The most expensive tequilas in the world come in a variety of shapes (bottle), flavors, and distilling processes. Some are expensive for the tequila itself, and others for the bottle in which the tequila lives in.
Most drinkers come to know tequila mixed with a multitude of other ingredients in margaritas. Some know tequila as a drink for machismo-invoking shots. But true aficionados of tequila appreciate it as a fine liquor to be enjoyed without the salt and lime that are used to hide an inferior product.
Table of Contents
- Tequila or Mezcal?
- What Makes a Good Tequila?
- What Makes a Great Tequila?
- The 17 most expensive tequilas in the world
- 1. Tequila Ley .925 Diamanté
- 2. Clase Azul 15th Anniversary Edition
- 3. Tequila Ley .925 Ultra-Premium
- 4. AsomBroso Reserva Del Porto
- 5. Barrique de Ponciano Porfidio
- 6. José Cuervo 250 Aniversario
- 7. 1800 Colección Tequila
- 8. Clase Azul Extra Añejo (Ultra)
- 9. AsomBroso del Porto Extra Añejo
- 10. Rey Sol Añejo Tequila
- 11. Tres-Quatro-Cinco Tequila
- 12. Casa Herradura Seleccion Suprema Tequila
- 13. Don Julio Real Tequila
- 14. Gran Patrón Platinum Tequila
- 15. Trago Reposado Tequila
- 16. Clase Azul Reposado Tequila
- 17. Casamigos Reposado Tequila
Tequila or Mezcal?
The term “mezcal” refers to any liquor distilled from the juice of a maguey plant, also known as agave. Every tequila can be classified as a mezcal, but not all mezcals can are classified as tequila. Not just any agave can be used to make tequila. Mexican law requires every tequila to contain a distillate made from at least 51 percent Weber blue agave. This agave is native to the states of Aguascalientes, Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit in Mexico. It grows on rich, reddish, sandy soils at elevations over 1500 meters (5000 feet).
Mezcal can be made with any of several species of agave found in any of nine Mexican states. The agave for mezcal is prepared by burying it with hot coals in an earthen pit, giving it a smoky flavor, while tequila is prepared in ovens. In Mexico, there more agave spirits such as pulque, sotol, raicilla, and baconara, but only tequila and mezcal are commonly drunk outside of Mexico.
What Makes a Good Tequila?
Good tequila begins with blue agave.
Blue agave plants are huge succulents. Their leaves extend up to 2 meters (about 7 feet) long. The Blue agave species sprouts a quiote, which is a stem that can grow as much as 10 meters (30 feet) tall. The end of this central stem bears yellow flowers that are pollinated by butterflies, hummingbirds, and long-nosed bats. Most Mexican agave growers cut off the flower stem so the plant will concentrate growth in its heart.
Tequila is distilled from piñas, the central stems of the Weber blue agave plant. Cut piñas usually weigh 100–200 pounds (45–90 kg). The piñas look something like white pineapples. They have to be harvested from agave plants that are at least seven years old at just the right time for maximum sweetness.
Tequilla Distilling Process
Tequila distillers hack off the leaves, quarter the piñas, and bake them for 24 to 48 hours in hornos, large adobe ovens. Next, the distillers crush the baked stems to release their sweet juice. “Tequila 100% de Agave” is made from nothing but pure blue agave juice; tequila mixto can be made from up to 49 percent other juices and sugar. The squeezed juice is known as the mosto or tepache. All that is needed for fermentation is to add yeast.
The tepache is held in giant fermentation vats until the mixture reaches 5 percent alcohol, just ten proof. Any higher concentration of alcohol causes tequila yeast to die. In order to concentrate the alcohol, tequila must be distilled until it reaches 55 percent alcohol or 110 proof. Water is added when it is bottled to make the resulting product 76 to 80 proof (38 to 40 percent alcohol by volume). Mexican law requires that bottled tequila must be diluted to no more than 100 proof (50 percent alcohol).
