The Tequila & Mezcal Masters 2022 results
The number of excellent Tequila and mezcal bottlings on the market has been increasing at an impressive rate, with producers bringing interesting expressions to keen consumers, as this year’s blind-tasting competition showed.
*This feature was originally published in the February 2022 issue of The Spirits Business magazine.
There’s a reason celebrities are eager to claim a stake in the Tequila category, and that’s because the agave‐based spirit is soaring in popularity.
Tequila has come a long way in the past decade. From its shot‐slamming party days, the spirit has enjoyed a major glow‐up, and is now revered as a serious spirit. And the medals speak for themselves. This year’s Tequila & Mezcal Masters welcomed a record number of entries, which showcased the high calibre of offerings coming from Mexico.
Three panels put the majority of entries to the test at the Novotel Hotel in London Bridge. The first group comprised Nicola Carruthers, deputy editor of The Spirits Business magazine, and Michael Fichtner, head bartender at the Coburg Bar at The Connaught hotel in London. Bryan Rodriguez, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols, chaired the panel.
Bernadette Pamplin, freelance spirits writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog, Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks, and David T Smith, spirits writer, consultant and co‐founder of the Craft Distilling Expo, formed the second team, which Smith also chaired.
The third team consisted of Matt Chambers, co‐founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog and the North London Whisky Club, Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis restaurant in London’s Notting Hill, and Chris Tanner, bar manager at Milroy’s. Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, chaired the panel.
Carruthers and Kiely were also joined at a later date by The Spirits Business’ digital editor, Kate Malczewski, to assess the final few Tequilas and mezcals of the 2022 blind tasting. All of the entries were packed and shipped blind by Sensible.
Starting out light
The opening flight of Mixto Tequila – Blanco delivered a set of Silver medals for El Sueño Tequila Silver and Sierra Tequila Silver. El Sueño Tequila Silver was “light and bright” on the nose, with “delicate citrus and a peppery palate”. Sierra Tequila Silver had a “slight nuttiness”, but was found to be “what you’d expect” from a mixto blanco – “solid”, noted one judge.
Moving from mixto to 100% agave Tequila, and the first Master medal of the contest became apparent in the premium price bracket. Tequila Exotico Blanco secured the top award for offering “fruity” aromas and “lovely spice on the palate”.
In the 100% Agave Tequila – Super‐Premium Blanco heat, another Master was unearthed: Teremana Tequila Blanco. The Tequila, co-founded by actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, impressed the judges with its complex aromas: “Spicy, vegetal nose, white pepper” and a “touch of chilli spice” on the palate. Rodriguez noted: “This shows a good, light blanco. A well‐made and approachable Tequila.”
Six Gold medals gave the flight a boost, with awards picked up by producers including Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Luxco. Don Julio Blanco collected a Gold medal for “bright, citrus” aromas and “agave sweetness” on the finish.
El Mayor Tequila Blanco also won a Gold medal for complex aromas of “ripe stone fruits and dried florals”, leading to “chilli, pepper and citrus” on the palate.
Tanner said: “These Tequilas were worth the price point. If I were able to buy any of these in the lower, mid‐range of the price point especially, I’d be stoked.”
At the high end of the 100% agave blanco Tequila category, a further six entries met the Gold‐standard criteria. Calirosa Tequila Rosa Blanco won Gold for its “aromatic notes”, while Tequila Diamanté Blanco took home a Gold medal for its “tropical fruity nose” and “saline backdrop” on the palate. Otaca Tequila also received the Gold seal of approval, with its “sweet then earthy” flavour profile.
The judges then turned their attention to aged Tequilas, beginning with a flight of Mixto Tequila – Reposado. In this round, two Silver medallists were discovered. Sierra Tequila Reposado secured Silver for aromas of “fruit, vegetal notes and a touch of pepper”, leading to “some warming spice” on the palate. El Sueño Tequila Gold also took home Silver for delivering “some grassy notes” on the palate, and a “nice spiciness”.
