Whether you call it blanco, silver or plata, these unaged (or barely aged) Tequilas are worth a second look.
Layer on some barrel age, and you have reposado (“rested”) Tequila; a longer turn in the barrel yields anejo (“aged”) Tequila. But some purists believe that blanco Tequila is the only “real” Tequila—an unadorned distillation of the agave plant.
It’s also an excellent canvas for showcasing differences in terroir. Most Tequila originates in Jalisco, Mexico. Those made from agave plants grown in the highlands area tend to have a fruity, floral, herbaceous quality, while in the lowlands, the volcanic soils yield an earthier, drier Tequila. Taking it a step further, some small producers specify particular estates where the agave plants were grown.
Compared to reposados and anejos, blancos tend to be reasonably priced, making them the category most often used in cocktails. Try adding crème de cassis and ginger beer to make a spicy diablo, or grapefruit soda to top up a refreshing paloma.
The go-to blanco cocktail is the classic margarita. Just add fresh lime juice, orange liqueur and a generous scoop of ice, and you’re good to go—fruity variations optional.
Try this blueprint from Amy Zavotto’s The Architecture of the Cocktail: 2 ounces silver Tequila, 1 ounce Cointreau and ½ ounce lime juice, shaken with ice and strained into a salt-rimmed martini glass.
However you prefer your margarita, be sure that your Tequila is labeled 100% blue agave—anything less is considered a mixto, often half agave, half random sources of sugar (read: hangover city). All of the brands reviewed here are 100% agave, so grab a bottle and start mixing!
Reserva Tequila Partida Blanco; $40. 95 points. This elegant blanco features gentle floral notes, agave sweetness and a refreshing touch of minerality, finishing crisp and peppery. Shows surprising finesse for an unaged Tequila. (Mexico; Partida Tequila, San Francisco, CA).
Siete Leguas Tequila Blanco; $40, 94 points. Zesty and spicy, this highlands Tequila shows dried herbs, jalapeño, lemon peel and black pepper, all wrapped up in a clean finish. The alcohol levels feel surprisingly restrained for a blanco. Consider pairing alongside rich or fried foods. (Mexico; Sazerac/Gemini Wines & Spirits, Chicago, IL)
Cruz Silver Tequila; $45, 93 points. A refined, classic take on blanco, this Tequila has a soft feel and rounded agave sweetness. The peppery heat—more cayenne and cinnamon than vegetal jalapeño—is muted at first, but builds with repeated sips. (Mexico; Los Diablos Intl, Scottsdale, AZ).
Casamigos Tequila Blanco; $43, 92 points. Co-owned by actor George Clooney and nightlife impresario Rande Gerber, this blanco is smooth and light. The aromas are restrained, but on the palate look for mild agave sweetness backed by lemon zest, ginger and white pepper sparks, plus a candied lemon-peel note on the gentle exit. (Mexico; Serralles USA, Irving, TX).
Tequila Don Ramon Silver; $24, 91 points. Pleasantly peppery, this silver Tequila offers plenty of citrus, jalapeño and a clean finish. It provides a versatile backdrop for mixing a wide range of cocktails. Best Buy. (Mexico; ER Distributors, San Antonio, TX).
Tequila Gran Dovejo Blanco; $44, 92 points. Inside the handsome, hefty bottle are spice-rack aromas. But the flavors are light and complex, interlacing honey with lime zest, mineral and faint white flowers that float off at the end. A top pick for pitchers of high-end margaritas. (Mexico; Mendez Imports, Dixon, CA).
Tequila Platinum Baron Blanco; $55, 91 points. Mellow and sweet, this silky blanco is full of mint and other fresh herb flavors, balanced by a rounded vanilla note that veers into cookie-dough sweetness and finishes with a sprinkle of baking spice. Hefty, gift-worthy bottle embellished with two dragons flanking an agave plant. (Mexico; MHW, Manhasset, NY).
El Charro Tequila Silver; $19, 91 points. (Mexico; Sazerac/Gemini Wines & Spirits, Chicago, IL). Given some time to open up, this silver Tequila almost reads like an eau-de-vie, with subtle plum notes, agave sweetness and a peppery zing on the brisk finish. That peppery presence builds with repeated sips. Best Buy.
Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Silver; $53, 91 points. Delicate and light, and presented in a gorgeous bottle with a spiky glass piña (agave) blown inside. The mild, almost neutral aroma hints at vanilla. The feather-light flavors seem to float off the tongue, suggesting vanilla, jalapeño, granite and a flicker of cayenne sizzle on the exit. (Mexico; William Grant & Sons, New York, NY).
Tequila Reserva de Don Julio Blanco; $45, 91 points. The aroma is on the sweet side, mixing honeyed and grassy notes with a touch of fresh pear. It’s sweet and fruity on the palate as well, with a light, silky feel and a flourish of baking spice on the crisp finish. (Mexico; Diageo Americas, Norwalk, CT).
Chinaco Blanco Tequila; $30, 90 points. Look for mild, herbaceous aromas and a fleeting orange-peel note on the palate, concluding with a jalapeño snap. The alcohol is well balanced. (Mexico; Anchor Distilling, San Francisco, CA).
Tequila Arette Artesanal Suave Blanco; $40, 90 points. Close your eyes and you might think that’s tomato juice in the glass. It’s clear, but the fragrance is zesty, lemony and yes, fresh tomato-like. On the palate, dried oregano and green pepper come forward, plus a trace of tomato savoriness, and it finishes light, with lively lemon zest. It’s mouthwatering, with moderate alcohol feel. (Mexico; Wine Warehouse, Commerce, CA).
Tequila Corazon Blanco; $40, 90 points. The super-fruity aroma suggests peaches and pears. On the palate, it’s more lean and green, with jalapeño pepper and black pepper smoothed with agave. The fruitiness just peeks out on the finish. (Mexico; Sazerac/Gemini Wines & Spirits, Chicago, IL).
Tequila Corazon Expresione Blanco Artisanal Edition; $70, 90 points. Very different from the standard-issue Corazon Blanco, this joint effort between Tequila Master Distiller Miguel Cedeno Cruz and whiskey-barrel expert Harlen Wheatley is aged in former Bourbon and rye casks from Sazerac’s collection. Earthy yet fruity, this blanco brings mushrooms and bruised apples to mind. The finish displays some alcohol heat, and shows flashes of ginger, white pepper, eucalyptus and anise. (Mexico; Sazerac/Gemini Wines & Spirits, Chicago, IL).
Tequila Terra Firme Blanco; $24, 90 points. The sweet aroma layers agave and citrus with a faintly minty note. Look for that and more on the palate, as flavors of jalapeño and cayenne peppers round the bases into a citrusy, crisp finish. Best Buy. (Mexico; Double Eagle Imports, Alpharetta, GA).