Over the last year or so there have been some excellent blanco tequilas released into the market, so we thought it was high time to put together a blind tasting event to see how these newer products would measure against some popular contenders.
We selected four new tequilas in our Confirmed Additive-Free program that we feel are of excellent quality and put them up against 2 well-known products to see how they would compare when tasted blind.
In addition, we thought this blind tasting would be a great opportunity to test a couple of myths about tequila preferences. For instance, how much does experience and education affect tasters’ preferences? And is it true that women prefer a different style of tequila than men?
To harvest this data we set out to balance our group of 36 tasters according to gender and experience: we identified half of the tasters as aficionados based on their knowledge (trained tasters and/or members of our Tasting Panel), and half as fans. We also split the group 50-50 between men and women. This yielded some compelling results, but first, let’s get into the top-line numbers!
Nueveuno Tequila Blanco
Teremana Tequila Blanco
Inspiro Tequila Luna Blanco
Casamigos Tequila Blanco
Los Dos Tequila Blanco
Wild Common Tequila Blanco (Lot 01)
The Overall Scores:
1) Wild Common Blanco (Lot 01)
— 88.4 points/average
This bold and bright tequila was first released last year, amid much praise from aficionados. It’s made at the Cascahuín distillery in Arenal, Jalisco, which is known for its excellent additive-free blancos, including Cascahuín Tahona, ArteNOM 1123, and Siembra Valles.
The production process here is a combination of tahona and roller mill; fermentation with and without fibers in both cement and stainless steel tanks. It clocks in at 42% abv, slightly higher than the others in the lineup.
It is commonly heard that tequila cannot please both aficionados and regular drinkers, but in this blind tasting Wild Common did just that. It scored the most points in both groups. It also scored the most points among both men and women.
“Spices, mint, and dry earth, this is definitely a proper tequila! Easy on the palate but with enough pop to let you know it’s legit.”
“The nose on this was beautiful. Cooked agave, kiwi fruit, pineapple, and black pepper. The taste didn’t disappoint.”
— 85 points/average
The second-highest scoring was Los Dos, made at the Vivancos Distillery (NOM 1414) in Arandas, Jalisco. It is one of a stable of noteworthy products crafted by Master Distiller Sergio Cruz, who also makes Gran Dovejo, De-Nada, Yeyo, and Tau tequilas (all confirmed additive-free!)
Agaves from Los Altos are cooked in brick ovens, and extraction is via roller mill. They used a slow (8 days) open-air fermentation process using champagne yeast. This tequila was then rested in stainless steel for 6 months, and then oxygenated before bottling.
The sweetness found in the finish was possible due to some innovative distillation cuts and blending done by Sergio Cruz. The extended resting period is also a key component that brings everything together. This is more proof that good things are possible when a producer isn’t in a rush.
“Big and creamy texture on the palate, this blanco explodes with flavors that are definitely found in the nose, so definitely no additives being used here. I love the big robust finish. Would buy and drink again as well as recommend this to everyone as a proper and traditional tequila!”
“Nose has subtle baked agave along with some fruit. Flavor has a little baked agave but not much. The finish has a lingering sweetness with overripe fruit, maybe pears.”
— 84.8 points/average
In at a very close third was Inspiro Luna Blanco, a new product that markets itself as produced by women, for women. It is rested for less than a month in used oak barrels, and then in stainless steel before bottling. This gives it a smoother profile with faint vanilla barrel notes without having to use additives.
The production process also involves the use of 2 different yeast strains, which are distilled separately and then blended according to taste to achieve a more complex profile.
In fact, it was produced at NOM 1614 (Tequilera TAP) in Amatitan, Jalisco which is a 100% additive-free distillery. The master distiller is the highly respected Ana María Romero Mena, and the brand is the idea of Mara Smith, a former attorney.
Resting a blanco in oak is not a common practice because it requires more time, but Inspiro wasn’t in a hurry. Resting a blanco tequila in oak for less than 60 days is legally permitted according to the rules. The touch of vanilla imparted by the barrels caused some of our raters to wonder if additives were used, but we can confirm that none were.
“The agave is sweet and zesty here. Full texture with medium oils. Finish is decently long, prolonging some agave and fruit.”
“Aroma has small hints of baked agave, some citrus, and floral notes. Taste has agave with lots of pepper and spiciness.”
