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Judging by the sheer number of new releases we’ve seen over the past several years, cristalino has to be hottest style of tequila on the market these days. George Clooney and Rande Gerber are the latest to buy into the boom with Casamigos Cristalino.
It consists of aged agave spirit, which is charcoal filtered to remove color extracted from the barrel during the maturation process. The Tequila Regulatory Council (yes, that’s a real thing) has yet to officially recognize it as a distinct category, but that hasn’t stopped cristalino from blossoming into a global phenomenon.
As with all top-shelf tequilas, Casamigos is distilled from 100 percent blue weber agave. But unlike most other cristalinos, which typically are built off añejos, this one began its life as a reposado—meaning the liquid was aged between two months to a year in oak casks before it underwent the hue-hiding filtration process.
According to its celebrity founders, this point of separation enables a tequila with full flavor, bereft of any burn.
“Our Casamigos Cristalino is incredibly complex and full of character,” Clooney and Gerber said in a joint statement. “It took many samples for us to create the perfect flavor. We wanted to create something that we were proud of, something that we would drink.”
To their credit, it does demonstrate value as a separate style of spirit, turning toward the caramel and vanilla overtones of an extra-aged tequila, while firmly maintaining the crisp, bright vegetal notes of a proper blanco. Gerber actually enjoys subbing it for gin or vodka in a martini. “I avoid too many ingredients,” he tells Men’s Journal. “Keep it simple to preserve the integrity of the Cristalino.”
We shouldn’t be too surprised by the admirable outcome here. After all, Casamigos’ sister brand Don Julio helped pioneer cristalino back in 2011 with the release of Don Julio 70. Parent company Diageo, it seems, has got the process pretty dialed in by now. Despite selling to the booze behemoth 6 years ago, Gerber insists the ethos of the brand has remained the same.
“Part of the deal was that I would stay on as chairman, as well as George and [third co-founder] Mike Meldman,” he adds. “We don’t work with any outside agencies; everything is done in-house. We continue to control the brand. Diageo’s role is to help with the manufacturing of the product and everything else is left to us and our team.”
The arrangement seems to be working swimmingly. The Casamigos portfolio, which also includes three other expressions of tequila along with a mezcal, has already sold more than three million cases in 2023 alone. And that’s before one single bottle of Cristalino even came to market. Is it a good time to be in the tequila business? Clearly so.