The World’s Best Tequila And Mezcal, According To The Beverage Testing Institute 2023


Six Tequilas and three Mezcals won Platinum Medal-Superlative, and 74 additional Tequilas and Mezcals won Gold Medal-Exceptional at the Beverage Testing Institute (BTI) recent judging of agave spirits. Four of the top Tequilas were Extra Añejo, and two were Blanco. All three of the Mezcals were Blanco.

BTI reviews and scores, on a hundred-point scale, thousands of beverages each year. This activity makes it more like a conventional wines and spirits competition. The Chicago-based organization, however, plays a dual role in the beverage industry. It also functions as a consultancy that, in its own words, utilizes:

Exceptional methodology, proprietary tools, and decades of experience offer research, development, and marketing services that protect large investments, elevate brand reputations, optimize market reception, and engage consumers.

In the beverage industry, this dual role is unprecedented. BTI’s evaluations and advice are closely followed in the drinks industry by global wine and spirit companies, recently established craft spirit producers, and consumers worldwide.

The top-ranked Tequila, scoring 98/100 points, is Fuenteseca 2014 Reserva 7-Year Aged Extra Añejo Tequila. Fuenteseca is made at Tequilena (NOM 1146), a contract Tequila manufacturer in the town of Tequila. The distillery is well known for also making Tears or Llorona and Cierto Tequila, among others.

The BTI Judging Panel described the Fuenteseca Tequila as exhibiting:

Light gold color. Aromas and flavors of chipotle peppers in mole, fresh cut lemongrass, ligero tobacco in an old humidor, and herbs and peppers on a hot pan with a round, lively, dry medium-to-full body, and a tingling, huge, long finish that presents shades of spicy cigar box and figs, mole on green apples, sautéed herbs, and green papaya and chlorophyll. Somehow manages to be both richly barrel-aged while expressing fresh green tones, perplexing, contemplative, well-executed, but most importantly, decadently delicious.

Scoring 97/100 points was Alquimia Reserva De Oro XIV Cask Strength Extra Añejo Tequila. The Alquimia Reserva de Oro is a 14 YO Tequila, among the oldest ever bottled. It used to be produced at the Grupo Tequilero Mexico (NOM 1468) in Arandas in the Jalisco Highlands. It’s not clear where it is currently being made.

The BTI Judging Panel described the Alquimia as featuring:

Golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of vanilla and milk chocolate, cinnamon and cherries, pralines, kola nuts, fresh waffles, and chalk dust with a round, lively, dry full body and a peppery, elegant, medium-long finish that exhibits notes of ripe red and black cherries rolled in cinnamon dust, candied chipotle, butterscotch and toffee on bread pudding, and well-worn leather and rose water. A rich and inviting barrel-aged spirit with a touch of warming agave spice; such a powerful and delicious barrel character.

Also, scoring 97/100 points was Cazcanes No. 10 Blanco Tequila. Cazcanes is bottled at “still strength,” or 54% ABV/108 proof. It’s among the highest-ABV Tequila currently bottled. It’s produced at Tap, S. De R.L. de C.V. (NOM 1614) in Amatitán in the Jalisco Highlands.

The BTI Judging panel described the Cazcanes as showing;

Clear color. Aromas and flavors of heavy cream, papaya, mango, aloe, white flowers, and black pepper, honey-baked peach and pineapple, and salt-roasted nuts with a round, lively, bone-dry medium-to-full body and a peppery, nuanced, very long finish with touches of salted bamboo shoots, grilled lime, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, cinnamon bark, baking spices, and grilled poblano peppers with zucchini. Complex and refreshing, this is great on its own but would make amazing cocktails; it is rich and pure, making this truly an excellent example and a delight to taste.

Fuenteseca scored 96/100 points for its Fuenteseca 2018 Cosecha Blanco Tequila. The BTI Judging Panel described Cosecha Blanco as exhibiting:

Clear color. Aromas and flavors of juniper berries and bay leaves, tart, dry cherries, red apple skins, cinnamon, brown sugar maple pop tarts, and sea salt on green mango with a round, vibrant, dry medium body and a warming, interesting, medium-length finish that presents nuances of mashed plantain paste, cherry pie dough, anise, hemp, and boiled peanuts, and stewed sweet peppers and claro tobacco. Incredible red fruits on the nose and palate with an interesting interplay of fresh savory herbs, bursting with flavors but not overwhelming.

The last two Platinum Medal-Superlative Tequilas are:

Don Pilar Extra Añejo Tequila and Gran Centenario Leyenda Extra Añejo Tequila.

The Don Pilar is produced at Grupo Industrial Tequilero de Los Altos de Jalisco (NOM 1443) in San Ignacio Cerro Gordo in the Jalisco Highlands.

The BTI described Don Pilar as showing:

Gold color. Aromas and flavors of new car leather and sandalwood, mahogany sawdust, caramel and butterscotch, and honey and dried dates with a round, vibrant, dryish medium-to-full body and a warming, delightful, medium-length finish that exhibits impressions of cinnamon dark, black pepper and pine resin, vanilla, and mole sauce, and honey and coconut butter. Cinnamon and black pepper dusted dates on baklava; you will return for seconds of this exquisite sipper.

