Blind Taste Test Results Are In from 24 Tasting Panel Members
This is a great time for blanco tequila lovers, with a number of excellent, additive-free choices in the market. Although we are lucky enough to try all the brands in our Additive-Free program, we noticed that some of our daily sippers are sometimes overlooked.
So, we assembled kits of 10 quality blanco tequilas from our additive-free list, and asked 24 Tequila Matchmaker panel members to rate them blind. We wanted to see how some of the newer or lesser-known brands would measure up against an old favorite.
Before we get into the results, we’d like to note that these samples were selected not just because we like them, but because they represent a wide variety of aromas and flavors, suited to all kinds of drinkers. Also, the final results show that most samples were rated relatively high.
So, here’s how they landed:The top scoring tequila was Volcan de mi Tierra Blanco, with an average rating of 88.71. Tasters noted that it has a subtle nose, but “big flavors” of cooked agave, fruit and minerality, with a nice oily finish.
This product, partially owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), has been aimed more toward the luxury crowd, and may have missed the eyes of aficionados looking for traditional flavors. But these blind scores indicate that its fancy bottle is backed up by quality juice.
As one taster commented, “The Volcán was a surprise, given that I had not tried it before, and had been passing on it in every store. .. but I rated it higher than the panel (average)!”Interestingly, the second highest scoring (87.25) was El Mexicano Blanco, which brings a big punch of old school flavor at a great price point (It usually sells for around $30, but one retailer even lists it as low as $20.) Tasters found upfront agave, citrus, and baking spices, with a finish that is as one taster put, “soft and clean as a whistle. (The) cooked agave flavor profile fades slowly.”
Another taster commented that they were surprised that “El Mexicano was able to show up strong on the back of its great value.” In fact, several panel members said they would buy a bottle after this experience.Coming in on El Mexicano’s heels was the relatively new Tequila Primo 1861 Blanco, with 87.04 points. Panel members found cooked agave, butter, fruit aromas and flavors, and a nice minerality. Primo comes from the popular El Pandillo distillery (1579) with Master Distiller Felipe Camarena, so it was not surprising to us that this did well.
The brand gets its name because it’s a collaboration between Felipe and his nephew Pedro Camarena. (The word “primo” means cousin in Spanish.) The “1861” number is the year that Pedro Camarena Ramírez (a distant cousin of Felipe and Pedro) was born, founder of the first tequila tavern in the Arandas area.
It’s also unique in that it is the only product from El Pandillo that is using 100% spring water, and fermentation was done in both wood tanks (20%) and stainless steel (80%).The next highest-scoring tequila, with 86.33 points, was Yeyo Blanco. Yeyo comes from another well-respected distillery, NOM 1414, in Arandas. Tasters found cooked agave, anise, baking spices, and white pepper with a “solid finish.”
As one reviewer said, “I will always have a bottle of Yeyo in my cabinet moving forward!”
The master distiller for Yeyo is Sergio Cruz, who is known for many other high quality, additive-free creations from the Vivanco distillery. (This particular batch was bottled on 06/12/2019.)
“This opened up and softened after my initial sip. I really enjoyed this well-made blanco,” said another panel member.Scoring the highest in terms of aroma, flavor, and finish alone (but dinged for price at around $110 a bottle) was Santanera Organic Tahona Blanco with 85.46 points. Made at an aficionado approved distillery, Cascahuín (NOM 1123), in El Arenal, this blanco was praised for its pleasant spice, sweet agave, and vegetal notes, along with its oily mouthfeel and warm finish.
As the name would suggest, this tequila is made using the traditional tahona wheel, one of the extraction methods available at Cascahuín. It is also fermented in cement tanks with agave fibers included, and is bottled at 41% abv.
The high pricetag on this one really brought down their overall rating. But when you look at just the quality of the tequila itself, it scored the most points in the lineup. This is another example of the types of excellent additive-free products coming from this family-owned distillery.Next up was LALO Blanco with 85.17 points. Scoring just 3.54 points lower than top-rated Volcán, tasters found a “sophisticated but light nose” of creamy cooked agave, cinnamon, fruit, and brine with a long finish.