There are five types of tequila, depending on how they are aged:
1. Tequila Blanco (Tipo 1 or “tipo uno”)
As the name “blanco” (white) suggests, tipo 1 tequila is a clear liquor. Sometimes this type of tequila is not aged at all. It may be stored in stainless steel vats for up to 60 days. It’s an OK, all-purpose, inexpensive tequila for margaritas and other mixed drinks rather than for sipping.
2. Joven Tequila (Tipo 2, or “tipos dos”)
Joven or “young” tequila, sometimes known as tequila oro (golden tequila), is a tequila blanco with other flavors added. These inexpensive tequilas may be flavored with sugar syrup, caramel, and/or oak extract, and may have added glycerin to emulate a smooth finish. These tequilas were popular in the 1990s but are not seen as often today.
3. Tequila Reposado (Tipo 3, or “tipo tres”)
This tequila has been through a period of “repose,” at least two months up to nine months in a wooden cask. An oak cask softens the burn of the tequila blanco and imparts an oak flavor. The tequila takes on a soft yellow color from the oak in the barrel. Many distilleries rest their Tipo 3 in bourbon barrels, giving it another dimension of flavor.
4. Tequila Añejo (Tipo 4, or “tipo cuatro”)
An añejo is an “aged” tequila. Tipo 4 tequilas are aged in barrels between 18 months and three years to produce a dark, robust liquor. Añejos tend to have balanced agave and oak flavors and often offer notes of butterscotch and vanilla.
5. Tequila Extra-Añejo (Tipo 5, of “tipo cinco”)
In 2006 the industry introduced a new category of muy añejo or extra-old tequilas. These tequilas are aged for more than three years and take on a rich aroma and taste. Their taste profiles rival those of the finest whiskeys on the market.
What Makes a Great Tequila?
Nearly everyone will tell you that a great tequila has to be made from 100 percent Weber blue agave juice. A great tequila can’t be “mixto,” a mixture of at least Weber blue agave with other permissible ingredients. But a really great tequila is more than that.
The secret of a great tequila is reliability. Every bottle of the brand, year after year, delivers the same flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. Great mixologists not only know how to mix premium ingredients, they know how to create the same tequila when great ingredients are not available. A good tequila gives a great experience every time. That’s why quality tequilas are meant to be sipped, not mixed.
The 17 most expensive tequilas in the world
An extremely high price isn’t always about the tequila. Sometimes it is about the bottle, as it is with the most expensive tequila in the world. We based our prices on a fifth of tequila, 750 ml.
1. Tequila Ley .925 Diamanté
Price: $3.5 million per bottle
Tequila Ley .925 Diamanté is rested in barrels for seven years. This Premium Extra Añejo is 42 percent alcohol. It is bottled in a flask made from 4.4 pounds (2 kg) of platinum and 4.100 perfect white diamonds. The overall design of the bottle is a dragon theme. Glass “dragon scales” cover the bottle, and a “dragon tooth” hangs from its neck.
The tequila inside Tequila Ley .925 Diamanté is neither Añejo nor Extra-Añejo. It is aged 18 months in oak barrels and reportedly has both butterscotch and vanilla flavors. This tequila is the Tequila Ley .925 that sells over the counter for $3,499,947.01 less ($52.99 a bottle) in liquor stores everywhere.
This makes Tequila Ley .925 Diamanté the single most expensive tequila in the world.
2. Clase Azul 15th Anniversary Edition
Price: $30,000 a bottle
Clase Azul has been making tequilas of high quality since 1997. In 2012, it celebrated 15 years in business with a limited run of 15 bottles in the Clase Azul 15th Anniversary Edition, priced at $30,000. The bottle tells the story of Mexico through time with Mexican Designation of Origin styles of pottery Amber, Olinala, Talavera, and Tequila. The $450,000 collected from the sale of the 15 commemorative bottles was donated to the charitable organization Fundación con Causa Azul A.C., which promotes the work of Mexican craftspeople and artisans.
