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Monday, 12 December 2011

A Beginner's Guide to Tequila Part 2 - Buying Tequila in B.C.

I will again preface this with saying that I am not much of a tequila drinker in that I'm not exposed to it that often. This is partially because it doesn't show up in classic cocktails very often at all, which is mostly where my interests take me, but more importantly this is because we can't get much tequila in Canada.

Today I'm going to share what I've found by researching all tequila brands that are available to B.C. Liquor Stores (so, not independent ones, but very few of them have a better selection anyway).
Every B.C. liquor store I go to has a tiny and highly overpriced selection of tequila, but if you look at www.bcliquorstores.com, there are more brands available than I thought, albeit with mostly limited stock. I went through each brand and type looking for reviews, awards, anything that would give me an idea of which direction to go.

All in all there are 17 brands currently available, and only 6 of those have good reviews and/or have won awards. Of those 6, the cheapest is $60.
Yup.
However, I did find some decent reviews of some cheaper brands that are apparently very suitable for mixing drinks, which is what most of us will be doing unless we're already knowledgeable on the subject and have a lot of money to spare. As with any spirit, if you're really interested the best thing to do is go to a good bar, start asking questions and start tasting different kinds. The Pourhouse and Boneta in Gastown have a lot available and some amazing bartenders, and The Refinery and The West on Granville Street are also great places to go. (Click on "Reviews" or "Vancouver" to get more good suggestions).

As for what I've found, below is a basic list of some buying suggestions based on reviews (from such sites as www.tequila.net and www.proof66.com) and awards that any brand has won at spirit competitions.

Tequilas Under $50
Sauza Hornitos Gold - $34
Sauza Gold - $26
Cazadores Blanco - $36
(none of the above got very good reviews at all, didn’t win any rewards, aren’t liked by editors of any reputable websites, and are suggested only for mixing. Hornitos got the best reviews of the three and is suggested as a starting point for someone who doesn’t know much about tequila)

Tequilas $50-$100
Herradura Reposado - $60
Aha Toro Reposado - $80
Tierras Reposado Organic - $80
Don Julio Blanco - $85
Cabo Wabo Reposado - $90
Fat Ass Anejo - $90
Don Julio Reposado - $95

Tequilas Over $100
El Tesoro 70th Anniversary - $149
Don Julio 1942 - $150
Jose Cuervo Reserva De Familia - $185
Gran Patron Platinum - $300
Don Julio Real - $386

Aha Toro and Don Julio had the best reviews and awards that I could find out of everything available to us. Cabo Wabo (Sammy Hagar's tequila - for real), El Tesoro, Jose Cuervo Reserva De Familia, and Gran Patron are all decent to good but considered very over-priced (by American price standards, which is WAY less than ours) - especially the latter two.
So, the best way to go apparently is Hornitos if you're just starting out or just want to mix drinks, or Herradura if you're willing to spend more. Anything by Don Julio or Aha Toro would be a real treat - for sipping and not for mixing.

In Conclusion
What I’m seeing is that the tequilas available to us here in B.C., or Canada in general are ridiculously priced compared to the U.S., and mostly big name brands and products that aren’t very good. The ones that are really good are not only at least $60 but also only available in certain locations throughout B.C.
Ultimately it looks like the solution is to get tequila from the U.S., or be content drinking mediocre products like Cazadores or Hornitos, which will still run you $35-40, (compared to a very decent gin or bourbon that will run you under $30).
Doing this research has made it completely clear why I don't know much about tequila and why I don't get to try it very often. If you're looking to get into a spirit or drinking in general, the best thing to do is talk to people you can trust (good bartenders, people who enjoy drinking, etc), look up reviews, and use sites like www.proof66.com to see what kinds of awards the spirits have won. In the end, as always, it's up to your taste, but using all this information will give you good ideas of what directions to go, and along the way you'll learn more and more what you like.

Now that we know how tequila is made, what kinds there are, and what brands are worth your money if you buy in B.C., next time we can talk about how to enjoy it.

[[ click here to see Part 1 of A Beginner's Guide To Tequila ]]
[[ click here to see Part 3 of A Beginner's Guide To Tequila ]]

4 comments:

  1. I will get to this in the next post or two when I go through tequila misconceptions, but I feel the need to mention it now while we're on the subject of buying - do NOT buy Jose Cuervo. It's terrible, cheap crap. It tastes bad and because it's a mixto and made cheaply, it will actually make you sicker if you drink a lot.

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  2. Of the under-$50 category, Cazadores Blanco would be your best bet -- it's actually a pretty good blanco tequila, and it's 100% blue agave, I believe. Sauza is mixto tequila and kind of crappy in my opinion. The Cazadores makes for quite good margaritas.

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  3. ...and actually, from reading around a little, most reviews are quite positive of the Cazadores blanco -- it's quite good for how cheap it is. (Of course, it only costs $22 a bottle here.)

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  4. Most Sauza products are crappy mixtos, but the Hornitos is actually 100% blue agave and gets a pretty consistent "good for the price" review.
    Cazadores, same thing, a lot of people saying "start here" sort of thing. The Sauza name actually turns me off from Hornitos, so next time I buy anything it will probably be Cazadores. I looked a little more myself, and Cazadores actually has won small awards here and there from spirit competitions, so I should take out my above negative comment. Sadly, the reposado is $38 and the blanco is $36, and I still would rather invest that into a nice gin or bourbon, so my tequila woes are sure to continue.

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