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What's up with Tequila?

  • t

I went to buy a bottle of silver tequila as a present for a friend and discovered this sh*t is expensive. Why? I know it has had a bit of a renaissance lately, but man, these prices--even for a low-end brand--are way out of whack from when I last purchased some tequila (maybe 15 years ago). Does anyone have a recommendation for a decent bottle of silver tequila? This friend likes Patron, but I can't lay out +$50 for a bottle of liquor. Is there any hope? Or can you recommend a site where I can post this question for some responses? Thanks.

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  1. I think you'll get some good responses here, once the tequila demi-gods see your post. Me, I'm just barely beginning my master's degree. But I can recommend both Herradura and El Tesoro silvers as being good bottles. They each run about $35-40 here in NorCal. Yeah, quality 100% blue agave tequila isn't cheap.

    4 Replies
    1. re: nja

      I believe there has been a shortage of agave plants the last few years. That's why it's so expensive. Richie

      1. re: Richie

        I too have heard that there's a massive agave shortage in Mexico, made worse by the recent surge in tequila popularity. Agave plants apparently take forever to grow, so it's not like the farmers can say "hey, those folks up north sure do like tequila this year, let's grow more next year." They have to plan decades in advance.

        1. re: nooodles

          In a Wine Spectator a few years ago I read that there was a signifigant Blue Agave blight. Apparently the Agave plants take over 8 years to mature - this added to it's growing popularity has most likely driven the prices up

        2. re: Richie

          The Mexican government put a huge tax increase on it last year.

      2. Supply vs demand. Rise in popularity. Shortage of agave plant. Oh, don't forget the price of oil. So they say. Let's check the price of pork bellies.

        1. As another poster already recommended, I think that El Tesoro makes the best value silver out there right now. In NY, NJ, and PA I have been able to get it for about $35.

          Do a side-by-side with Patron - you may be surprised.

          1. Although I do understand the economics of being unable to "lay out + $ 50 for a bottle of liquor", I really do not think that is expensive for what you are getting. Good tequila ( I concur with the other posters reccomendations )should be treated like a good single malt scotch, straight up or on the rocks and sipped. This quality tequila should NEVER meet a Margarita mix.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tee

              The OP should be able to find plenty of solid silvers for under 50 bucks. That price for silver, even now, sounds significantly out of line.

              I've been a big fan of both Tequila and Mezcal for a long time, and I think the best value in the price range we're talking about is Cazadores reposado. Mostly found in Mexican markets, but starting to reach out to the US market at large.

              I agree that a reposado or anejo should generally be had straight up, though exceptions could be made. But I can't agree that even a very good silver should never be mixed. That's sort of like saying that a very good vodka or gin should never go into a mixed drink. While some might think so, I don't.

              Regarding the use of fine tequila in a cocktail, when the margarita is at the level of, say, Topolobampo's, I'd say it is a good use.

              1. re: JeffB

                Agreed. Its been my experience that if you're making the margarita with good ingredients and proper proportions, the flavor of the tequila shines.

                I recently called a margarita with Chinaco Green Label at a place that makes perfect margaritas. People around me were agast, but when I let my friends taste it, they were in awe - it was incredible.

                Link: http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/livi...

            2. Depending on what your friend plans to do with it, I have found Sauza Silver (I think around $20.00, maybe less, the last time I bought one) to be excellent in mixed drinks, especially Bloody Marias. I've never tried it straight though.

              12 Replies
              1. re: Fydeaux

                The last time I checked Sauza Silver is not 100% agave which is why its so cheap.

                Anything that does not say 100% agave can, by law, be up to 49% anything else (usually cane alcohol) and still be labeled "tequila". This group of tequilas are known as "mixto". Jose Cuervo is another company that produces a lot of mixtos.

                Personally, I find that mixtos give me a brutal headache/hangover and never buy them. And I would never recommend a mixto or Sauza to someone who is interested in a good bottle of tequila.