The founder of Clase Azul Arturo Lomeli admitted to reporter Katy Scott that the tequila he sold when he was getting started was “his first tequila was low-cost, “terrible” and packaged with a tacky sombrero and mustache.” But Lomeli went back to graduate school to get a degree in luxury marketing. Now his tequila is considered good, but his bottles are considered works of art.
3. Tequila Ley .925 Ultra-Premium
Price: $3,500 to $225,000 a bottle
In 2006, Tequila Ley wanted to produce a tequila that would be remembered. Their artists designed three unique bottles to provide a home for the tequila designed by Mexican artist Alejandro Gomez Oropeza to resemble a barbed seashell, making only 33 bottles for each run. A gold and silver bottle retailed for $25,000. The bottle is gold and platinum retailed for $150,000.
The bottle in white gold and platinum retailed for $225,000. In those 99 expensive bottles, they placed a fine tequila made from the pure sap of blue agave aged for six years. The same tequila in a glass bottle of the same design retails for a mere $3,500.
As with Tequila Ley .925 Diamanté, the tequila in these exquisite containers is neither Añejo nor Extra-Añejo. It has been aged 18 months in oak barrels and reportedly has noteworthy butterscotch and vanilla flavors. This tequila is the Tequila Ley .925 that sells over the counter for $52.99 a bottle in liquor stores everywhere.
4. AsomBroso Reserva Del Porto
Price: $2800 a bottle, sometimes on sale for $1499 a bottle
Connoisseurs of fine tequilas say that no special occasion is necessary to drink AsomBroso Reserva Del Porto. Drinking this brandy-like tequila is the occasion. Aged for ten years in barrels previously used to store port wine in Portugal, AsomBroso Reserva Del Porto is mixed with a small portion of tequila aged in white oak casks. The tequila is bottled in a crystal decanter modeled after a decanter found in an eighteenth-century Portuguese castle by distiller Ricardo Gamarra that took Italian artist Luciano Gambaro two years to duplicate. The decanter travels in a handmade cedar humidor.
5. Barrique de Ponciano Porfidio
Price: $2,200 a bottle
Part of the price of Barrique de Ponciano Porfidio is the bottle itself. It displays letters and images engraved in 21-karat gold. Aged for 10 years in French oak barrels, this tequila is released in restricted-edition batches of just 2,000 bottles per year. Made from 100-percent agave, Barrique de Ponciano Porfidio has a clean taste undiluted by minerals or contamination of a water supply.
6. José Cuervo 250 Aniversario
Price: $2,179 a bottle
This Extra Añejo is both intense in flavor and warm in the mouth. Its nose announces the tequila with citrus, sherry, and smoke. The taste notes encompass butterscotch, chocolate, and vanilla with a smooth mouthfeel. It is modestly creamy and mild.
7. 1800 Colección Tequila
Price: $1800 a bottle
1800 Colección is a respected brand registered to the Beckmann family. Their premium 1800 Colección tequila is named after the year distillers started aging tequila in oak barrels, 1800. This tequila is made from mature agave plants and allowed to rest in oak barrels. It is distilled twice during the ten-year aging process to give it a taste reminiscent of Amaretto but with much more of a kick.
1800 Colección is bottled in a Belgian crystal decanter trimmed in pewter and inside a luxurious case lined with suede.
8. Clase Azul Extra Añejo (Ultra)
Price: $1700 a bottle
Clase Azul Extra Añejo (Ultra) Tequila is produced in a limited edition of 100 bottles, half for the Mexican market, and a half for the U.S. market. Its strikingly red color comes from its ten-year aging process in oak barrels previously used for sherry. This tequila is bottled in crystal decanters trimmed in gold, silver, and platinum.