— 84.7 points/average
This certified organic and Kosher tequila is made at the Rancho Miravalle distillery (NOM 1426) in Amatitan, Jalisco, and overseen by a master distiller Nohemi Partida of the famed Partida family, long known for tequila making.
Agaves are cooked in brick ovens and extraction is via a roller mill. Since the Partida family are also agave growers they were able to select mature Tequila Valley-grown agaves for Nueveuno. The result is a high quality, traditional product. Once again, the scores were very close, with Nueveuno coming in just 0.1 points behind Inspiro, and 0.3 points behind Los Dos.
“Solid, bold, old school agave aroma. Really nice flavor — the most consistent by far across two tastings. Good balanced mix of sweet agave, earth, mint. Decent finish.”
“Somewhat muted nose initially but it opened up after sitting a few minutes. Nice balance of sweetness, agave, pepper notes and ethanol.”
— 84.6 points/average
This tequila took the spirits world by storm in 2020, selling a record amount of cases (around 300,000) for a new product. This was largely due to the high profile of its celebrity backer, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who did an impressive job marketing it to his followers. It also benefited from a traditional process of brick oven cooking, and distillation in copper pot stills.
We haven’t put Teremana in any blind tastings until now, and we were eager to get responses. The tequila has its own distillery (NOM 1613), which sits on the property of Productos Finos de Agave (NOM 1416). Although the later distillery has a modern diffuser and column still on-site, neither are used in the production of Teremana.
Although Teremana is not (yet) on our Confirmed Additive-Free list, our raters did not suspect it of containing any additives.
“There is a big punch of agave on the nose! It is very agave forward on the flavor with a floral hint. The finish has a long finish of agave.”
“Caramel, funky, overripe fruit and black pepper on the taste. Finish is a little bitter.”
— 80.9 points/average
No tequila has as much celebrity swag as Casamigos, even though founders George Clooney and Randy Gerber sold out in 2017. It has also been a huge seller, prompting other celebrities to jump into the tequila arena, dreaming of a $1 billion exit. However, this product has not been as much of a hit with the aficionados who use our app. It has been called out as being overly sweet with heavy vanilla notes.
Not much is known about the production processes involved in Casamigos. When they switched distilleries to NOM 1609 (away from NOM 1416) we lost the ability to say with first-hand knowledge which type of production processes are in use. (Hey, Diageo, we would love to tour your newest facility.)
However, the aficionados in our blind tasting overwhelmingly expressed their opinion that this product contained additives.
“Aroma is overwhelmingly vanilla, with perhaps a little bit of plastic/rubber like scent. The texture is a bit watery. The flavor is sweet with loads of vanilla, a little woody. Peppery finish.”
“This blanco didn’t smell like tequila at all. The nose was cotton candy and vanilla. (They) are prevalent with no agave whatsoever.”
“Bubblegum and toasted marshmallow on the nose. Not expecting a lot after nosing this.”
Now let’s look a little deeper, because this is where it gets really interesting.
When we look at preferences according to aficionados vs. fans the scores are pretty close on each product, except for Casamigos. For this product the gap between educated tasters and casual drinkers was a whopping 7.6 points. (Aficionados gave it 77.7 point average, while fans gave it an average score of 85.3.)
The lower rating by Aficionados for Casamigos was consistent, whether the taster was male or female.
Speaking of females, let’s see how the different genders rated Inspiro blanco, since it’s targeted at women. As it turns out, men rated this product 0.8 points higher than women on average, at 85.2 versus 84.4 among women. So, perhaps having a cleaner, slightly vanilla profile attracts sippers of all stripes!
Another interesting takeaway was the perception of value (or bang for the buck) among the different groups. The biggest point spread was, again, for Casamigos: Fans rated it an average of 7 out of 10 in terms of value, while Aficionados scored it lower at 5 out of 10.
So, what should we make of all this? First off, blind rating is difficult (you have no bottle, marketing, or recommendations to go off of), but it also levels the playing field. The big-name blancos came out last, while the newcomers won over tasters with their aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel.
And, although this was a small sample of 36 tasters it appears that experience makes more of a difference when it comes to shaping preferences, compared to gender.
We sent a follow-up questionnaire to the participants after we closed down the rating period. Several of the tequila fans were surprised that they rated Casamigos high. They mentioned that the overall experience was valuable because it taught them how to sharpen their palate to better identify products that stray away from a natural profile.
So, keep practicing your tasting skills, friends. Make use of our Confirmed Additive-Free list and train your palate! Eventually, the additive-filled products will become obvious. Salud!