                Link: http://www.ianchadwick.com/tequila/

                1. re: Pssst
                  Caitlin McGrath

                  What 100% agave do you prefer for mixing?

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    I have a few favorites but because people's preferences are different and because the flavor profiles of various tequila are so different (particularly highland vs. lowland), I recommend tasting them & deciding yourself what you like.

                    Right now, we have three bottles of "cocktail" tequila open (but few of our tequilas ar sacred though I drink my tequila straight more often than not):
                    Orendain - a great deal if you can find their 100% agave offerings since so few people the U.S. has heard of it;
                    Cuervo Traditional - one of their 100% agave offerings, someone brought it to a party; and
                    Cazadores - owned by Bacardi its decent, easy to find & one of the cheaper 100% agave tequilas. Also note that they just launched a more premium brand, Corzo, which is good - it has a beautiful bottle but I don't think its a great price/flavor ratio.

                    We also regularly use El Tesoro and Herradura. Pura Sangre and Cabrita are work horse tequilas that I usually find for a good price in Latin neighborhoods.

                    I tend to haunt various sources looking for deals and then I load up. The last time I was in Guadalajara, Michael & I stuffed 36 bottles of tequila into our suitcases and carry-ons (its soo much cheaper at the source).

                    Lastly, I blend and age tequila myself so sometimes I'll use my experiments as a cocktail tequila.

                    Link: http://www.tommysmargarita.com/newsit...

                    1. re: Pssst
                      Caitlin McGrath

                      Thanks, this gives me plenty to work with!

                      1. re: Pssst

                        As I said, when I'm out and about, look for deals on tequila. Whenever I'm in Colma, I check out Bevmo which is a chain but for some reason the Colma store tends to have a better tequila selection (maybe they don't sell out of stuff as fast as the Bevmo's in SF proper.)

                        Anyway, today I bought Orendain Ollitas Repo 750ml for $22.99 and and Carmessi Repo 375 ml for $22.99.

                        Now here's my complaint (and what makes buying tequila tought for a newbie or someone who doesn't read labels carefully) -

                        The Orendain Ollitas was on the open shelves (not the locked cases) next to all the mixto tequilas. In fact, it was right next to the Orendian Joven (a mixto) so many customers wouldn't even notice that its a 100% agave tequila. And its placement with the mixtos gives the impression that its not as good as the tequilas in the locked case. In the locked case was the Don Eduardo Repo for $40. In my opinion, the Orendain Ollitas is a much better tequila. To confuse things even more, if you check the NOM both bottles are produced at 1110 - the Tequila Orendain facility.

                        So why the price difference? I'm guessing its because until very recently Orendain (the company) sold their mixto in the U.S. using plain bottles and the brand "Orendain" (and Pepe Lopez & Puerto Vallarta, ick!) and they sold "Don Eduardo" as their premium brand in a fancy bottle. So the U.S. public doesn't associate the name Orendain with quality...yet.

                        If they are produced at the same factory, why the taste difference? Well, it could be a number of factors. Agave from different fields. Orendain has both autoclaves and hornitas for baking the agave so maybe that's it. Or it could be the size and/or type of barrels they use for aging. Who knows? All I know is that I prefer the Orendain Ollitas and its way cheaper than the Don Eduardo - hurray for me!

                        Now if you're still reading, let me tell you about the other deal I got - Carmessi Reposado 375ml for $22.99 (at Internet Wines & Spirits its $41.66). Carmessi has only been sold in the U.S. market for a short time. Its NOM is 1103 which is Casa San Matias. They also make Rey Sol (considered one of the best tequilas available), San Matias and Pueblo Viejo tequilas. Carmessi was developed as their "lady's" brand, its wonderfully smooth and delicious. This is a great gift tequila because if the person doesn't care for it straight, well, its a small bottle & they can use it for margaritas (or you can steal it back).

