Types of Tequila: Your Complete Guide
Written by Emma C | Updated March 2023
Whether you’re a long-time tequila fan or you’re just starting to explore it, there’s a lot to discover about this historic Mexican spirit. This includes several types of tequila with many interesting differences between them. Thanks to everything from the production method to the aging process, each tequila expression is unique. For example, an unaged blanco has the agave’s purest flavor, while a rich extra añejo carries notes of oak and caramel. Another great thing about tequila is its versatility on its own or mixed into tasty cocktails.
Keep reading to learn all about what the spirit is and where it comes from along with the five different tequila expressions and how they taste. While you’re at it, be sure to check out our recommendations available in our bottle shop for some of the best bottles you can get your hands on.
Tequila is an alcoholic spirit from Mexico that originated in the 1600s, when Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle, known as “the Father of Tequila”, produced “mezcal de tequila” at Mexico’s first large-scale distillery in Jalisco. This was basically the same as mezcal until the 1870s. It was then discovered that blue agave was best to produce the spirit with, and the industry began to produce tequila as we know it today. Though the spirit comes from one of five Mexican states, Jalisco produces and exports the vast majority of tequila, and most tequila distilleries are located in the state’s highland and lowland regions. The spirit must be distilled with at least 51% agave and no more than 49% sugar, then bottled between 35% to 55% ABV (alcohol by volume).
There are five main types of tequila: Blanco, reposado, añejo, extra añejo, and cristalino. These are outlined below, along with some of the best tequila bottles by expression.
Blanco tequila, also known as Plata, silver, or white, is not aged in oak. So, it carries the agave’s natural flavor and characteristics in their purest form, along with the terroir of the region in which it was grown. Distillers can briefly age this type of tequila in steel or neutral oak tanks for less than two months. This lets flavors settle in while still bringing forward the strongest notes once bottled. Blanco tequila has a strong profile and is hotter than other tequilas. It delivers notes of vegetal grassy or herbal, citrus, black pepper, or other spices, and sweetness from the agave.
This tequila expression works well in cocktails, like a Paloma or Margarita, since it stands up next to nearly any mixer. At the same time, this can make it harsh for newbies to tequila or those who prefer milder flavors. So, if you’re looking to enjoy blanco on its own, you’re best off with an extra smooth brand that delivers its complexity without the fiery burn.
Taster’s Club Top Blanco Recommendations – Available in Our Bottle Shop
123 Organic Blanco Tequila Uno
The stars dance in the sky for as many as ten years before the organic agaves are harvested for 123 Organic Blanco (Uno) tequila, the pure mother spirit from which Reposado (Dos) and Añejo (Tres) tequilas are created. Under the watchful gaze of the guardian snake (coatl), the mature agaves are hand-harvested and the hearts are slowly cooked in stone ovens before being pressed to release their sugary juice. After a natural fermentation and small-batch distillation, Blanco tequila is born.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Earth, Citrus, Pepper | ABV: 40%
Tequila Ocho Plata
From the finest, overripe agaves comes the finest quality tequila from the Highlands of Jalisco. Our single field estate grown agaves are looked after carefully by the Camarena family. From the fields to your glass, the agave brings with it the essence of the rancho from which it grew. This is terroir – a sense of time and place. Tequila Ocho’s Plata delivers maximum agave.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Lavender, Chamomile, Jalapeño, Peach, Rose, Honeysuckle | ABV: 40%
Tequila Herradura Silver
Herradura Silver owes its distinctly sweet taste of agave and subtle oak notes to resting for an impressive 45 days beyond the industry standard in American White Oak barrels. The prolonged aging process creates a light straw color with a unique, robust aroma of cooked agave, vanilla, and wood that leaves your mouth feeling smooth and refreshed.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Agave, Oak | ABV: 40%
To make aged or reposado tequila, distillers use their blanco tequila but store it in oak barrels where it sits anywhere from two months to one year. As it ages, it retains the original agave juice notes while developing a unique flavor all its own. The liquid turns to a dark gold as the wood tannins turn to honey and caramel notes, sometimes with a toastiness.
The natural spicy, citrusy flavors of the tequila still hold but help to create more complex flavors like chili, chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. When it comes to enjoying a good reposado, you’ll find some can stand up to cocktail mixes but others are best savored neat or on ice.
