The 11 Best Blanco Tequilas to Buy Right Now

In the world of tequilas, life begins with blanco.

By Richard Carlton Hacker 19/02/2024

No matter what other three variations you may be drinking, whether reposado, añejo, or extra añejo, they all start out as a blanco—an unaged agave distillation. Consequently, the better the blanco, the better will be its transformation into any of tequila’s aged expressions.

That’s why, for the tequila aficionado who wants to experience the true essence of agave, the crystal clear blanco (also called “silver” or “platinum” by various distillers) offers the purest flavor, without aging, although a few producers rest their blancos in barrels or stainless-steel vats for about a month after distillation to let it settle into a subtle smoothness.

In addition, some distillers mix their blancos with a touch of an older tequila (usually an añejo), thus producing a joven, which translates as “young.” However, technically, it can no longer be called a blanco, as it has had an aged tequila added, no matter how miniscule the amount. By comparison, these 11 blancos are the very best ways to savor the very heart and soul of Mexico’s native drink.

In 2017, venture capitalist and tequila connoisseur Todd Chaffee decided he wanted to make the world’s finest tequila. Teaming up with master distillers Enrique Fonseca and his uncle, Sergio Mendoza— fourth- and fifth-generation agaveros (agave farmers)—he succeeded. Although it took seven years to bring this tequila to market, because in a unique marketing ploy, the company held it back from national distribution until 2023, when it had won more than 700 awards. The wait was worth it, for this blanco starts out with a tantalizingly sweet, smooth bouquet that quickly slips into floral, peppery notes that linger. Fittingly, “cierto” is Spanish for “true”—a perfect word to describe this pure, elegant tequila.

A college assignment quickly turned into a career when Carlos Soto, who had emigrated from Costa Rica to the United States, entered this blanco in the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition and won a Double Gold for “Best Tequila.” I was one of the judges at that blind tasting event (every spirit was identified by a letter, not by brand) and remember writing in my notes, “This would make a helluva Margarita.” After the judging, the entrants were revealed, and the Double Gold Best in Class tequila was Nosotros. Possessing citrus influences from Highland agaves combined with herbal, peppery notes from Lowland agaves, the result has a slightly rugged undertaste that just begs for a measure of Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge and a squeeze of fresh lime.

Co-founder Pepe Hermosillo does things a little differently than most other tequileros, using only certified organic ingredients, and distilling his tequila three times, surpassing the legally required double distillation. It is that third distillation that defines and refines this blanco, giving it a smoothness that makes it imminently drinkable. Hermosillo carefully selects his agave fields in the volcanic soil of the mountains of western Jalisco. That rich earthiness—along with undertones of cracked pepper and light notes of vanilla—is reflected in this tequila.

Released in October 2023, the inaugural bottle of this pure, 100 percent additive-free tequila was auctioned at the 10th Annual WineaPAWlooza fundraiser in Napa Valley for a staggering $10,000—which makes its current price of $90 a bottle seem like a bargain. Produced by Napa Valley vintner Adam Craun, co-founder of the 100-point cult Cabernet Sauvignon powerhouse Memento Mori, along with entrepreneur Nicholas Lutz and master distiller Chava Rosales, this tequila is made with Craun’s vintner-like approach of matching the best ingredients with the terroir along with a combination of traditional and modern techniques, which includes using 30 percent stone tahonas and 70 percent roller mills to crush the exclusive, smaller, and more flavorful lowland tierra negra (black earth) tequilana weber agaves that make up this spirit. The result is one of the richest, deepest, most intense agave flavors of any blanco we have sipped. Peppery lime, roasted citrus, a hint of smoke, and a thick, sweet agave finish make this a tequila to be savored. Extremely limited, only 700 cases were produced of this initial release—or “vintage”—as winemaker Craun calls it.

As one of this celebrated brands’ latest entrees to its newly christened “prestige” category—reflecting Patrón’s elevated style and pricing— this blanco was made for mixing. To achieve that goal, it is the first blanco to be distilled four times, which brings out more of the agave’s thick sweetness and releases additional notes of fresh cucumber and celery. “While adding another stage of distillation is commonly misconceived as a culprit for diluting flavor, that was not the case for Patrón El Cielo,” said David Rodriguez, Patrón’s master distiller. Indeed, we found it invites a riff on classic cocktails like a Bloody Mary or Martini.