                        FYI - I wiped out Colma store's Orendain Ollitas stock. But I did leave one bottle of Carmessi.

                        1. re: Pssst

                          Followup question regarding "Hornitas" in relation to tequila...

                          "Hornitos" is the diminutive form of the Spanish for "oven." But what is "Hornitas?" I see it on tequila bottles, but haven't been able to find a definition of the word; it doesn't show up in any of the Spanish dictionaries or translators that I have tried.

                    2. re: Pssst

                      Probably meant Sauza Hornitos which is 100% agave and about $24 for 750 ml.

                      Someonw else mentioned Cazadores which is excellent and can be had (if you can find it) for $19 or so.

                      1. re: StriperGuy

                        Cazadores is my favorite margarita tequila.

                      2. re: Pssst

                        While I would agree that Sauza Silver/Plata and Sauza Gold aren't really worth recommending, I think Sauza Hornitos (their 100% agave reposado) is a pretty good buy in the $25 range. Generally I would rather spend a little extra for El Tesoro Reposado, but it's harder to find in my area, and I don't always have the extra money.

                        1. re: Pssst

                          Very Important to remember the 100% Agave. If it doesn't say it, the other 49% is often a mixture of water and some form of sugar along with other stuff, which results in the hangover and stomachache.

                          As for mixing tequila, I guess I'm just a purist, unless it's in a margarita, I think tequila is only meant to be had straight up, sip it like any other liquor, take it in a shotglass but don't drink it all at once; enjoy the tequila. The salt and lime are an americanized thing I think, not really necessary with good tequila.

                          Personally I reccommend Don Julio, it's somewhere between $30 and $45, or at least it was a month or two ago. They have it both as silver and otherwise, I highly reccommend it in any form.

                          1. re: hungry_fox

                            The 49% is a sugar-water made most of the time with sugar, all though some companies will use fructose and before the non process sugar was used, although now it is not usual because it is much more expensive… Always look fro 100% agave azul on the label…

                            I like Don Julio very much, 100% blue agave, the good stuff… other 100% blue agave tequilas to try are Chinaco, Casa Noble, Tesoro and Centinela.

                        2. re: Fydeaux

                          It (Sauza Silver) is pretty decent straight in a pinch. The Sauza family makes good stuff. Tres Generaciaones is our standard anejo with a couple other tequila families around for different occasions.

                        3. Three or four years ago it was reported that an invasive insect had devastated agave fields here in Jalisco. 99.9% of tequila is grown and distilled in this Mexican state; if it doesn't come from Jalisco, it's not tequila--just like if it doesn't come from the Champagne region of France, it's not champagne. The price of all tequila, even here in Mexico, rose enormously at that time.

                          In addition, worldwide demand for tequila also increased enormously and at approximately the same time.

                          Many, many people who had not planted tequila prior to the pest have now planted huge and gorgeous fields of beautiful blue agave. However, one of the other posters is correct. Blue agave takes a long time to mature--not 'decades', but eight to ten years per plant.

                          For more information on tequila growing and processing, here's a link to a most informative website.

                          Link: http://www.itequila.org/made.htm

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Cristina

                            Another problem is that to make tequila one has to destroy an entire agave plant. So that plant has to be replanted and another 8+ year wait is required. That's very different from wine and wine-based spirits (grape vines may take a few years to be productive, but they can be harvested every year thereafter) or grain-based spirits (which are an annual crop).


                            1. re: nja

                              A friend showed me a giant hunk of roasted agave he'd bought at the flea market in King City. We'll see how his attempt at making his own turns out.

                              Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                          2. Wow. Thanks for all the info. I'm not much of a tequila drinker (...since a couple bad experiences during my college years), so this has been interesting.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: The Loaf

                              My first "experience" with tequila was when I was an intern, and the district sales manager put down a shot in front of me. When I downed it, he put down another. Four shots total (I was stupid, what can I say). My recollection of the rest of the evening is poor. My recollection of the next day was that I _felt_ poor. Very poor indeed, and I'd lost my glasses to boot.

