Last year tequila overtook vodka as the best-selling spirit on American shelves, and it’s easy to see why. Sure we love our margaritas, ranch waters and palomas, but aficionados know the best way to enjoy a quality tequila is neat, or with a couple rocks to open up the famously herbaceous spirit. After all the beloved Mexican liquor offers something for nearly everyone: the young Blancos and Jovens gift enthusiasts untouched agave and vegetal notes; lightly aged Reposados bring a slightly smoother, more well-rounded touch; and Añejos and Extra Añejos delight those who prefer smoother, richer and more polished spirits like whiskey and cognac. Here are five of our favorites from 2023 and recommended smokes to pair with them.
Tequila Ocho ‘Plata Puntas 2023’
“It's not me telling the tequila ‘I want you to be 106-proof,’” Carlos Camarena says of his wondrous over-proofed ‘Plata Puntas 2023’ expression. “No, it is the tequila that says, ‘Hey, I'm ready as I am. This is the perfect piece of art.’” And Puntas truly is art. Founded on the principles of expressing the terroir of blue agave, Camarena’s Tequila Ocho label focuses each batch of their juice on a single field, so every bottle states both the expression and the exact field those agaves were sourced from. Taking the handcrafted approach even further, Puntas, aka ‘distiller’s cut,’ plucks only the ideal part of the distillation — a rare task given the attention it requires. Only 1,100 cases of Tequila Ocho ‘Plata Puntas 2023’ made their way to America, find one however you can. SRP $75
Cigar Pairing: Warm citrus notes, charred pineapple, black pepper and spice notes call for a cigar with a medium to full-bodied profile. With hints of black tea and cinnamon, The Warped La Colmena Black Honeyis a perfect matchup with this handcrafted tequila.
Volcán de Mi Tierra ‘Cristalino’
Volcán de Mi Tierra separates itself from the herd by sourcing their 100% blue agave from both of Jalisco's unique terroirs: the Highlands and Lowlands. They also innovate via process, never artificial additives. Consider their use of ‘Grace Casks’ — exclusive American oak barrels used to imbue aromatic vanilla notes — or their unique cellar, buried underground 25-feet with 5-foot-thick walls to allow for cool, gentle and slow aging. Their Volcán de Mi Tierra ‘Cristalino’ is made with Añejo tequila aged in French oak, whisky and cognac casks, then is mildly charcoal filtered with enough restraint to retain color, earthy aromas and flavors rich in minerality and cooked agave. SRP $80
Cigar Pairing: Volcán de Mi Tierra imparts luscious notes of dried fruit, caramel and vanilla on the palate. When a smooth and complex smoke enters the mix, an epic pairing happens. It’s why we recommend ADVentura The Royal Queen’s Pearls.
Patrón ‘El Alto’
Since launching in 1989 Patrón have grown into the world's bestselling super-premium tequila, yet only this year released their first expression in the booming "prestige" category. Aptly dubbed Patrón El Alto, the name is an homage to their Jalisco terroir, as their Hacienda rises from the red clay of Atotonilco El Alto (aka "the Heights"). Famous for their Highland agaves, El Alto was crafted primarily from barrels of 4-year old Extra Añejo, then blended with a touch of Añejo and Reposado tequilas. All aged to their maximum potential, then married to achieve the apex of Patrón's flavor profiles. Think rolling waves of vanilla, oak, caramel and dried figs. SRP $180
Cigar Pairing: A tequila as elevated as Patrón ‘El Alto’ must be met with a cigar on similar footing. Enter Ashton Symmetry. It’s rich in notes of cedar and leather with an intriguing undercurrent of citrus. When enjoyed together, the experience is sublime.
A blanco that aims to excite agave lovers without breaking the bank, Nosotros was founded on the principles of authenticity, purity and sustainability. Like Volcán de Mi Tierra, Nosotros cooks both Highland and Lowland agaves, their 50/50 blend considered both for flavor and sustainability reasons. Carlos Soto launched Nosotros as a college project with a personal loan, but went to great lengths to source the best juice — which paid off as their unaged Blanco immediately won "Best Tequila" at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2017. Needless to say it’s the same distillery and propriety recipe Nosotros uses to this day. SRP $45
CigarPairing:Room101 FARCE Maduro ushers in hints of coffee, pepper, and a sweet bit of dark chocolate to complement the citrus and green agave notes of Nosotros Blanco. The medium to full-bodied FARCE Maduro is the perfect companion to this award-winning juice.
Lagrimas del Valle ‘Palo Verde’
Eschewing most industrialized shortcuts, Lagrimas del Valle utilizes time-honored approaches such as cooking in stone and brick ovens, crushing via tahona wheel and opting for open-air fermentation in wooden tanks. What’s special about Lagrimas del Valle, however, is its ‘Rancho Unico’ approach — meaning like Tequila Ocho each bottling will be made from a single field or farm’s agaves. Palo Verde is the debut bottle, and while the first three expressions all hail from the Lowlands, ranches from other regions will be arriving next year. SRP $65
Cigar Pairing: Pair this tequila with something as unique as the tequila itself - Leaf by Oscar 2018 Limited Edition Barber Pole. This dual-wrapper smoke has been aging since 2018 and is brimming with creamy notes of pepper, gingerbread and cocoa. When smoked alongside the velvety sweet and peppery notes of the tequila, it’s pure magic.