Taster’s Club Top Reposado Recommendations – Available in Our Bottle Shop
Tequila Ocho Reposado
Tequila Ocho’s Reposado is made with 100% blue agave, harvested only when overripe, and distilled at La Alteña Distillery in the Highlands of Jalisco. This expression is rested for 8 weeks and 8 days in ex-American whiskey barrels, just over the minimum amount of time as required by law, giving the reposado a round, cooked agave note.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Coffee, Pepper, Plum, Almond, Toffee | ABV: 40%
This moderately full-bodied gold tequila is smooth with butterscotch, vanilla, and toasted coconut flavors. The oak barrel aging process allows for a sweet then dry well-rounded finish.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Herb, Coriander, Bell Pepper, Cinnamon | ABV: 40%
Casa Noble Tequila Reposado
Aromas of vanilla, lemongrass, and floral notes are balanced with flavors of sweet cooked agave and toasted oak. Unlike other Reposados that are aged for 4-6 months, Casa Noble Reposado Tequila is aged for 364 days in new French oak barrels.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Agave, Oak | ABV: 40%
If the aging process passes a year but ends prior to three, you no longer have a reposado but an añejo tequila instead. The longer time frame and the fact that it sits in no larger than a 600-liter barrel gives añejos even more wood character than their predecessor. It also makes the colors and notes darker and more intense and brings out a richer flavor.
Some añejos replace the acidity of younger tequilas with a more caramelized, sweeter taste. They can be great in cocktails like an Añejo Old Fashioned or Sidecar. Here are our top Añejo recommendations.
Taster’s Club Top Añejo Recommendations – Available in Our Bottle Shop
This smooth tequila is hand-picked by jimadores, slow-roasted in adobe brick ovens, aged in American oak barrels, packaged in sustainable materials, and brought to you from this family-run distillery. 818 values every step of its process and respects those who make it possible, all while fulfilling its commitment to the earth.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Caramel, Vanilla, Butterscotch | ABV: 40%
Olmeca Altos Añejo
Olmeca Altos Reposado and Añejo are aged in 200-liter bourbon barrels for a minimum of 12 months. Using smaller barrels creates a more complex profile, perfectly balanced, keeping its unique tequila taste. Tequila Añejo will improve both a Manhattan and spicy Margarita.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Pepper, Almond, Caramel, Wood, Grass | ABV: 40%
Tequila Patrón Añejo
Patrón Añejo is handcrafted from the finest 100% Weber Blue Agave and is carefully distilled in small batches at Hacienda Patrón distillery in Jalisco. It's then aged for over 12 months in a combination of French oak, Hungarian oak, and used American whiskey barrels.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Cinnamon, Sandalwood, Grass, Vanilla, Fudge, Spice | ABV: 40%
When tequila is aged in oak for over three years it is considered extra or ultra añejo. Classified as a type of tequila in 2006, the relatively new extra añejo needs to be cut with water to reduce its high proof and make it an even smoother spirit.
This tequila type can be expensive and is often compared to a quality Scotch due to its long aging time, caramel quality, and peatiness. Because of this, many people prefer to savor it neat or on the rocks, rather than mixed into a cocktail. Here are our go-to Extra Añejo recommendations.