                              It took more than a decade, but tequila is now my distilled spirit of choice.

                              My personal favorite for silver tequilas would probably be Oro Azul blanco. It's superb neat, or in a margarita. A little hard to find, and it's not cheap; they don't have the volume or distribution muscle of the bigger houses. Worth it, though!

                              1. re: The Loaf

                                If you're interested in reading more, FWIW, the current issue of Imbibe has a whole article on tequila: http://www.imbibemagazine.com/tequila...

                                I have embraced tequila again too, after bad experiences in college. It's such a shame how many of us first experience bad tequila during nights of too much drinking and then write off the artisan spirit. I'm also a fan of Cazadores Reposado for an affordable option

                              2. After reading this post and the subsequent comments, I made sure to check out my favorite liquor store when I went across the border yesterday. I noticed absolutely no change in prices. Orendain Ollitos, one of my favorite reposados, was still $17 and change for a liter. Other prices seemed exactly where they have been for years. If there is such a price surge, you think it would be evident first in Mexico.

                                Second, what is silver tequila? I searched the shelves carefully and found only the usual culprits (in general order of price/quality): blanco, oro, reposado, and anejo. No evidence of a silver--and this is in a liquor store with probably 70-80 tequila options, maybe more, several of which are well over $50 a bottle. Is silver just some gimmick to sell white tequila to unknowing Americans at high prices?

                                On a separate point, a real margherita never has margherita mix in it (ugghh). And a real margherita (imho)does profit from the use of a good reposado tequila.


                                2 Replies
                                1. re: e.d.

                                  Is silver just some gimmick to sell white tequila to unknowing Americans at high prices? -

                                  Pretty much. Some brands use "Silver" instead of "Blanco" or "Plata". One assumes its a marketing decision.

                                  If you want to learn more about tequila, I recommend two books:
                                  The Tequila Lover's Guide to Mexico by Lance Cutler
                                  The Book of Tequila by Bob Emmons

                                  Also -
                                  Tequila: A Natural and Cultural History by Ana Guadalupe Valenzuela-Zapata (an ethnobotanist) which I found interesting and gave me an understanding of the blight problem.

                                  1. re: e.d.

                                    Silver tequila (aka Plata or Blanco) has been aged in either steel or wax-lined barrels. This prevents the oak barrels from influencing the flavor and color of the liquid. I myself prefer a slightly oaky tequila, similar to a chardonnay or whiskey. Generally speaking, a reposado has been aged 6-12 months, and an anejo at least a year. And mezcal is anything tequila-like made with less than 50% blue agave and/or outside the Jalisco region. Doesn't necessarily mean worms.

                                  2. My husband is from Guadalajara and he loves tequila "Regional" but the only place I can get it is in Mexico - has any seen it in Cali somewhere towards the bay area??

                                    1. Another thread reminded me of this.

                                      You might try to give your friend Patron XO Caffe (http://www.wittyswine.com/sku12367.html), it's coffee flavored tequila. Since he likes Patron and he likes tequila, this could be a fun gift, plus it's only $20.

                                      1. Hi,
                                        I have also heard about the agave shortage, which I can see reflected in the higher prices. But I think if you are going to invest in a bottle, you need to go for the good stuff, or you'll regret it the next day. I always wonder about those brands who say they are 100% agave but sell at $20 or $30 bucks. I recommend a tequila called Partida. It's not very well known, but the taste is excellent. It's 100% estate grown agave and has won a number of awards in tequila tasting competitions. If you like Patron silver, try Partida Blanco. You should be able to get it for less than a bottle of Patron.

