Access to a good bottle of reposado Tequila presents a happy dilemma: Should you sip it straight, or mix it into cocktails? Luckily, it works beautifully either way.
Reposado or “rested” Tequila—aged in oak barrels from two months to one year—offers a balanced blend of sprightly pepper and citrus notes tempered by mellow, toasty vanilla.
Those in the sipping camp may wonder, where do all those complex flavors come from? The sun-baked agave plant is the critical ingredient of Tequila, yielding honey and piquant peppery notes, yet the barrels are a key component, too. Abundant ex-Bourbon barrels are frequently used to impart toasty vanilla and rich caramel notes, however, wine lovers will want to keep an eye on reposados that spend some time in former wine casks. For example, Codigo 1530 spends six months in barrels that previously held Napa Cabernet, while Excellia Reposado is aged in both Cognac and grand cru Sauternes barrels, each imparting a character unique to the barrels used.
Tequila makers are paying close attention to the tastes of American consumers—after all, the U.S. is the single largest export market for Tequila. And while Tequila sales continue to show strong growth in the U.S., they continue to lag behind whiskey.
So perhaps it should come as little surprise to see a Tequila that resembles a flavored whiskey. Blue Nectar Reposado Special Craft is infused with “spiced essential oils and a hint of agave nectar,” which yields a pleasing sweet-and-spice profile. While flavored Tequila is new, usually it’s made with blanco Tequila, not reposado, which presents a more whiskey-like canvas.
With such a widening range of flavors available, bartenders are taking advantage and mixing reposados into cocktails that go far beyond the usual Margarita. For example, at the George Washington bar inside New York City’s Freehand Hotel, the Welcome to Sunnydale mixes reposado Tequila with beet juice, dill and amontillado sherry.
Oro de Lidia Reposado Tequila (Mexico; World Trade Liquor Imports, Laredo, TX); $45, 95 points. This golden Tequila puts the agave front and center, without burying it under wood. Pleasantly savory honey, pineapple and jalapeño aromas lead the nose and palate. A wash of vanilla smooths the exit, accented by gingery spice. Sip or mix. Aged six to nine months in a mix of American and French oak. abv: 40%
Siete Leguas Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Sazerac, Chicago, IL); $52, 95 points. This is very pale in the glass, but with a zesty, savory aroma that suggests fresh oregano and basil. The palate melds that herbaceousness with hints of almond and lemon cream, plus cinnamon and white pepper on the elongated finish. Sip or mix. abv: 40%
G4 Reposado Tequila (Mexico; PRP Enterprises, Portage, IN); $60, 94 points. The zesty jalapeño aroma and sweet tomato undercurrent suggests what is to come. The savory palate delivers fresh mint, basil, jalapeño and green pepper, finishing with a hint of black pepper smoothed by vanilla-mint sweetness. Sip or mix. abv: 40%
Corralejo Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Wilson Daniels Ltd., St. Helena, CA); $26, 93 points. Look for a pale rose-gold hue and a mild, herbaceous aroma that hints at basil and slate. The palate is light and silky, echoing that slate-like minerality alongside hints of cedar, coconut and honey, finishing with a flurry of white pepper and brush of raspberry. Aged four months. Best Buy. abv: 40%
Tres Agaves Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Trinchero Family Estates, St. Helena, CA); $28, 93 points. The light but zesty aroma evokes tomato water, bell pepper freshness and agave nectar. Meanwhile, the palate leads with honey and jalapeño, finishing with hints of vanilla and sweet cinnamon. Aged in Tennessee and Kentucky whiskey barrels for a minimum of six months. Best Buy. abv: 40%
Chamucos Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Palm Bay International, Port Washington, NY); $50, 92 points. Look for a soft gold hue and jalapeño zing on the aroma. The drying palate opens with a savory flash, then the long fade layers vanilla, spearmint and cinnamon. Aged 6-7 months. abv: 40%
Espanita Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Double Eagle Imports, Alpharetta, GA); $29, 92 points. The herbaceous, bright aroma suggests basil and mint warmed by the sun. The palate is herbaceous too, hinting at bell pepper and jalapeño before winding into a coconut finish, edged with citrus peel and cinnamon sparks. Aged six months. Best Buy. abv: 40%
Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Reposado Tequila (Mexico; William Grant, New York, NY); $57, 92 points. Pineapple aromas lead the nose. The silky palate opens with vanilla and almond, drying to a long finish marked by mint, oregano, cayenne and clove. Aged in American and French oak barrels. abv: 40%
Blue Nectar Reposado Special Craft Tequila (Mexico; Blue Nectar Spirits, Miami, FL); $55, 91 points. This reposado Tequila is infused with spiced essential oils and hint of agave nectar. Look for a sunny marigold hue and zesty jalapeño aroma. Fleeting sweetness on the palate gives way to verdant green pepper and fresh-snipped herbs, trailing off into an elongated finish brushed with coconut, maple, cinnamon and white pepper. Sip or mix. abv: 40%
Cazadores Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Bacardi, Coral Gables, FL); $24, 91 points. Floral, lightly honeyed aromas lead the way. The palate echoes that floral freshness, veering to a zesty midpalate with a hint of tomato, then finishing with light vanilla and black pepper tones. Best Buy. abv: 40%
Chinaco Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Anchor Distilling, San Francisco, CA);$55, 91 points. The distinctly fruity aroma mixes cooked pear and pineapple, while black pepper tickles the nose. The palate is fruity and lightly sweet, evolving from fresh pear to a honeyed cooked fruit note on the exhale, plus cinnamon and spearmint tingle. abv: 40%
Excellia Reposado Tequila (Mexico; PM Spirits, New York, NY); $60, 91 points. Burnished gold in the glass, look for a zesty, savory scent layered with vanilla sweetness. The palate opens with more vanilla, reserving the savory notes for the exit: bell pepper, oregano, black pepper. Aged six to 12 months in former Cognac and Grand Cru Sauternes barrels. abv: 40%
Codigo 1530 Reposado Tequila (Mexico; Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, Syosset, NY); $60, 90 points. A mild whiff of tropical fruit leads the nose. The palate is light and mildly sweet with a trace of coconut, finishing peppery, crisp and a bit fiery. Aged for six months in former Napa Cabernet barrels. abv: 40%