24 Best Tequila Brands of 2023, Tested and Reviewed

There's definitely never been a better time than now to sip a little tequila. We can thank the explosion of traditionally minded artisanal tequilas, but there's also a wider availability of longstanding Mexican brands that lack big marketing budgets, and then the ease of ordering a wide selection online. No, the struggle these days isn't in finding a superb, distinctive, and refined tequila—one that erases any hungover Spring Break memories—but deciding which of the many tequila brands worldwide to try next.

After all, for the better part of the 21st century, tequila has been one of the fastest-growing spirits in the United States. It's already well ahead of gin and rum, and has pulled even with whiskey. Now, the Distilled Spirits Council predicts it will overtake vodka by the end of 2023 to become the best-selling liquor in the country. So how do you decide what to purchase on your next liquor store run?

We rounded up the best of the booming category, including our top pick of the 2023 Men's Journal Spirit Awards: Fortaleza Still Strength, which we consider the perfect tequila for sipping or mixing.

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Why You Should Trust Us

We, the writers of this article, sample hundreds of tequila releases annually. In a normal year, we might make it down to the agave fields of Jalisco upwards of a dozen times, seeing this sacred liquid take shape and interviewing the tireless craftspeople who fashion it from farm to bottle. We also judge spirits competitions—with heavy focus on the tequila sector—and have several decades worth of experience between us as experts in the category.

What We Look For When Choosing the Best Tequila

When properly judging tequila, the process requires but a few essential questions: Does the liquid in question express itself in a natural and compelling way? Does the agave at its core act as the star of the show? Is it something that drinks well on its own—sans mixers—pleasing to both the nose and the tongue. Is it something that we’ll want to drink again after that first sip is finished? If we answer yes to most of those questions, it’s a tequila we’ll surely remember. If we answer yes to all of them, then it’s a tequila we won’t ever forget.

Best Overall Tequila: Fortaleza Still Strength

Fortaleza is made by fifth-generation tequilero Guillermo Sauza—yes, that Sauza, though the family sold off its eponymous brand decades ago—who, in the 1990s, sought to re-create the tequila his great-great-grandfather made a century before.

The agave is crushed by a traditional tahona (or stone wheel), fermented in small wooden vats, and distilled in tiny copper-pot stills for maximum quality control. Notably, Fortaleza is a "lowlands" tequila, which is made from agave that takes longer to ripen than highlands versions, and typically has a sweeter flavor. Sure enough, Fortaleza Still Strength is silky smooth, coming on sweet and a little spicy—like coconut candy with a touch of cinnamon—but leaves you with a briny finish, almost like a salted glass rim. Most of our other picks in this roundup are of the highlands variety, but Fortaleza is, to us, perfection—especially with a dash of lime on the side.

$56 at Total Wine
$56 at Total Wine

Best Reposado Tequila: Mijenta Reposado

Mijenta is a super-premium brand that’s committed to supporting sustainable agriculture and the communities of Jalisco. It also happens to craft some delicious booze. Mijenta Reposado is among the brand's best offerings, teeming with honey and orange.

To tap into those tonalities, maestra tequilera Ana Maria Romero used a combination of American and French oak, along with rarer acacia wood casks. The tequila within spent up to six months of sleep in the battery of barrels.

$67 at Total Wine
$67 at Total Wine
$75 at Wine.com
$75 at Wine.com

Best Blanco Tequila: El Tequileño Blanco

El Tequileño Blanco is aged for just a few weeks in American oak. This herbal-forward juice is a favorite among locals in the actual town of Tequila, Mexico. There’s a pronounced florality to the nose, which you won’t often find in the blanco category.

It’s something you want to savor slowly and contemplatively. The fact you can easily access something so craft-driven for this price point is something of a small miracle.

$27 at Wine.com
$27 at Wine.com
$29 at Total Wine
$29 at Total Wine

Best Añejo Tequila: Sauza Tres Generaciones Añejo

Tres Generaciones Añejo is a small-batch standout that's rich in mouthfeel and slightly smoky on the palate. It makes for a complex dram capable of winning over folks who typically steer towards mezcal.

$45 at Total Wine
$45 at Total Wine
$47 at Wine.com
$47 at Wine.com

Best Tequila for Shots: 123 Tequila Uno

123 Tequila Uno<p>Courtesy Image</p>
123 Tequila Uno

Courtesy Image

David Ravandi began planning his vision for 123 Tequila in the nineties. So, he planted, then waited. Agaves can take more than 10 years to mature, after all, so this is no small feat.

The fruits of his labor are certified organic, which gives "a more delicate, refined flavor profile and a cleaner finish," according to Ravandi. 123 Tequila doesn't use commercial yeasts in the fermentation process either. (As you might expect, the packaging comes from all recycled materials as well.) Ravandi's attention to authentic, small-scale production results in a complexity that skews more citrus and spice than sweet.