                                        1. My husband just finished a tequila tasting when visiting Mexico...in no way does this make him an expert. He tasted 9 while there and has tried a variety of others over his lifetime. Prior to our recent Mexico trip his favorite tequila was Patron anejo, about $55/bottle. If he was drinking on the cheap he'd drink Tres Generaciones anejo, priced in the upper $30. For margarita's he prefers Sauza's Hornitos. His findings from our recent trip are below:

                                          He tried 9 different tequilas over 3 nights (Anejos - Gran Centenario, Don Fernando, Don Julio and Don Julio 1942; Reposados - Clase Azul, Don Julio, Gran Centenario, Milagro and Cazadores)

                                          All of the anejos were very smooth. His favorite was Gran Centenario Anejo with Don Julio a close second. Don Fernando was good but did not seem to be as full-bodied as the first two. As for Don Julio 1942 it was the smoothest but for him it seemed to just evaporate too quickly so there was not as much long lasting flavor to enjoy. It certainly was not worth the price difference ($105/bottle) between it and the others.

                                          Among the reposados he liked all of them except for Cazadores which was a little too harsh for to just sip and enjoy. The other four were smooth but did not have as intense a flavor as some of the anejos. Clase Azul stood out as different because of its sweet fruity taste which was a nice change of pace.

                                          His overall favorite was the Gran Centenario Anejo

                                          He had wanted to try the El Tesoro Silver & Anejo as well as Milagro Resposado but couldn't find them.

                                          Here's a list that he used along with other resources for his most recent test:


                                          1. Something called supply and demand is at work here. Same thing happened to single malt scotch a few years back and rum after that.

                                            Once something gets "trendy", the makers can jack the price up and people will buy it.

                                            1. I'm new to this tequila game. I had tried tequila before once upon a time but no brand ever stood out to me. Many times I was having frozen margs in restaraunts, and sometimes a marg on the rocks with a particular tequila that was being showcased at that time.

                                              A few months ago a friend of mine stopped by with a bottle of Cabo Wabo Reposado. It might've been 6 months ago now. Anyway, he brought by some salt and limes and even a couple of shot glasses and left them at my house. I already had a few of them and so I was glad to store them for him. The wife and I normally drink Crown and coke, and sometimes buy the Special Reserve of that. Otherwise, it's usually some random import or micro brew. Anyway, I guess we were impressed. But we still had no knowledge whatsoever.

                                              We proceeded to buy some of the Cabo Wabo for ourselves. And we bought some mixto (El Jimador Reposado) to use with Bacardi frozen mixes. We bought some cointreau as well and we ended up making a few mistakes but ofcourse the Cabo Wabo always seemed like a really nice sip of tequila to me. I didn't want to waste it in the frozen marq for sure. And I partly didn't really want to use it for margaritas at all. Just sips and shots. Lime and kosher salt.

                                              When we weren't drinking the mixto we had a great time. The mixto generally caused severe hangovers the next day but we thought it more appropriate for frozens the more we learned. I did alot of research at the time. I combed the web pretty good. I came across this website which gave me lots of ideas and several others including ofcourse the manufacturer websites and info sites that are out there. And yet each tequila purchase had different results. There was still more to learn. For example, we tried a recommended Sotol Hacienda de Chihuahua as a reasonably priced tequila, only to find out that it was Mescal (like tequila) but from a different plant. Different flavor. Good quality overall but not the flavor I was searching for.

                                              I've now tried Cabo Wabo Repo, Don Eduardo Anejo, Patron Anejo, Centenario Plata, and ofcourse the Sotol and the El Jimador. Apparently, at one time the El Jimador was 100% blue agave but it's not anymore. Use at your own risk! I've found there are some very similar flavors among the premium tequila players that I've tried. But I must admit I have a long way to go in this learning curve because I have yet to try all three types of any given brand. Ie. Patron silver, repo and anejo (for contrast among just one brand) The more I try the better comparisons I'll have among say the silvers...or the reposados.

                                              So far, the winner is the two Anejo's. Followed by the repos. I still need to drink a few more silvers to fully appreciate them. But I'm there with the repo and anejo's.