The judges found the quality improved as they progressed to 100% Agave Tequila – Premium Reposado. A Master was bestowed upon Tequila Dahlia Cristalino. Rodriguez found this expression had an “explosive nose” full of “roasted agave, pepper and floral notes”. The palate had a “touch of sweetness” and “lingering” flavour. “This shows Tequila’s immense complexity, playful aromas and notes reminiscent of other spirits categories,” he enthused. “This feels more like a sipping liquid than a mixing liquid.”
A Gold medal was awarded to Tequila Exotico Reposado, which had “good length” to its finish, while a Silver medal was given to Corralejo Reposado.
In the more costly super‐premium price range, a Master was awarded to Olmeca Altos Reposado. Athavia noted the “fantastic integration of the oak on the palate”, which she said gave the Tequila “body, texture and a hint of sweetness”.
Eight Gold medals were also enjoyed in this round. Among the Gold winners were: “vibrant, delicious” El Tequileño Cristalino; “nicely balanced” Teremana Reposado, with “green peppers on the finish”; and “unusual, distinct” Vivir Tequila Reposado, which boasted “vanilla notes and Bourbon barrel influence”.
Chambers said: “This feels like a category where producers are trying to experiment and push the limits a little bit within the rules. It was a pretty great flight.”
Two Tequilas proved they have the credentials to win a Master medal in the following flight: 100% Agave Tequila – Ultra‐Premium Reposado. El Tequileño The Sassenach Select Double Wood Reposado bagged the top award for its “clean and fresh palate with increasing savoury notes, honey, vanilla, late pepper and bitter herbals”.
Mijenta Reposado also scooped a Master, praised for its “lovely long finish with oak and earthy, smoky notes lingering for ages”.
Five Gold medals added to the tally, with awards given to “highly aromatic” Tequila Herradura Reposado and “soft, candied citrus, peppery” Dobel Diamante.
Prousaefs was pleased to see a “very solid round”. Tanner added: “This was great value for money.”
The añejo options in the super‐premium contingent were also impressive – with two reaching the Master standard. Sierra Tequila Antiguo was deemed to be Masterworthy, with its “brilliant nose full of earthy spice, pepper” and “very well integrated oak” that “beautifully supports the spirit”. El Mayor Tequila Añejo also secured the top Master accolade. Smith found “bright agave on the nose, salted caramel notes; great balance of spirit and wood”.
Five Gold medallists were also enjoyed by the judges: Don Julio Añejo, with “cinnamon, vanilla and oak”; “sippable and accessible” Olmeca Altos Añejo; 1800 Añejo, which had “rich toffee, resinous aromas”; and “silky” Gran Centenario Añejo, with notes of “burnt sugar and lime citrus”. Pernod Ricard’s Avión Añejo also earned a Gold medal, presenting “lovely complexity and balance – very sippable”. Chambers said: “Delicious. Very good at what it does.”
The Master standard continued into the higher end of the añejo category, with one top award winner unearthed in the ultra-premium heat. Corralejo 99,000 Horas Añejo was a deserving Master medallist. The Tequila impressed the judges with its “very rich nose”, followed by a “smooth mouthfeel, wonderful complex mature flavours, and a long and elegant finish”.
Among the five Gold winners in this flight was Calirosa Tequila Añejo, with its “dessert‐like” palate and “dry” finish, with “some marzipan and nuttiness”.
In the oldest portion of the Tequila category, three ultra‐premium extra añejo Tequilas won a Master medal. First of all, Avión Reserva 44 received the Master award for its “nutty” aroma, and “moreish” flavours of “chocolate, toffee and citrus peel”.
Sierra Milenario Extra Añejo also received the top award for its “complex” profile. Tasting notes included: “Resinous, rich and bold nose with some dates and dried fruits. Spiciness has mellowed wonderfully, leaving toffee and subtle wood influence. Well‐rounded, balanced and delicious.”
Lobos 1707 Extra Añejo Tequila also gained a Master title for being “elegant”, with a “nice balance of flavours”.
Four Gold medals were also awarded in this round, including one for Gran Centenario Leyenda. The Tequila had a “silky, luxurious texture” and a “nice dryness” on the finish.
