Mezcal and Tequila are two of the fastest growing spirits categories in the world. The increased interest in both has seen an explosion of brands across store shelves, making it incredibly daunting for new drinkers to know what to look for.
Fortunately, there are a few solid rules that you can use for buying both Mezcal and Tequila to make sure the bottle you’re thinking of buying actually will deliver on taste.
And remember, Mezcal is not just a different style of Tequila, we wrote a whole piece on knowing the difference here.
There are a few simple rules to help you spot a good bottle of tequila:
Rule #1: Always source a tequila that is 100 percent blue agave. This ensures you’re getting premium quality Tequila and avoiding the hangover.
Rule #2: Don’t confuse colour with quality. Poor quality tequila will mask defects with colouring additives making bad tequila look aged, so don’t judge a book by its cover.
Rule #3: Know which tequila style works for you, as there are four standard varieties:
- Blanco is the ‘purest’ form, coming straight from the stills. This coats the tongue with some fruity flavour and can have that tequila ‘bite’. Perfect option for cocktails and mixed drinks.
- Reposado is tequila aged for between two months to a year in oak barrels. This not only gives it a slight gold hue but cuts down the bite and drinks much smoother.
- Anejo is where you start hitting the top-shelf sipping tequila which are aged for a minimum of one year in oak barrels. This is also where different brands have a chance to put their own spin on the spirit.
- Extra Anejo is the rarest of the rare. Aged for a minimum of three years, these tequilas vary wildly based on the barrels used. These are the prized possessions of tequila drinkers, and should never be put in a mix drink.
Rule #4: Price doesn’t dictate quality. Tequila is a spirit that can be incredibly affordable, with high quality Tequila only costing a few extra dollars over the cheap stuff.
Rule #5: Never, ever buy tequila with a worm.
While you’d think the same rules apply to Mezcal as Tequila, there are some important differences that you need to keep in mind.
Rule #1: As with Tequila, you’re looking for a bottle that is 100% agave. Again, this is a very important point, as anything less is going to be an inferior product.
Rule #2: Look for a higher proof alcohol. Unlike other spirits like bourbon or rums, Mezcal does not benefit from dilution. You want a Mezcal that is “cask strength” which is somewhere in the range of 85-100 proof; that translates to over 45% alcohol.
Rule #3: You absolutely do not want an aged Mezcal, so steer clear from anything that isn’t completely clear. For those of us that have spent years being taught that older barrel aged spirits are the higher quality this seems counter intuitive, but the reality is aged Mezcal loses that really unique vegetal quality it has. So you’re looking for clear only.
Rule #4: Look for details on the bottle. Try to look past the colourful labels and branding and look for what’s important; you want production details like the variety of agave, location, and how the Mezcal was distilled. Seeing these details clearly displayed proves the distiller has nothing to hide.
Rule #5: Shake the bottle, you’re looking for bubbles to form. If after shaking there are no bubbles, avoid that bottle (unless it’s above 55% alcohol, in which case use the other rules to make a decision).