The premium tequila sphere is still something of a blank space to me, as I tend to consume my tequila and mezcal within the context of modern cocktails and mixology, rather than drinking it neat. Neat drinking has long been an arena I leave to whiskey, and increasingly to rum, but as it was with my budding fascination in well-aged rum, I’m beginning to truly develop a taste for neat tequila as well. And I’m hardly alone, as tequila remains the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. spirits market, especially in the weeks surrounding Cinco de Mayo.
I am pleased, then, to report that I’ve come across an excellent reposado that I can genuinely see myself drinking by the glass, in the form of Partida Tequila. This is an interesting company for a handful of reasons, as their methods of production run counter to several of the norms of the industry. First of all, Partida is notable for the fact that they grow all their own blue agave on a single estate, in the mineral-rich volcanic soil that is thought to impart a specific flavor to the flora grown there. It’s also grown to an unusual level of maturity—10 years old—before being harvested for tequila, which delivers a more robust flavor. Finally, Partida makes use of stainless steel rather than the more copper stills when it comes to distillation. Copper stills are more or less industry standard for other spirits such as pot-distilled whiskey, but there are tequila purists out there who believe the spirit is better suited to the clean flavor profile of stainless. I by no means know enough to say for sure, but I can say that it certainly works for Partida.
This is a reposado tequila, defined as a spirit distilled from 100% blue agave, and then aged for at least two months or up to a year in oak barrels. Reposado, meaning “rested,” typically represents the middle price tier of many tequila distillery lineups, falling between the unaged blanco and the extra-aged anejo. They are consequently the missing link between well-aged “sipping” tequila and cocktail-friendly blancos, being potentially suited to both tasks. And after tasting Partida Reposado, I’m especially leaning toward neat drinking.
This one is bottled at the standard, lighter 80 proof (40% ABV), and is aged 6 months in ex-bourbon barrels. Let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, the first thing that jumps out on this reposado is a particularly salty, briny note of sea air, followed by cooked agave and a very light hint of oak, with wisps of smoke or char. There are also fruity notes here, and something like candied pear in particular.
That flavor follows through in a big way on the palate, where Partida Reposado proves to be sweet, fruit-forward and inviting in equal measure. I hate using the word “smooth” in these reviews, as it tends to be a descriptor people fall back on when they don’t know what else to say, but it’s very apt here. The alcohol is extremely well integrated, making this go down frighteningly easily—no doubt accentuated by the fact that I’ve grown so used to drinking barrel proof whiskey and rum. Regardless, Partida Reposado features lovely flavors of pear and green apple, along with a distinctive minerality from its volcanic soil. There’s no sharp edges here; the palate is extremely rounded and inviting, with lightly earthy notes, honeyed sweetness and the slightest edge of tannic oak. It’s not the most assertive tequila overall, but it’s effortlessly calculated for neat drinking. At around a $45 MSRP, it’s even decently priced.
As a result, Tequila Partida feels almost too delicate for mixing to me—or I’m sure it would do well enough in something like a margarita, but you’d be missing out on its finer qualities if you did so. This is just plain excellent to drink on its own, and you should give it a try for yourself.
Distillery: Partida Tequila
City: Tequila Valley, Jalisco, Mexico
Style: Reposado tequila
ABV: 40% (80 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $45 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.