Taster’s Club Top Extra Añejo Recommendations – Available in Our Bottle Shop
Don Fulano Extra Imperial Extra Anejo Tequila
Don Fulano Imperial is exceptionally smooth and complex, an extra añejo blended from tequila aged a minimum of 5 years, and including tequila as old as 12 years. The tequila is aged entirely in French Oak barrels sourced from wine regions including Burgundy, Bordeaux, Loire Valley, and Napa before being finished in an Oloroso sherry cask. Abundant in fruit notes and spices like clove, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It offers deep notes of maple and dark chocolate, tobacco and a lavish aroma of black cherries frame its defined style. It is velvety and permanent in the mouth without losing the sweet agave spice.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Fruit, Spice, Maple, Chocolate, Tobacco | ABV: 40%
Tequila Avión Reserva 44
Avión Reserva 44 is handcrafted in limited batches. This extra añejo tequila is aged for at least 36 months in American oak barrels and comes out in a light gold color with aromas of cooked agave, vanilla, and roasted hazelnut. Once you taste it, you’ll notice dry, spicy, and sweet flavors of honey, vanilla, caramel, nuts, and leather. The spirit finishes medium-long and dry.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Honey, Vanilla, Caramel, Nut, Leather | ABV: 40%
El Tesoro Extra Añejo Tequila
This extra añejo honors Carlos Camarena’s father Felipe J. and their shared passion for aging tequila. The special tequila blend is slowly aged in American oak ex-bourbon barrels for four to five years, which add rich flavors of chocolate and coffee.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Chocolate, Coffee | ABV: 40%
Tequila cristalino is like an añejo or aged tequila, but it's filtered, usually through charcoal, so that the colors it naturally becomes from barrel aging are removed. Woodsy notes are also removed during this process, though the rich mouthfeel and flavors from the barrel remain. The unique finished product has the complexity and character of an añejo with the brightness of a blanco. Some tasty cristalino cocktails include the Spritzer and Bloody Mary. Here are our top Cristalino recommendations
Taster’s Club Top Cristalino Recommendations – Available in Our Bottle Shop
Cazadores Tequila Anejo Cristalino
Tequila CAZADORES Añejo Cristalino owes its sheer transparency to its time-consuming and thorough filtration process. Its foundation is first achieved through the slow and harmonious process of fermentation and distillation. This high-quality tequila rests in new American oak barrels for 12 months and is then filtered to remove its color while conserving the sensory qualities of añejo tequila. Its mellow wood, green, and almond notes are perfect for enjoying neat.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Wood, Grass, Pepper, Almond | ABV: 40%
Tequila Partida Cristalino Añejo
Partida Anejo Cristalino builds upon the foundation of Partida Anejo, creating a spirit with the clarity of a diamond and the palate of an 18-month aged anejo. Perfectly matured in ex-bourbon barrels for 18 months, this pure Blue Weber agave gem undergoes a natural charcoal filtration to remove all color and celebrate the complex precision of what makes a true cristalino. Discover bright aromas of vanilla and honeysuckle as they mingle with luscious fig and quince on the background of subtle cacao, cinnamon, and coffee. With a pleasantly long and lingering dry finish, this star of Mexico is crafted to be savored.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Dried Fruit, Oak, Nut, Olive, Vanilla | ABV: 40%
Tequila Herradura Ultra Añejo Tequila
The crisp taste of Herradura Ultra starts with one of the brand’s finest añejos filtered to remove color and enhance smoothness. Prior to filtering, a subtle hint of pure agave nectar is added giving ultra-subtle notes of cooked agave, caramel, and honey with toasted almonds and a finish that is beyond smooth.
Region: Jalisco | Tasting Notes: Vanilla, Caramel, Butterscotch, Agave | ABV: 40%
People drink tequila in all sorts of ways, and you’ll definitely find this varies between the US and Mexico. For a more authentic tequila experience, opt for a pure 100% agave reposado, añejo, or extra/ultra añejo tequila as opposed to mixto, which is made with sugar. Savor and truly appreciate it by sipping slowly. Of course, tequila also makes a great feature of many go-to cocktails, like the margarita, el diablo, or paloma. The bottom line is you can’t go wrong – just follow your tastebuds.
Looking For An Industry-Leading Curated Monthy Tequila Subscription Service? Taster's Club Got you!
Taster’s Club is the Premiere online shop for anyone looking for a curated Liquor of the Month Club or a one-off bottle purchase from our Bottle Shop.
FAQs: Types of tequila frequently asked questions
Where does tequila come from?
In the 1600s, tequila was first produced as “mezcal de tequila” at Mexico’s first large-scale distillery in Jalisco. Until the 1870s, it was largely the same as mezcal. Then, the Blue Weber agave variety was discovered as the best to produce the spirit from. The drink became widely popular in the US during prohibition when bootleggers snuck it across the border and American tourists enjoyed it in the neighboring bars of Tijuana.
What are the types of tequila?
There are five types of tequila.
- Blanco: Unaged or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels.
- Reposado: Aged for a minimum of two months but less than a year in wood barrels or storage tanks.
- Añejo: Aged in oak barrels up to 600 liters for at least one year but less than three.
- Extra añejo: Aged in oak for at least three years.
- Cristalino: A filtered añejo tequila.
What does tequila taste like?
Overall, tequila is smooth, sweet, and fruity. The oak aging process of certain types makes it complex and toasty. Tequilas from Jalisco’s highlands are sweet with mineral, fruit, and floral notes. The state’s lowlands produce a more spicy, herbaceous, and earthy flavor which is initially a little harder on the palate. So, for those just getting to know the spirit, it’s best to start with a cocktail made with highland tequila.