The Centenario Leyenda, on the other hand, is produced at Casa Cuervo (NOM 1122). The BTI Judging Panel described the Centenario Leyenda as featuring:

Golden amber color. Aromas and flavors of roasted caramel, ligero tobacco leaf, fig, candied walnut, and pralines with a velvety, bright, dryish medium body and a warming, elegant, medium-long finish with notes of tobacco and cedar, caramel, dark honey, and dates, roasted and candied nuts, and dry fig. Complex layers of barrel flavors for anyone that loves older spirits or likes to pair an elegantly intriguing sipper with a cigar.

Other top-ranked tequilas well worth trying include Hacienda de Xalpa 100% Agave Tequila Reposado, Arte NOM Seleccion De 1123 Blanco Historico Tequila, Tequila Comisario, 7 Year Aged Small Batch Extra Añejo, Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia Extra Añejo Tequila, and Fortaleza Tequila Blanco. All these Tequilas scored 95/100 points, just missing out on winning a Platinum medal.

The top-ranked Mezcal, scoring 97/100 points, was Del Maguey San Pablo Ameyaltepec Single Village Blanco Mezcal. Del Maguey was among the first Mezcal producers to introduce artisanal Mezcal to a North American audience.

Its village-specific Mezcals, each “handcrafted by individual Zapotec and Mixtec farmer-families,” represents what the company calls “a taste of place” that “celebrates the traditions of ancestral villages that give each unique expression its own rich, sweet and smoky character.”

The BTI Judging Panel described the Del Maguey Mezcal as exhibiting:

Clear color. Aromas and flavors of candied red berries, strawberry watermelon, spiced rhubarb, and pineapple and honeyed goat cheese with a round, crisp, dry medium-to-full body and a peppery, thought-provoking, long finish with elements of red berries, apricot, and bleu cheese, and marzipan and crudite. Funky and fruity with light smoke and nice heat, this is exceptionally delicious.

Del Maguey also had the second-highest ranked Mezcal, scoring 96/100, in Del Maguey Santa Caterina Minas, Minero Single Village Blanco Mezcal. The mezcal is crafted in the village of Santa Caterina Minas in Minero from Espadin agave.

The mezcal is double distilled in ancestral-style clay stills using tubing fashioned from bamboo. The company describes the mezcal as featuring a nose of “granite and fig.”

The BTI Judging Panel described the Del Maguey Minero Mezcal as exhibiting:

Clear color. Aromas and flavors of grilled mint, blackberry gelato, orange and plum, leather, and brown butter smoked banana with a round, vibrant, bone-dry medium-full body and a warming, huge, very long finish with notes of fruits, nuts, and animale, grilled nuts, citrus, berries, orchard fruit, sorghum liquor, and over-ripe plantain and hummus. Cocoa nibs, smoked leather, citrus, roasted berries, grilled nuts. So much complexity and deliciousness.

The last Mezcal to win a Platinum Medal-Superlative, scoring 96/100 points, is the

Mezcal Vago Mezcal Ensamble En Barro.

The Mezcal is produced by Salomon Rey Rodriguez, locally known as Tio (Uncle) Rey, in Oaxaca’s Sola de Vega region. The Mezcal producers in this region generally use stills fashioned from clay (olla de barro).

The term ensamble en barro (literally assembled in the still) denotes a field blend of different agaves that the mezcalero has decided are sufficiently ripe to be picked.

The exact proportions of the different types of agave used vary depending on their ripeness, so each ensamble en barro is a unique combination of agave species and produces a one-of-a-kind Mezcal.

The BTI Judging Panel described the Mezcal Vago as featuring:

Clear color. Aromas and flavors of mint and pine, sweet corn and dehydrated pear, vanilla yogurt, and sorghum with a round, lively, dryish medium body and a very long finish that shows accents of eucalyptus with rosemary and thyme, sweet cream and honeysuckle, singed cinnamon bark, and roasted seeds and multi-grain toast. Sweet and herbaceous and surprisingly subtle for the higher proof with a very warming roasted nut sweetness on the palate; enjoy frequently.

Other Mezcals worth trying include Patatus Joven Mezcal Ancestral, Ojo De Tigre Reposado Mezcal, Casa Maestri Blanco Mezcal, Salvadores 70 400 2022 Destilado Con Elote Mezcal, Mine Real Blanco Mezcal, Se Busca Joven Mezcal Artesanal, Se Busca, Joven Madrecuishe Mezcal Artesanal, Mezcal Vago Mezcal Espadin Emigdio Jarquin, Mezcal Vago Mezcal Espadin Joel Barriga, 400 Conejos Mezcal Joven Artesanal Tobala Blanco, and Pluma Negra Joven Artesanal Blanco Mezcal.

This year’s judging from the Beverage Testing Institute produced an exciting mix of Tequilas, featuring some rare, ultra-aged Extra Añejo Tequilas and some Blanco Tequilas. The Mezcal medalists featured many single village expressions, some utilizing little-known agave species or unique combinations of agave species. There is much to explore in BTI’s list of top Tequila and Mezcal medalists.

Source: Forbes