                                              I live in Austin, Tx and the liquor store by my house was kind enough to give me a VIP card one time when I went in and was 'studying' the tequila section. I notice pretty big price differences just between 2 of the 3 stores that I know of near me. But that's cool because you can get a good deal on one thing at one store, whereas it's much higher priced at another store. You get what you can where you can.

                                              Thanks to everyone who has posted anything here. I've jotted down all the recommended brands for reference. And between these recommendations and the research I've done on the web, I know the good stuff when I see it. Then I'm just looking for the best price among the best brands. Oh yeah, one more thing, for me, silver/plata/blanco's (if 100% agave) seem best for the margaritas. Maybe maybe maybe a repo. But really the reposado and anejo's are best by the sip. I'm buying my riedel glasses and some extra pitcher/shot glasses pronto!

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: SpinDoctor

                                                Time for an update. I've now tried various blanco's, reposado's and anejo's. With few exceptions, I've enjoyed all the 100% de agave offerings. I'm starting to come around to blanco's. And there's something to be said for all of them depending on your mood at the time.

                                                While 100% de agave is a must, one must drink responsibly if they want to avoid a hangover even with the finest spirits. But as long as one drinks plenty of water and eats prior (and sometimes after) drinking, the ride is quite enjoyable. Ease into it. No rush. Know your limit. You'll enjoy half a bottle at a time alot more than the whole bottle at a time. You might even enjoy 1/3 of it at a time. But my feeling is that when I awake the next day after drinking a fine fine tequila, I like the feeling the next day.

                                                In the blanco's I've tried" Gran Centranario Plata, El Tesoro Platinum De Don Felipe, and Milagro. For reposado's I've tried: Cabo Wabo, Sauza Tres Generaciones, Sauza Hornitos and Sotol: Hacienda de Chihuahua. And for anejo's I've tried: Cabo Wabo, Patron, Don Eduardo, Don Julio and D Los Altos. I know it's somewhat limited so far it's growing.

                                                A friend of mine formed a little tequila club of our own and we go in half on bottles of different offerings. We also purchase on our own and report our findings back to each other. So, sometimes we find something on our own and then suggest it for the very next meeting. It helps us cover more ground and saves us money in the process.

                                                I find that cinnamon and orange slices are best with most anejo's. But it just depends on the tequila really. I got the idea with Cabo Wabo & Don Julio's anejo's. I haven't done that with a blanco though. I've used the equivalent of a reidel glass with chilled anejo. That was pretty cool. I try most things at room temp first and then cool them and see what that's like. It can go either way depending on the tequila. Both are fun. Tonight I'm drinking El Tesoro Platinum De Don Felipe at room temp with no salt and no lime. I cut a lime but thought it sour. And I must admit, after starting with repo's, going through an anejo phase, I'm now very much enjoying blanco's and plan on trying more of them. They're the cheapest of any great tequila line. And if one enjoys the blanco, they're probably (And I say probably here) going to dig the reposado and the anejo.

                                                I've been meaning to try Patron Silver and Chinaco (any variety really). And the same goes for the El Tesoro. I've heard such good things and this blanco was very reasonably priced at $38 at Reuben's in S. Austin, TX. I got on a chilling stretch there with anejo's. In the case of Sauza Hornitos it was a must. It's not needed with the El Tesoro Platinum. The Sauza Hornitos was about $27.50 which didn't seem like a bargain for such middle of the road 100% de agave tequila. For that much money I'd probably go with Cazadores Repo next time. Or even a blanco option.

                                                1. re: SpinDoctor

                                                  If you can find Porfidio's Plata I recommend it highly. A great sipping blanco.

                                              2. There are still quite a few 100% agave tequilas available under $40.00. Sol Azul, Fina Estampa, Hacienda de Oro, etc. Plus the Hacienda de Chihuahua sotol products are tough to beat, and very affordable.

                                                Check http://www.tequila.net for more info, and to see top rated tequila brands and other agave products.