually made in an industrial vat or autoclave and the agave is steamed. Subsequently, Tequila tastes like Tequila and has to be heavily drowned in citrus juice or salt to cover how aweful it is while Mezcal can be sipped like a fine scotch even at Mexican summer temperatures (or fired back like a bandito by the tray full screaming "Mamarenos!").

Mezcal will usually be a bit stronger and will have a slight burn going down, but it will also have a real taste of the agave plant, rather than the industrial plant that mass-produced it.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:23 AM on October 24, 2007

Patron is great!
Caution - It can get you in a lot of trouble it's so good
...speaking from experience :)
posted by doorsfan at 6:51 AM on October 24, 2007

It's not exactly what you asked for but if you haven't tried Agavero I can highly recommend it. Its a tequilla liqueur and it is eminently drinkable. Obviously its not a direct tequilla substitute, but it is a great unique non-sickly liqueur which delicious when drunk straight up.
posted by urban greeting at 12:40 PM on October 24, 2007

Cabo Wabo Blanco. The best, despite the Sammy Hagar connection.
posted by cosmac at 2:13 PM on October 24, 2007

Thanks to everyone who replied! I now have enough recommendations to last me through two or three years of tequila drinking.

Here's what I did: I went out and got two bottles, one of El Tesoro de Don Felipe Platinum (blanco), and one of Cabo Wabo reposado. The former was recommended by a non-Mefite friend who read my question. As for the latter, I think Sammy Hagar's great, I've been a fan, and I like eating at his restaurant in town so I thought I'd check out his tequila.

The El Tesoro was exactly what I was looking for. The stuff is so sweet and fragrant and delicate and cactus-y good that it was just freaking delightful. Clearly I was looking for a blanco, which the above answers helped me realize. It was not harsh at all. I will be drinking this over an ice cube and being very happy.

The Cabo reposado is OK - it smells nice, sort of vanilla-y - but I definitely taste a sort of cardboardy thing going on, less cactusy. It will find its way into margaritas.

As I try new tequilas I will report back. Patron blanco is definitely on my short list now (I've had their reposado and anejo and enjoyed both.) For the person who recommended Corralejo, the one margarita I had with their reposado had a really spicy zing to it, which makes me suspect I might not like it straight. But heck, it can't hurt to try!
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:56 PM on October 24, 2007

There is a show on NPR about this today on the splendid table.
posted by Eringatang at 8:18 AM on October 28, 2007

ikkyu - you ever try a splash of xtabentun liquer in your tequila? It's an anise/honey concoction from Merida?
posted by docpops at 4:10 PM on November 2, 2007

I have not, docpops, and I tend to dislike anise, but I will keep an eye out for that.

As an update, I went back to the store and bought two bottles of Puerto Vallarta tequila, the blanco and reposado. They're great, also 100% agave, and considerably less expensive ($15 a fifth) than a lot of the brands mentioned in this thread.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:04 PM on November 19, 2007

I like Don Julio, and recently discovered Casa Noble, which is a fine, fine tequila and a pleasureable experience to drink as well.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:52 PM on March 22, 2008

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