“This is an everyday sipper for me,” commented one taster. “(It’s a) straightforward blanco, high quality, and has everything I like.”
It’s worth noting that the LALO blanco available at the time of the tasting was from their former distillery, “El Nacimiento.” They recently switched to a new distillery with a series of new copper pot stills. Some tasters thought the original blanco was a bit soft, but the latest version has a bolder profile so we’re curious to see how they will rate the new batches.
(Yes, we tried the new stuff at the distillery, both direct from the still and the final bottled version and our personal opinion is that it is better than the previous batches. You won’t be able to identify the new batches by NOM number because they kept the same number, so look for the date printed on the side of the bottle. If it is on or after 17/05/22, then it is from the new distillery.)Speaking of a more subtle profile, tasters enjoyed Insólito, but thought that the Tequila Valley brand was a bit muted, although it still had a nice aroma of toasted nuts, cooked agave and herbal notes with a light sweetness and creamy mouth feel. They gave it an average score of 84.58.
“(I) never had Insólito before, and it happened to be my number 1 out of the group,” one taster said.
It is made at the same distillery that makes Tierra-Noble tequila, on the outskirts of the town of Mazamitla, Jalisco, at an elevation of 7,200 feet above sea level. And, it is distilled entirely in stainless steel pot stills.
Next up was Siete Leguas Blanco, with 84.17 points. We put this in the lineup because it is an old-school favorite and we wanted to see how the newer products would fare against this classic profile. We were admittedly a bit shocked to see it come in as number seven, and so were some of the tasters who keep Siete Leguas on their home bars.“I’m surprised I rated (Siete Leguas) in the middle of the pack, instead of at the very top,” said one taster.
Another added, “The most surprising part of the whole blind taste test were the results and comments I gave to Siete Leguas Blanco. In the past I’ve very much enjoyed all the Siete Leguas expressions, especially the Blanco, so it was hard to wrap my head around my scores, perhaps variations in the batches? Variations in my palate?”
(Note: Both are quite possible. And sometimes mood and what else you’re eating and drinking affect your perceptions. Blind tasting can be tricky! That’s why it’s a good idea to revisit samples a few times.)
But overall, the panel members enjoyed Siete Leguas’ herbal, citrus, black pepper, and rich cooked agave nose and flavors, but some thought the mouthfeel was a little less oily than others. But as one taster put it, this product has “Agave, agave, agave”!Rounding out the flight were Arette Artesanal Blanco Suave, with 81.88 points, and Atanasio Blanco with 78.83.
Tasters praised Arette’s earthy and vegetal nose, minerality, and silky mouthfeel. “(I) really enjoy how balanced and clean this one was on the palate/finish,” one taster commented.
When it came to Atanasio, its distinct lactic nose split the group. Some called it “cheesy” or “sour” while others “loved the funk!”
Although we’ve had less lactic versions of this product before, the fact that the latest bottling is different just goes to show that tequila is a natural product and authenticity beats consistency.
In summary, this blind tasting demonstrated that there is a lot of variety and quality in the tequila market right now. The 10 blancos were separated by less than 10 points, with each highlighting its own distinct profile.
Here’s a handy chart, in case you want to take take a look at the underlying data.
The chart above includes all of the results for the lineup. Each tequila received 2 averages: “All Points” includes the scores for “value”, “recommend”, and “buy/drink again”; and “Aroma/Flavor/Finish Only” omits those points to give us a relative score for what the panel members thought of the quality of the tequila alone.
Not all tequilas taste the same! There was great variety in this lineup, and it goes to show that you don’t need to use additives to create a different flavor profile.
How many of these blancos have you tried? Let us know!
To participate in blind tastings like this, join the Tequila Matchmaker Tasting panel.