The best blanco tequilas: 12 to try

Four bottles of clear tequila against a white background
Best Blanco Tequilas

Often written off as a party spirit, tequila has a serious side that’s crying out to be explored. So forget tequila slammers and let us introduce you to some quality bottles that deserve a place in any home drinks cabinet…

All tequila is made from the agave plant, which is closely related to the lily family of plants. Like grapes, there are many different varieties of agave: 166 to be exact. But producers can only use one  varietal – known as Blue Weber – to make tequila.

Premium tequilas are made from 100% Blue Weber agave. But cheaper tequilas are made from a mix of agave (at least 51% but sometimes higher) and other sugars such as molasses or corn syrup. These are known as mixto tequilas.

How is tequila made?

Agave plants take between five and 12 years to reach maturity. When they are mature, the plant produces a single flower then dies. To make tequila, the flower stalk is cut off just before flowering, which directs the sap into the heart of the plant.

These hearts – known as piñas – are harvested by skilled jimadors, who cut off the spiky agave leaves. The piñas are then cooked. They can either be roasted in traditional ovens known as hornos for 24-48 hours. Or they are baked in faster steam ovens called autoclaves for seven hours. Cooking converts the plant’s starch into fermentable sugar.

After cooking the piñas are pressed and shredded to release the sugary juice, which is left to ferment for 24-96 hours. It is then distilled to produce tequila.

What is blanco tequila?

After distillation, the spirit can either be bottled immediately or aged. Blanco tequilas – which may also be labelled plata or silver – are classified as aged for less than two months in stainless steel or oak barrels.

Other types of tequila include reposado (rested). This must be aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months and up to a maximum of 12 months.

Añejo tequila must be aged in oak casks with a maximum capacity of 600 litres for at least one year, or between one and three years. Meanwhile Extra Añejo must be aged at least three years in oak barrels.

Because oak influence is kept to a bare minimum, the qualities of the agave plant are fully expressed in blanco tequilas. They taste lighter and brighter than aged styles, making them a great place to begin your tequila exploration.

How to drink blanco tequila

Because blancos are a light style of tequila, you can sip them neat and savour their bright, grassy agave flavour. Alternatively, pair them with a mixer to make a refreshing long drink, such as a Tequila & Tonic. Blancos are also used to make classic tequilas cocktails such as the Margarita and Paloma.

However you choose to drink them, here are a few great bottles to get you started…

The best blanco tequilas: 12 to try

Tasting notes by Laura Foster & Julie Sheppard

Calle 23 Blanco

The Calle 23 brand was created by Sophie Decobecq, a French biochemist. She fell in love with Mexico and tequila when she went to the country on a work placement to research yeasts and lactic acid. The Blanco is an excellent all-round mixing tequila, boasting notes of cooked agave, black pepper, spearmint, orchard fruits and pineapple. Alcohol 40%

Código Blanco

This small-batch tequila from a tiny distillery in Amatitán is made with mature agave grown for over seven years before being harvested. An unaged expression that’s made only from first-press juice, the nose is earthy and vegetal, combining freshness with smoky notes. The smooth and creamy palate is packed with agave character. Also look out for Código’s aged expressions, produced using Napa Cabernet barrels. Alc 38%

Corralejo Blanco

While the majority of tequila is produced in the state of Jalisco, some municipalities in other states are also allowed to make this spirit. One of these other states is Guanajuato, and this is where Corralejo is based. Its Blanco is a creamy, citrusy tequila with flavours of lime zest, agave syrup, zippy white…

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The best blanco tequilas: 12 to try  
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