Tequila is… in a weird place right now. Purists are rallying around additive-free tequilas while the masses are drinking the spirit more than ever and don’t seem to be all that bothered by additives. Toss those elements together and what you get is a whole lot of variation in quality, flavor, and feel across the genre in 2023. That’s especially true with any aged tequila, as coloring and added sugars/flavors help goose the color and taste of quickly made distillate to make it palatable to perceived tastes in various markets around the world.
What does that mean to the tequila in your hand? A lot.
To parse what’s going on with tequila taste and texture these days, I’m conducting a blind taste test of 10 reposado tequilas — both with and without additives. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, taste is paramount when talking about anything we eat or drink. If it doesn’t taste good, then what are we doing here? Two, additives aren’t always bad per se.
A ton of beloved Scotch whisky is colored before bottling. Let’s not even get into rum. Besides the word “additives” doesn’t always mean “chemicals” — herbs are additives that make gin what it is, for instance.
That said, over-using additives to create faux mouthfeel and overzealous flavor notes can often be offputting to people who truly appreciate good tequila. To less refined palates, it might be great — let’s not kid ourselves, some people like the tricks brands pull or those brands wouldn’t pull them. Moreover, “additive-free” isn’t some bullseye term that means that the tequila is somehow better automatically. There are plenty of mediocre additive-free tequilas too.
See? It’s all kind of a mess when you get into the weeds.
When setting up the tasting, the additive-free reposado tequilas that I chose were based around which I could verify. Tequila MatchMaker has started an official program for exactly this. It’s based on brands submitting for that verification, however — so it’s not a catchall. Of course, getting brands to admit that they use additives is also sticky. That said, there’s a really easy test you can do at home. Pour a touch of tequila into your hands and rub them like you’re using hand sanitizer. If your hands are dry at the end, it’s an additive-free tequila. If your hands are a tad sticky or feel soft and oiled, then there are additives like extra glycerin at play.
Our lineup today features the following bottles of reposado tequila:
- Espolon Tequila Reposado — Unverified
- Casa Noble Tequila Reposado — No Additives
- La Historia de Nosotros Tequila Reposado — No Additives
- Valor Tequila Reposado — No Additives
- Tequila El Tequileño Reposado — No Additives
- Tres Generaciones Tequila Reposado — No Additives
- Tequila Mi Campo Reposado — Yes Additives
- El Bandido Yankee Tequila Reposado — No Additives
- Casamigos Tequila Reposado — Contains Additives
- Familia Camarena Tequila Reposado — Contains Additives
After I went through the blind tasting, I ranked each of the reposado tequila based on taste, overall depth, and nuances. I’m an international spirits judge and cover tequila at every competition I adjudicate, so you’re getting my professional tasting notes here. Read through, find something that speaks to you, and go from there. Let’s dive in!
- The Absolute Best Tequilas Under $100, Ranked
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- Every Bottle From The Core Line Of Don Julio Tequila, Blind Tasted And Ranked
- The Best Añejo Tequilas On Earth, According To The ‘Oscars Of Alcohol’
Part 1 — The Reposado Tequila Blind Tasting
Nose: The nose is light with a hint of roasted agave and white pepper with some pineapple skins and maybe a little vanilla bean.
Palate: The palate is light as well with a clear roasted agave that gives way to a hint of white pepper, vanilla cookies, brown baking spices, and general “tropical” fruits that lean citrus and tart and then a touch savory.
Finish: The end leans into the spice and vanilla but only barely before fading away pretty quickly.
This is fine. It felt like an average tequila that you mix with.
Nose: There’s a touch of minerality on the nose with warm floral notes, plenty of classic agave, and a hint of banana.
Aromas of vanilla and floral notes are balanced by flavors of sweet cooked agave, pepper, roasted coffee beans, and a touch of banana
Palate: The banana takes on an overripe vibe on the palate with oily coffee beans accented by vanilla, baking spice, and very mild sweet agave.
Finish: The end mixed agave candy sweetness with white pepper powder and a touch of woody spice.
