Learn how to taste tequila from this step-by-step guide to discovering and appreciating the distinctive aromas and flavors of its various styles.

How To Taste Tequila

If your idea of a great cocktail is a well-crafted margarita, perhaps it’s time to take your appreciation of tequila to the next level and sample the distinctive aromas and flavors of its different varieties. Just as with wine, there are guidelines you can follow to make sure you get the most out of a tequila tasting experience.

How To Taste Tequila

A step-by-step guide to discovering and appreciating the distinctive aromas and flavors of various styles of tequila.

The Common Styles of Tequila

The three styles of tequila are defined by the method and length of the aging process they go through and each has its own unique flavor and aroma characteristics. To host a proper tasting, you’ll need a bottle of each. When shopping, look for tequilas made from 100% blue agave as they make the best choice for a tasting.

Tequila Blanco

Blanco, or silver, tequila is clear and is bottled immediately following the distillation process. It is quite strong and retains much of the pure blue agave flavor. It is the variety most often used for mixing.

Tasting Notes: aromas of citrus, apple, pear, mint, pepper or pineapple

Tequila Reposado

Reposado, or rested, tequila rests in pipones (storage vats) for anywhere between two months and a year. The process produces a pale, mellow spirit that can be sipped or used for mixing in simple cocktails.

Tasting Notes: aromas of vanilla, honey, caramel, butterscotch, almond, toffee or spice

Tequila Añejo

Añejo, or aged, tequila rests for over a year, consequently adopting an amber color and oaky flavor from the pipones. Its complex and refined flavors are best enjoyed as a sipping spirit.

Tasting Notes: aromas of vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, brown sugar, almond, toffee, chocolate, oak or spice

Glassware

The glasses you use for your tequila tasting are an important part of the experience. Although tequila is frequently served in a shot glass, the best choice is actually a stemmed glass with a short bowl that tapers slightly toward the top. White wine glasses can be used if you don’t have tequila sipping glasses.

If you have 3 glasses for each guest, you can pour all three tequilas at once. If not, pour them one at a time, just clean the glasses between each variety.

Tasting Tequila, Step-By-Step

Your tequila should be served at room temperature and each pour for the tasting should be about 1/2 ounce. Follow the four steps below for each variety and make notes to compare them.

Step One: Note the Color

The first step in tasting is to hold the glass to the light and make note of the color. Tequila blanco should be crystal clear, reposado a golden color and anejo can range between golden and amber.

Step Two: Identify the Aromas

Experiencing the tequila’s subtle aromas is a three-part process:

  1. Swirl the tequila in the glass to release these aromas, then, holding the rim of the glass about 1/2 inch from your nose, give it a sniff. Sweet aromas should predominate. Tequila blanco may have notes of citrus, apple and pear while the reposado and añejo varieties may exhibit aromas of vanilla, honey, caramel, butterscotch, brown sugar, almond, toffee or chocolate.
  2. Swirl the tequila again, this time put your nose directly into the glass and sniff. The sweet aromas will still be detectable, but the alcohol vapors should be much more prominent.
  3. Swirl once again, then tilt the glass toward you and sniff near the rim on the far side of the glass. Note the combination of spicy-sweet aromas. The reposado and anejo may exhibit hints of oak and spice, while the blanco may have subtle notes of mint, pepper or pineapple.

Step Three: Experience the Flavors

The next step is the actual tasting. Take a sip of the tequila and hold it in your mouth for a moment, allowing it to coat your tongue. Swallow and then exhale through your mouth. Exhaling releases the alcohol vapors and mellows the “burn.”

The flavors you experience should include some of the aromas you’ve already noted, combined with hints of sweetness, bitterness, acidity and/or saltiness.

Step Four: Evaluate the Finish

The final step is to evaluate the texture and finish. Tequila can be smooth, mellow, full-bodied or light and flavors that linger on the palate are considered to be a long finish.

Pairing with Food

Serve some plain crackers to clear the palate in between tasting the different varieties and compare notes and opinions with your guests. Once you’ve tasted the different varieties, you may want to sample them again, this time paired with food. For recipes and suggestions, be sure to check out “Host a Tequila Tasting Party.”