El Tequileño Blanco Tequila Review

Drink Reviews tequila
El Tequileño Blanco Tequila Review

In the last few decades, the typical American spirits consumer has notably evolved their relationship with tequila. Go back 20 years, and agave spirits had perhaps the least refined reputation of all the major liquor categories in the U.S., constantly depicted as the fuel for raucous partying, vice, blackouts or simply as the prime component (in a best case scenario) for the omnipresent margarita. Very few Americans thought of, or culturally depicted, tequila (and mezcal even less so) as a sophisticated spirit for neat drinking or elegant cocktails. This finally began to change in the push for the recognition of 100% agave tequila, and the rise of a premiumized segment of the category that slowly introduced more drinkers in the U.S. to versions of the spirit with more complex, agave-derived flavors.

Where does that leave us today? Well, many of the American consumers have thus absorbed the following lesson: 100% agave tequila is good, and anything less, i.e. “mixto tequila,” is bad. But such clear-cut distinctions can miss some interesting and unusual spirits, with El Tequileño Blanco as a prime, distinctly unusual example. This is mixto tequila, but held to a level of quality and sophistication not typically seen in this part of the tequila segment.

If you’re unaware, mixto tequila is the broad term referring to tequila in which the fermentables are derived from anything less than 100% agave pinas. That can mean any fermentable, but it commonly refers to cheap sugars used to thin out the resulting product in order to make inexpensive, bottom shelf tequilas suitable for mixed drinks. El Tequileño Blanco, on the other hand, seeks to premiumize this particular style through the use of 29% piloncillo in addition to the agave. Piloncillo is sometimes referred to as “Mexican brown sugar,” but that doesn’t quite do it justice–unlike American brown sugar, it is not refined white sugar with a small portion of molasses added back in, but unrefined sugar from earlier in the process. This means it retains more of the nutty, caramelized-type flavor, making it a staple in Mexican baking and cooking. Certainly, it’s an unusual bedfellow with the cooked agave that provides the typical fermentables for tequila, and it’s not something I’ve encountered before.

Regardless, El Tequileño Blanco Tequila is produced in Jalisco at NOM 1108, with pinas cooked in autoclaves before double distillation in copper pot stills. It is bottled at the standard 40% ABV (80 proof), with an approachable MSRP of $25. So with that said, let’s get to tasting this odd spin on blanco tequila.

On the nose, the first thing that stands out is cooked agave; this feels quite roasty and sweet indeed, with sticky herbal notes leading the way. There’s also significant pepperiness here, and traces of roasted nuts, clove and particularly butterscotch. The latter isn’t exactly what you expect to find when nosing a blanco tequila for the first time, but I feel like the unrefined sugars are expressing themselves here through trace elements that are not fermented out. It gives the mild impression of a tequila that has some age on it, rather than a fresh blanco.

On the palate, most of these impressions carry through. It’s pretty peppery here, but the spice profile goes beyond that, touching on clove and then unexpectedly on fennel or star anise. It’s herbaceous, with sweet cooked agave and vanilla pudding. Texture is quite smooth and a little creamy, with repressed ethanol and a reprise of the mild butterscotch note. There are also some floral characteristics, rounding out a profile that is somewhat more complex than one might expect.

All in all, El Tequileño Blanco isn’t quite like anything I’ve run across in recent memory. As on the nose, you get an impression of mild age here despite it seeing no time in oak, which I can only contribute to the piloncillo sugar. The result is not unpleasant, though agave geeks will probably miss the more bright and distinctly herbal tones. Regardless, this should make for a fascinating mixer, and it goes to show that just because a bottle of tequila is mixto, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s lacking in character.

Distillery: El Tequileno
City: Jalisco, Mexico
Style: Mixto tequila
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $25 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin