Editor's Note: We're all about tequila this week. Whether you're making margaritas or sipping straight, we're hoping to help you to discover the joys of tequila beyond the shots you took in college. (Those didn't end joyfully, did they?)
Our man Michael Dietsch already offered up a great guide to the spirit's history and production process, so you're practically an expert now—except the only bottle on your liquor cabinet is cheap mixto left over from last year's Cinco de Mayo celebration. Looks like you're ready to try something new—maybe even sip a little silver tequila on its own to see what this agave business actually tastes like. But which blanco tequila is best? Here's are a few of our recommendations.
Blanco tequila is a fun place to start your tequila tasting adventure because it gives you a sense of agave at its purest, and can even show you the differences between agave grown in different regions and at different elevations. Consider teaming up with a group of friends to gather a few different bottles to compare.
Smooth and Easy-Drinking
If you asked us for just one crowd-pleasing silver tequila, we'd point you toward Don Julio Blanco. Even those who swear they don't like tequila can drink this stuff, because it's smooth and rich tasting, creamy with a delicate herbal character—think hints of sage and dill. This Highlands tequila has a fresh, sweet, floral side, and it's seamless in a cocktail. It sells for around $46 for 750 mL.
We also like Partida Blanco, a lowlands tequila that's rich and a little peppery, though it's not quite as complex as our other top choices, and it costs a few bucks more. If you want your tequila to taste pure and rich, you'll like this.
Flavorful and Fascinating
The easy-drinking options above will please a crowd, but where tequila gets really interesting is when you get into the more flavorful options. Earthy El Tesoro Platinum has a scent bursting with green olives, lemongrass, and galangal, and the spicy gingery flavor continues through each deeply flavorful sip. If you like peppery, grassy olive oil then this is the tequila for you. The herbal flavor lingers in the mouth and calls out to be paired with food—try ceviche or ripe, creamy avocado. El Tesoro Platinum sells for about $45 for 750 mL.
We also love the lively, assertive Siembra Azul Blanco, a small-batch highlands tequila that balances floral, fresh cucumber and kaffir lime-leaf flavors with a bit of cinnamon-like, cracked-pepper spice. The rich olive-brine side of this tequila makes it perfect for drinking martini-style (consider a splash of good vermouth.) If you wonder what agave tastes like, this bottle is a $34 investment you should make in the name of research.
The Karakasevic family who make Charbay spirits in California went to Mexico to distill their Charbay Tequila Blanco, and the result is pretty gorgeous, sweet and full, with a floral chamomile side. It's lush and rich, which makes it easy-drinking, but it's also full of spice and savory olive flavor without any bitterness or harshness. It's around $52, and well worth seeking out.
Disclosure: All tequilas were provided as samples for review consideration. (Only top selections after tasting were added to this list.)