When it comes to new tequila brands of the last few years, there aren’t many we’ve found more purely enjoyable than El Sativo, whose blanco I memorably first tasted in 2020. Putting aside the vaguely New Age-sounding marketing, and the cannabis-adjacent promise that the tequila’s terpene content somehow includes health benefits—benefits not immediately eradicated by the presence of large amounts of ethanol—we found the brand delicious on its own merits.
And that’s really no surprise, as when one looks past the gimmick, this is a very traditionally produced tequila. Organic and produced solely from agave harvested from the distillery’s (Tequilas Las Americas of Amatitán, Jalisco) own estate, El Sativo’s distillate is made from agave cooked in stone ovens, fermented with natural yeast, and double pot distilled before being blended with reverse osmosis water filtered through volcanic rock. Which is to say, it’s a pretty good baseline for traditional tequila, not making use of such modern tools as autoclaves or diffusors, which many tequila fans lament.
At the time I first tasted it, though, El Sativo was only available in an unaged, blanco variant. Now, the brand’s aged expressions have arrived on the scene, and it only makes sense to revisit the brand by tasting how time in the barrel has affected its flagship spirit. Like most tequila brands on U.S. shelves, these aged expressions come in the form of a reposado and anejo tequila, although El Sativo’s brands appear to have a bit more age on them than most.
So with that said, let’s get to tasting.
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
El Sativo’s Reposado Tequila is aged in ex-bourbon barrels for an unusually long 9 months, with 3-6 months often being a more typically time frame for reposado. One can legally label a tequila as anejo after 12 months, so reposados pushing the upper range of that designation aren’t particularly common.
On the nose, this is understandably more oak forward than most reposado, and the barrels have certainly expressed themselves strongly. There’s juicy citrus here, along with loads of vanilla, some cooked agave and a little pepper. Touches of roast underline butterscotch and hints of salt. On the palate, this turns quite sweet, with butterscotch and bruleed grapefruit, sprinkled with vanilla flavored sugar. Truly a “vanilla bomb,” and probably too strongly flavored in that respect for some traditional palates, it is somewhat balanced by moderate woodiness and a bit of tannin, but this reposado still reads as very sweet overall. Flashes of bright, raspberry-like fruit crop up in some sips, but I find myself wishing that perhaps the company had displayed a bit more of a delicate hand in aging this one, and left the more assertive barrel notes to the anejo. All in all, this bottle is more reflective of the barrel than most reposados, so keep that in mind when you see it on the shelves. It’s also quite sweet, so it functions best in cocktail applications where that sweetness is desired.
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
El Sativo’s Anejo Tequila has reportedly been aged for 16 months in ex-bourbon barrels, a bit over the one-year minimum. Unlike the reposado, this doesn’t push it toward the upper limits of the category as the increasingly common “extra anejo” expressions on store shelves must spend at least three years in the oak.
This expression, however, does retain the strong level of oak influence as seen in the reposado, dialing it up to the next level. The nose is sweet, with caramel and a touch of smoke, and is notably roast-forward. As on the reposado, there’s a whole lot of vanilla extract here, although it arguably seems to fit this profile a bit more naturally, along with traces of coffee, a bit of clove, and roasted nuts. On the palate, this is quite sweet again, with lots of caramel and dark fruitiness emerging, along with cooked agave and something akin to strawberry jam. Oak, of course, is fairly substantial, and I’m getting overt roastiness and hints of sweet espresso and vanilla cream, along with pepper and some cinnamon sugar.
All in all, a pretty decadent anejo, but one where the sweet and roasty impressions actually play a bit better, to my palate, than in the reposado. Whereas the less-aged brand could arguably have used a lighter touch, in order to give it only a kiss of the barrel, El Sativo’s Anejo fully embraces the oak in a very transformative way. This is not typically my favorite way to consume tequila, and this expression in particular will still likely be too sweet even for some anejo drinkers, but I do like the dramatic roastiness the spirit has extracted from the barrel here.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.