Tequila lovers, rejoice! Because 2016 was a year of plenty—plenty of amazing tequilas, that is. Over the past few years, agave spirits have gained in popularity, inspiring new brands to come to market and older distillers to step up their game. The result: liquor store shelves packed with incredible options. While we weren’t lucky (or brave) enough to try every single new tequila out there, we were able to sample a number of the newest offerings, including a shockingly good flavored tequila and a smoked bottling that knocked our socks off. Whether you’re looking to expand your collection or need a gift for a tequila fanatic in your life, here are five of the best tequilas released in 2016.
Set to officially launch across the country in 2017, Código has been slowing rolling out its line of tequilas in select markets over the past few months. Based in Amatitán, Oaxaca, the company boasts four expressions—a blanco, reposado, añejo and Origen (an extra-añejo). The youngest tequila in the line-up is particularly noteworthy. Código 1530 Blanco has mild citrus notes on the nose as well as a hint of cinnamon that persists on the tongue. It packs a vanilla sweetness and a slightly vegetal twinge, making it a great all-purpose tequila for those who like to sip their agave on the rocks and mix it in cocktails.
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If you’re trying to coerce someone into liking tequila after they’ve only had shots of bottom shelf imposters, this new bottling from Pasote—a brand that launched earlier this year—is a good place to start. It’s smooth and savory, with definite salt notes on the palate, but it’s not overpowering, nor does it last long on the palate. While we suspect it might get a bit lost in a citrus-heavy cocktail, its salty notes would play well in a Bloody Maria.
Released in March, Maestro Dobel’s newest tequila is a nod to its agave cousin, mezcal. Humito is the first-ever smoked silver tequila and has a lightly smoldering character like a borderline mezcal, which it gets from an encounter with mesquite wood during production. It also features subtle notes of wet stone and earth. It’s delicious—one of our favorite launches of the year—and at its best sipped neat or on the rocks, but it would also make a killer smoky Margarita.
You may have seen Olmeca Altos plata and reposado bottles on the back bar of your favorite watering hole, but chances are you’ve probably not had the chance to taste the brand’s newest spirit, a classic añejo. An impressively rich amber color, this añejo is round and smooth, as one would expect, but it also packs some lovely spice notes, including cinnamon and a hint of vanilla and spicy ginger. Though it’s a great sipper, it doesn’t linger long on the palate, making it a great, mellow addition to a Tequila Old Fashioned.
One of tequila’s greatest qualities is its ability to mix with spice without being overpowered by the heat. Tanteo’s tongue-tingling new addition is a perfect example of that flavor phenomenon. It’s infused with chipotle peppers for a slightly smoky tang. On the nose, it has hints of Tabasco and a touch of cinnamon. On the palate, it’s spicy, thick and sweet. While only the brave will sip it without a mixer, it’s a powerful addition to classic tequila cocktails—particularly the Paloma.