This was pretty average overall. It’s an aged tequila and that’s about it.
Nose: Butterscotch sweetness drives the nose with a hint of leathery fruit and roasted agave on the nose before mild layers of black pepper, clove, and anise arrive with a grassy edge.
Palate: There’s a caramelized agave richness on the palate next to almond oils and more of that black peppery spice.
Finish: The almond dries out on the finish as woody spice barks, more dark fruit leather, and soft caramelized agave balance the finish out.
This is pretty tasty. The almond note on the mid-palate takes this somewhere interesting while adding extra depth.
Nose: The nose is a classic mix of black pepper, fire-roasted agave, cinnamon bark, and floral apple notes with a hint of fresh mint and salinity.
Palate: There’s a spicy sweet vibe on the nose — kind of like black pepper cut with caramel — bext to wet parsley, fresh aloe, and soft creamy notes that lean toward buttermilk cut with freshly cracked black pepper.
Finish: The spices dry out towards woody barks at the end as the black pepper and caramel agave round out a soft and smooth finish.
This is pretty tasty tequila. It’s deep, fun, and nuanced in a way that draws me back for more.
Nose: Very basic notes of agave are accented by vanilla and “spice” on the nose.
Palate: More agave notes drive the palate towards mild hints of brown spice, caramel sweetness, and vanilla oils.
Finish: The end is sweet with caramel accented by macadamia nuts (and maybe white chocolate?) next to basic senses of agave and spice.
This is very non-descript and basic. I really had to strain to find any distinguishable notes.
Nose: The nose opens with a mix of grassy agave and white pepper next to fresh green herbs and a twinge of aged oak from a musty cellar.
Palate: Fresh agave juices and white pepper accent the palate with a sense of caramelized agave and woody spices before the white pepper comes back and really takes over the mid-palate.
Finish: That white pepper dominates the dry finish with more spice barks and roasted agave next to oakiness.
This was a pepper bomb. That’s not a bad thing, but it does veer toward “one-note” a tad.
Nose: The nose is floral and fruity with a hint of banana and apple next to a rich vanilla latte and maybe some savory squash cut with pumpkin spice.
Palate: Creamy chocolate and more pumpkin spice drive the palate with a honey sweetness that leans into vanilla.
Finish: The end veers wildly toward dry spice barks and old oak staves with a dry grass agave vibe on the very end.
This was sort of all over the place but kind of worked in the end.
Nose: The nose opens with a deep mix of roasted agave and dry oak next to dry roasting herbs, soft caramelized dark fruits, and soft black peppercorns next to a whisper of vanilla.
Palate: The palate remains classically layers with rich fruitiness, woody spices, and soft caramelized agave next to sharp pepper and gentle creaminess.
Finish: The creaminess gives way to a quiet dryness on the finish as soft pepper, roasted agave, and a whisper of vanilla woodiness round things out.
This is a nice and subtle tequila that feels balanced and tastes pretty damn good.
Nose: This is an unabashed vanilla bomb on the nose. It’s so vanilla-heavy that it’s hard to find anything else. Maybe there’s some caramel and wood spice in there somewhere.
Palate: A hint of roasted agave is washed out by massive waves of vanilla extract just accented with raisins and baking spice.
Finish: The end gets peppery as the vanilla fades a tad.
This is a massive vanilla bomb. Is this made for baking?
Nose: Spiced oranges and preserved lemons lead the way on the nose next to slow-roasted agave, soft black peppercorn spice, and a touch of buttery caramel that’s just kissed with vanilla bean.
Palate: The vanilla amps up on the palate as the agave stays warm and peppered with a hint of grilled pineapple and mango skin drizzled with caramel sauce.
Finish: The caramel and vanilla take over on the finish as the agave and pepper take a back seat.
This started off strong but ended up very sweet.
Part 2 — The Reposado Tequila Ranking
10. Tequila El Tequileño Reposado — Taste 5
Average Price: $62
This valley tequila is made pretty quickly all things considered. Once distilled, the tequila rests in American oak for three before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This was the most blank tequila on the list. There were some faint notes but you’ll really need to strain to find them. This is a pretty easy skip.