9. AsomBroso del Porto Extra Añejo
Price: $1551 a bottle
No tequila on this list is aged longer than AsomBroso del Porto Extra Añejo. First, it is rested in barrels of oak for 11 years. Then it is aged for another 11 years in barrels that had been used for port winemaking in Portugal. Finally, it’s bottled in a hand-blown Italian glass bottle reported to be a replica of an eighteenth-century decanter found in a European castle. This smooth, silky tequila pleases with hints of port and toffee. And if you purchase a bottle of this Extra Añejo from the AsomBroso website, they will throw in an almost-complementary bottle of their 11-year-old tequila for just $1.
10. Rey Sol Añejo Tequila
Price: $400 a bottle
This “King Sun Aged Tequila” comes in a distinctive, sun-shaped bottle. Distiller Tequila Rey Sol advertises this label as two pieces of art in one. Mexican artist Sergio Bustamante designed the distinctive decanter bottle. The six years of aging creates an unusually mellow taste that is unrealized in brands rushed to bottling. The distiller credits the uniquely smooth flavor of their product to the spring waters in the highlands of Jalisco state that are mixed with the agave nectar, and the precise process of baking the agave at 194° F for 48 hours. Rey Sol Añejo bursts with strong flavors of caramel, spice, and vanilla. It finishes with a nutty taste that brings memories of almonds.
11. Tres-Quatro-Cinco Tequila
Price: $379 a bottle
Master blender Enrique Fonseca makes Tres-Cuatro-Cinco from a mélange of 30 percent tequila aged three years, 40 percent tequila aged four years, and 30 percent tequila aged five years. (Many sources claim that the blend is 30-40-50, but that is impossible since it adds to 120 percent.) This beautifully golden-brown tequila is bottled in crystal decanters.
12. Casa Herradura Seleccion Suprema Tequila
Price: $360 a bottle
Winner Gold Medal at the World Spirits Competition in San Francisco in 2012, this premium tequila has been in production since 1990 at the Casa Herradura, which has been making fine tequila since 1870. This $360 tequila has an aroma of rose petals, wood, and agave nectar, and a creamy, soft finish.
Gran Patrón is a label many drinkers associate with expensive tequila, although maybe not this expensive. Gran Patrón Burdeos is distilled and aged in American and then French oak barrels. Then it is distilled again and aged in casks used for vintage Bordeaux. The end-product is a richly flavored amber liqueur that has notes ranging from raisin to wood to vanilla. It’s delicious straight up and also a perfect ingredient for an old-fashioned.
13. Don Julio Real Tequila
Price: $350 a bottle
The Don Julio distillery advertises their Don Julio Real Tequila as the crown jewel of their portfolio. It is an Extra-Añejo tequila aged in white oak barrels for three to five years instead of just two. It has notes of light spice, vanilla, and chocolate, with a minimal burn. At $350 a bottle, it is pricey but still affordable for small sips on special occasions.
14. Gran Patrón Platinum Tequila
Price: $250 a bottle
Drinkers of Gran Patrón Platinum note that it goes down smooth, and it is unusually sweet without the addition of sugar. The sweetness of this tequila derives from the careful timing of the agave harvest. If the crop is harvested a little too soon or a little too late the sugar content of the agave is much lower. The Gran Patrón Platinum bottles have a unique shape and are shipped in a maple wood box lined with velvet.
15. Trago Reposado Tequila
Price: $60 a bottle
This “rested” tequila is stored in American oak barrels for four months. Despite its short aging time, it has a smooth finish and is full of agave flavor. It is another popular “starter” premium tequila.
16. Clase Azul Reposado Tequila
Price: $58 a bottle
Clase Azul Reposado Tequila is rested in barrels for eight months. Each bottle is hand-blown in a small village in Mexico and is a collector’s item.
17. Casamigos Reposado Tequila
Price: $50 a bottle
No list of the world’s most expensive tequilas would be complete with the creation of George Clooney, Rande Gerber, and Mike Meldman’s Casamigos Reposado Tequila. Aged seven months, this tequila has a silky feel and presents notes of oak, cocoa, and caramel. The makers of this “rested” tequila intend it to be a gentle introduction to sipping tequilas and a gateway to other premium, artisanal labels.