$55 at Reserve Bar
$55 at Reserve Bar
$56 at Total Wine
$56 at Total Wine

Best Celebrity Tequila: Casa Noble Joven

Partially owned by rockstar Carlos Santana, Casa Noble makes a range of tasty handcrafted (and certified organic) lowlands tequilas. All are superb, but Casa Noble's limited-production Joven recently captured the attention of our tastebuds.

Bottled at 102 proof for a fuller flavor, Joven sits in oak for just six weeks, which would technically make it a blanco. However, this bottle has a richness and roundness that suggests dark chocolate, without the cloying vanilla and butter flavors that oak can impart.

$65 at Reserve Bar
$65 at Reserve Bar
<p>Courtesy Image</p><p>All añejos have to age in oak for a minimum of a year. But no other expression on the market today is spending that time in barrels saturated with 10-year-old Laphroaig scotch. This particularly poignant seasoning allows for all bits of brine and ocean air to enter the equation. The maritime journey begins with a splash of seaweed in the nose. Upon the palate is an eclectic array of spice, including ginger and cardamom, caressing the caramel and vanilla notes of the cooked agave, which remain apparent from start to finish. </p>

What Are the Different Kinds of Tequila?

Blanco

Also known as silver or plata tequila, this style is typically as clear as it was when it rolled off the still. That’s because it is, by and large, an un-aged expression (though it can rest for up to two months in oak barrels). As such, it affords the purest window into what agave equals in liquid form. Typically, those tasting notes lean toward earthy, vegetal, and even mineral-rich signatures. Connoisseurs are often enamored with the category as a result.

Reposado

Golden reposado means “rested” in Spanish. As the name implies, this subcategory comprises tequilas that rest in oak—for anywhere between two months to a full year. Typically that resting process occurs in American oak barrels that formerly held bourbon. The caramel and vanilla-laden notes of that specific style of whiskey often carries through into the tequila.

Añejo

To be classified as añejo, a tequila must spend between one to three years in the barrel. Those casks can be built of anything, but they can’t be larger than 600 liters in size. The liquid that pours out after aging typically wears a caramel hue. It's often sweeter in substance than its younger counterparts, introducing vanilla, cinnamon, and other elements of the spice rack.

Extra Añejo

Although it encompasses the oldest of liquids, extra añejo (or XA, for short) is actually the newest designation of tequila. It was made standard in 2006 and applies to any tequila that ages for a minimum of three years in barrels no larger than 600 liters in size. These sophisticated sippers usually come at a premium; some of the most expensive agave spirits on the market today wear an XA label.

Cristalino

Cristalino is the most curious of categories. It's the only one not officially recognized by tequila’s governing body, the CRT. As such, there are mere guidelines—as opposed to hard rules—as to what qualifies as an example. But it's most often come to mean an añejo or extra añejo tequila, which then undergoes charcoal filtration in order to strip the color of the aged spirit. What goes into the bottle is a crystal-clear tequila that still retains some of the sweeter barrel notes inherent to cask maturation.

What Is Tequila Made From?

Tequila is a Mexican spirit distilled from the agave plant. More specifically, the species is agave tequilana Weber var. azul (blue Weber agave). Unlike other categories of agave spirits—such as mezcal and sotol—tequila can only be made from this subspecies of the plant.

When the agaves reach maturity after several years, their sugar-rich hearts (piñas) are cooked and crushed; the extracted juice is then fermented and distilled. Several factors come into play at each stage of this process, but at the very least, for a tequila to be great, it must be all agave, with no additives. (Rule number one: Never buy tequila that's not labeled "100 percent agave.")

Moreover, tequila is primarily made in the arid lowlands and rainy highlands outside of Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco. But, by law, it can also be produced in parts of four other Mexican states.

Why Tequila Is So Popular

As for why people love it so much, that’s even simpler to understand. In its highest forms, tequila is full-flavored yet still gentle enough to enjoy neat.

There’s never been more top-shelf varieties of sipping tequilas to choose from, but there are also plenty of other bottles in an array of budgets that mix wonderfully in all sorts of cocktails. Consumers, in turn, are increasingly exposed to the wide range of what the drink can offer.

How to Drink Tequila

Unlike aged whiskies or wines, tequilas that are older aren't necessarily better. And while aging can certainly mask a lesser tequila, any great blanco can make for a beautiful reposado and añejo (and since most of our favorite brands make all three styles, the list we've compiled of the best tequila brands ultimately comprises much more than 18 bottles).

Though the right style is a matter of personal preference, we recommend blancos for sipping neat or as luxurious cocktail mixers.

Reposados are ideal over ice, while añejos come alive when sipped in brandy snifters (while lounging in a worn leather armchair, naturally).

Related: The Best Sipping Tequilas of 2023