9. Casamigos Tequila Reposado — Taste 9
Average Price: $58
Known mostly as George Clooney’s tequila, which is specifically made for the American palate/market, Casamigos remains massively popular. The tequila in this bottle spends seven months resting in American oak that held “premium-aged whiskeys” before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This is a massive vanilla bomb (so at least it tasted of something). It’s so vanilla-forward that I can see using this baking.
8. Tequila Mi Campo Reposado — Taste 7
Average Price: $26
This tequila starts off low and slow with stone ovens and milling. Once distilled, the tequila rests for three months in French oak from Napa Valley before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This was very average. The pumpkin spice and vanilla are easy-going enough but didn’t really offer any deep classic tequila vibe that you want from a good reposado.
7. Espolon Tequila Reposado — Taste 1
Average Price: $33
This tequila Southern Highland tequila is all about the used American whiskey barrels. After two months of resting, the tequila is batched, proofed, and bottled.
This used to be an additive-free tequila but that’s very less clear now. That aside, this was also very average. It feels like it was made for mixing highballs like a Paloma and not much else.
6. Familia Camarena Tequila Reposado — Taste 10
Average Price: $22
This Southern Highland tequila spends 60 days resting in oak before batching, proofing with deep well water, and bottling.
This was clearly sweetened and vanilla-forward but still delivered a classic reposado tequila depth and profile. So if you’re looking for a sweeter tequila experience, then this might be a good place to start.
5. Casa Noble Tequila Reposado — Taste 2
Average Price: $54
This tequila is all about the low and slow processes in stone ovens and mills. Once the tequila is distilled, it’s left in French oak for 364 (a day less than an añejo by law) before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This was pretty good overall. It wasn’t a “wow” by any stretch but got the job done. I can see using it cocktails.
4. Tres Generaciones Tequila Reposado — Taste 6
Average Price: $40
Beam Suntory’s tequila is made fast and hard but then triple distilled to really refine the spirit. Then the tequila is rested in used American whiskey oak barrels for at least four months before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This is also pretty tasty overall. It feels like an easy sipper over some ice (maybe with a squeeze of lime) or a solid base for a cocktail.
3. La Historia de Nosotros Tequila Reposado — Taste 3
Average Price: $47
La Historia de Nosotros is an old-school style tequila, cooked low and slow. Once distilled, the tequila is loaded into French oak wherein it rests for 11 long months before batching, proofing, and bottling.
This delivered a deep and classic repo tequila profile while going a little further. The dark and leathery fruitiness with the woody spices and roasted agave vibes all sang together nicely, creating an easy choice for on the rocks sipping or cocktail making.
2. Valor Tequila Reposado — Taste 4
Average Price: $134
Valor is a Lowland Valley tequila. The tequila rests in ex-whiskey American white oak barrels for up to four months before batching, proofing (though it’s proofed a tad less than most tequilas), and bottling.
This just tasted good. It drank like a classic repo with good depth and balance while delivering everything you wanted from a lightly aged tequila sip.
1. El Bandido Yankee Tequila Reposado — Taste 8
Average Price: $43
El Bandido Yankee is a low-and-slow additive-free Highland tequila. The hot juice rests in used American oak whiskey barrels that have been stripped and re-charred in Mexico before the tequila goes in. Once rested to the exact right moment, the tequila is batched, proofed, and bottled.
This delivered the most nuanced and depth by far. It was classic, sure, but felt like you were drinking a tequila people cared about. I can see sipping this over rocks all day and/or making a great cocktail with it.
Part 3 — Final Thoughts on the Reposado Tequilas
There was a lot of green between the top five and bottom five on this list. Even then, I’d really only focus on the top three, with the El Bandido Yankee Reposado being the sole one to buy. That said, there is some variation in the flavor profiles that work in those top four-ish tequilas. So buy what speaks to you.
When it comes to the additives, I think it’s pretty clear the top tequila were all made with confidence. And without additives. I didn’t rig it, it was all blind — do with that info what you will.