From there, the competition moved onto Flavoured Tequila, where a Gold medal was handed to 1800 Coconut, with its “inviting, fresh coconut” aroma and “agave notes on the finish”.
A Silver medal was given to coffee‐flavoured Sierra Milenario Tequila Cafè. Two more Silver medals were hailed in the Tequila Liqueur round. El Sueño Watermelon Liqueur pleasantly surprised the judges with its “fresh watermelon notes” and some “light earthiness”. Silver winner Horus was likened to a “very well done chocolate cream”.
That concluded the Tequila segment of the competition. The tasting then focused its efforts on the spirit’s up‐and‐coming cousin, mezcal.
In the 100% Agave Mezcal – Joven, a Master medal was awarded to Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote – Coyote de Amatlán. Athavia found this to be “quite salty on the nose, with sea aromas”, leading to “lots of character and funky notes” on the palate.
Two Gold medals were given to “classic, earthy” Matra Mezcal and “very smooth” Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote Espadín‐Tobalá, with “ripe banana” notes. A Silver medal went to Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote Jabalí.
In the 100% Agave Mezcal – Blanco heat, two Master medals were enjoyed. Ojo de Dios Mezcal was one of the recipients.
Rodriguez said: “The nose on this sample is wonderful. It shows a different approach to mezcal. The palate is incredible, rich, oily and smooth, with a very luxurious mouthfeel. The smoked note intensifies a bit and becomes a little more prominent, with sour yoghurt in the back. It’s an earthy, vibrant and complex liquid that feels like the perfect sipping mezcal. Brilliant.”
Creyente Mezcal also joined the Master winners. The expression offered “punchy pepper on the palate, smoke and some agave syrup sweetness. Bold, long and flavoursome,” noted the judges.
Four Gold‐standard mezcals were also tasted. A Gold medal went to 400 Conejos Mezcal with its “new‐make aromas” and “fruity palate, with mild, dry smoke”. A single flavoured mezcal entry, Ojo de Dios ODD Café Mezcal, delivered a strong finish to the tasting. The Gold winner delighted the panel with its “rich, chocolatey” palate, full of “comforting coffee notes and balanced sweetness”.
With the entries all tried and tested, the judges revisited the Master winners to crown The Tequila & Mezcal Taste Master 2022. The tasting emphasised the high‐quality expressions streaming from the agave‐based spirit category.
After much consideration, the judges agreed to award the coveted Taste Master title to Sierra Milenario Tequila Extra Añejo.
Pushing the boundaries
Chambers said: “Quality‐wise, this was a solid tasting. And you’re starting to see one or two producers pushing the boundaries of what can be done.”
Tanner remained equally enthused about agave‐based spirits. He added: “I think we’ll see, perhaps like gin, in a year or two there will be a more ‘contemporary’ Tequila category with different barrel finishes and a more experimental level.
“Five or 10 years ago, nobody would put investment into research and development for Tequila, but now producers are in a position to start messing around a bit more, which means they must have confidence in the consumer.”
