If you’re looking to educate your palate, there’s nothing wrong with taking some advice from the experts. And, luckily, when it comes to tequila, mezcal, and other spirits made with agave, some advice is hot off the press. Last week, judges from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition named their 2021 winners for the best spirits in the world, selecting from 3,800 entrants. Founded in 2000, the event is the oldest and largest of its kind. Before pick up your next bottle, take a look at their choices for best tequilas, mezcals, and agave-based spirits.
Best Silver/Gold Tequila
Tequila Blanco Criollo / Calle 23
Created by Sophie Decobecq, a French biochemist turned tequila maker, the agave for this tequila comes from the highlands of Jalisco. Tequila Blanco Criollo is made from smaller “criollo” blue agave that has a higher concentration of natural sugars. Tasters says it the tequila has aromas of cooked agave and mint balanced against flavors of black pepper and agave.
Best Reposado Tequila
Reserve Collection Reposado Tequila / Cierto
Cierto was started in 2019 by Enrique Fonseca and Sergio Mendoza, fourth- and fifth-generation distillers. Since its debut, the company’s tequila has won nearly 300 awards in international competitions. According to Cierto, Reserve Collection Reposado Tequila has a light aroma with hints of butterscotch and cooked agave. It also has flavors of agave that turn into caramel and then finishes with cinnamon.
Best Añejo Tequila
Añejo Tequila / El Tesoro
The La Alteña distillery has been in Jalisco since 1937. Started by Don Felipe Camarena, his grandson Carlos Camarena is now the master distiller at El Tesoro. Their tequila ages in American oak bourbon barrels for two to three years. According to El Tesoro, Añejo Tequila has an aroma of floral jasmine and oaky character. The taste is sweet agave balancing with pepper, oak, and floral tones.
Best Extra Añejo Tequila
Extra Añejo Tequila / El Tesoro
Made by Carlos Camarena to honor his father, El Tesoro Extra Añejo is aged in oak bourbon barrels for four to five years. This aging gives this vibrant gold tequila aromas of coffee, cinnamon, butter, and also notes of caramel. Additionally, the taste is a blend of coffee, dark chocolate, dry fruits, and roasted almonds.
Best Other Agave Spirit
Raicilla 100% Agave Maximiliana / Perra Suerte
Produced with 100 percent agave maximiliana, Perra Suerte’s raicilla is single-distilled in copper pots, unlike mezcals which are traditionally double-distilled. Not as smoky as a mezcal, Raicilla 100% Agave Maximiliana is handcrafted in Jalisco.
Bacanora Silver / IZO
Different from its tequila and mezcal cousins, bacanora is an agave-based liquor from the Mexican state of Sonora. Because it’s double-distilled in copper and stainless steel and made with a variety of agave called Pacifica, bacanora tastes distinctly different from mezcal. According to IZO, their Bacanora Silver has aromas of desert minerals mixing with tastes of anise, apple, and pepper.
Best Mezcal/Best of Show White Spirits
Cupreata / Mezcal Amarás
The world’s first carbon-neutral mezcal company, Mezcal Amarás focuses on helping local agave farmers and distillers. In fact, it calls this business model “From seed to sip.” Mezcal Amarás Cupreata has notes of pumpkin seed, leather, and cacao. Tastes include bell pepper and spice, with a peppery spice finish.
Not only did Mezcal Amarás Cupreata win Best Mezcal in San Francisco, it then won Best in Show White Spirits. This means that along with beating other tequilas and mezcals, it also got the win over vodkas and gins. That’s something to consider when you make your next trip to the liquor store.
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