Mixto Tequila – Blanco
|Sueño Drinks||El Sueño Tequila Silver||Silver|
|Borco International||Sierra Tequila Silver||Silver|
100% Agave Tequila – Premium Blanco
|Luxco||Tequila Exotico Blanco||Master|
100% Agave Tequila – Super‐Premium Blanco
|Siete Bucks Spirits||Teremana Tequila Blanco||Master|
|Diageo||Tequila Don Julio Blanco||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard||Olmeca Altos Plata||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo Blanco Tequila||Gold|
|Borco International||Sierra Tequila Antiguo Plata||Gold|
|Luxco||El Mayor Tequila Blanco||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||1800 Blanco||Gold|
|Vivir Drinks||Vivir Tequila Blanco||Silver|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Tradicional Plata||Silver|
100% Agave Tequila – Ultra‐Premium Blanco
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Tequila Fumado||Gold|
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Tequila Blanco||Gold|
|Calirosa Tequila||Calirosa Tequila Rosa Blanco||Gold|
|Otaca Tequila||Otaca Tequila||Gold|
|Tequila Diamanté||Tequila Diamanté Blanco||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Platino||Gold|
|Altos Planos Collective||Mijenta Blanco||Silver|
|Pernod Ricard||Avión Silver||Silver|
Mixto Tequila – Reposado
|Borco International||Sierra Tequila Reposado||Silver|
|Sueño Drinks||El Sueño Tequila Gold||Silver|
100% Agave Tequila – Premium Reposado
|El Silencio||Tequila Dahlia Cristalino||Master|
|Luxco||Tequila Exotico Reposado||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo Reposado Tequila||Silver|
100% Agave Tequila – Super‐Premium Reposado
|Pernod Ricard||Olmeca Altos Reposado||Master|
|Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal||Lobos 1707 Reposado Tequila||Gold|
|El Tequileño||El Tequileño Cristalino||Gold|
|Siete Bucks Spirits||Teremana Tequila Reposado||Gold|
|Vivir Drinks||Vivir Tequila Reposado||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Gran Centenario Reposado||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||1800 Reposado||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Tradicional Cristalino||Gold|
|For The Love Of||Tiempo Tequila||Silver|
|Diageo||Don Julio Reposado||Silver|
100% Agave Tequila – Ultra‐Premium Reposado
|El Tequileño||El Tequileño The Sassenach Select
Double Wood Reposado
|Altos Planos Collective||Mijenta Reposado||Master|
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Tequila Reposado||Gold|
|Brown‐Forman||Tequila Herradura Reposado||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Reposado||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Dobel Diamante||Gold|
|Tequila Diamanté||Tequila Diamanté Reposado||Gold|
100% Agave Tequila – Super‐Premium Añejo
|Borco International||Sierra Tequila Antiguo||Master|
|Luxco||El Mayor Tequila Añejo||Master|
|Diageo||Don Julio Añejo||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard||Avión Añejo||Gold|
|Pernod Ricard||Olmeca Altos Añejo||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||1800 Añejo||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Gran Centenario Añejo||Gold|
|Vivir Drinks||Vivir Tequila Añejo||Silver|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo Añejo Tequila||Silver|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Tradicional Añejo||Silver|
100% Agave Tequila – Ultra‐Premium Añejo
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo 99,000 Horas Añejo||Master|
|Calirosa Tequila||Calirosa Tequila Añejo||Gold|
|Fraternity Spirits||Corralejo 1821||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||1800 Cristalino||Gold|
|Tequila Diamanté||Tequila Diamanté Añejo||Gold|
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Tequila Añejo||Gold|
100% Agave Tequila – Ultra‐Premium Extra Añejo
|Pernod Ricard||Avión Reserva 44||Master|
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Tequila Extra Añejo|| Master
& Taste Master
|Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal||Lobos 1707 Extra Añejo Tequila||Master|
|Proximo Spirits||1800 Milenio||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Extra Añejo||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Dobel 50||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||Gran Centenario Leyenda||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||1800 Coconut||Gold|
|Borco International||Sierra Milenario Tequila Café||Silver|
|Sueño Drinks||El Sueño Watermelon Liqueur||Silver|
100% Agave Mezcal – Joven
|Pacific and Lime||Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote –
Coyote de Amatlán
|Matra Mezcal||Matra Mezcal||Gold|
|Pacific and Lime||Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote – Espadín‐Tobalá||Gold|
|Pacific and Lime||Mezcal Artesanal Noble Coyote – Jabalí||Silver|
100% Agave Mezcal – Blanco
|Ojo de Dios||Ojo de Dios Mezcal||Master|
|Proximo Spirits||Creyente Mezcal||Master|
|Lobos 1707 Tequila and Mezcal||Lobos 1707 Mezcal Artesenal||Gold|
|El Silencio||Mezcal El Silencio Espadín||Gold|
|Casa Lumbre||Ojo de Tigre||Gold|
|Proximo Spirits||400 Conejos Mezcal||Gold|
100% Agave Mezcal – Flavoured
|Ojo de Dios||Ojo de Dios ODD Café Mezcal||Gold|