This multiple award-winning small-batch tequila is partly owned by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the wrestler turned actor turned entrepreneur who actually takes a personal interest in Teremana. He was involved in all 113 individual tastings that resulted in the final recipe for this blanco, which is bright with fresh citrus, tropical fruit, and roasted agave combined with a hint of lemongrass. The Teremana name itself translates as “spirit of the earth,” linking the Latin word “terra,” with the Polynesian word “mana,” meaning spirit, and reflecting the Samoan heritage of Johnson’s mother.

Gone are the days when tequila was thought of as just a cheap shot to get a quick buzz. This blanco is at the opposite end of that spectrum. In fact, it is one of the most meticulously crafted ultra-premium tequilas you can buy. Its name means “pure heart” in Spanish and refers to the fact that when a distilled liquid comes off the copper pot stills, it trickles out in three distinct evolutions. First is the “heads” a rough tasting spirit that gradually evolves into the “heart,” the “corazón” or middle and purest part of the distillate. Then comes the last part, the “tails,” which lacks the flavorful purity of the heart. While distillers naturally keep the “heart,” they usually redistill the heads and tails to try and salvage whatever small amount of the heart they may have been missed. Not so with Loco Puro Corazón. They use only the purest distillation of the heart, without redistilling the heads or tails. The result is an ultra-elegant blanco, soft as velvet, with sweet essences of pure agave, delicate herbs, and a touch of mint and eucalyptus. Puro Corazón rightfully deserves to be poured and enjoyed on very special occasions.

The puntas, or “distiller’s cut,” of agave spirits are considered the most coveted part of the distillate and are traditionally set aside by the producer to be enjoyed with friends and family on special occasions. This is the second release of this coveted overproof expression of the brand’s award-winning plata tequila, following the spirit’s introduction in 2022. The single estate Highland agaves used to create this tequila were harvested from Rancho Mesa Colorada, a field overseen by the family of legendary tequilero and Tequila Ocho co-founder Carlos Camarena. With a 33 percent average sugar content for the piñas, and clocking in at 106 proof, the flavor is highly concentrated, buttery, and bursting with over-ripe agaves combined with ancho chiles, cracked black pepper; salted butterscotch, almonds, and green apples. “Puntas is an expression which, because of the high proof of the spirit, we originally could only make available for sale at our distillery,” Camarena says. “After we finally bottled and released it in early 2022, it was so well-received that we knew we had to create this second bottling for tequila aficionados.” Fair warning: although officially listed at $75, expect to pay a premium for this rare blanco.

It’s not difficult to find numerous celebrities hopping on the tequila bandwagon, but this one not only has true Mexican roots, but can boast of converting a wine-loving A-lister to embrace the agaves for real. Created by Mexican-born Aron Marquez along with first-generation Mexican American, Abraham Ancer, Flecha Azul soon got the attention of actor Mark Wahlberg, who joined the team as an investor. “It’s a quality tequila, totally additive-free, and you can tell as soon as you taste it,” Wahlberg says. “I was always a wine guy, never a big tequila drinker, until I tasted Flecha Azul.” Rested for two months in stainless steel tanks after distillation, the honey-sweet flavor is laced with ripe fruit and faint peppery notes. No wonder Wahlberg prefers this blanco for his cocktails.

Tourists visiting Mexico are often surprised to find that the majority of tequilas sold there are 70 proof, while the same brands exported to the United States are traditionally 80 proof or slightly higher. But by law, tequilas cannot exceed 110 proof, which means Pasote’s Still Strength is as high as any tequila can legally go. “This Still Strength blanco has an entirely unique production process as well as a fresh, colorful label design for the Mexican fall holidays,” said August Sebastiani, president of 3 Badge Beverage Corp. the wine and spirits négociant behind Pasote. The single-estate agaves are baked for two days and then crushed prior to being fermented in open-air stainless-steel tanks with a proprietary blend of cultivated local yeasts. The first distillation utilizes a closer cut of the heart, with less liquid available for the second distillation. The higher proof of the first distillate removes greater concentrations of impurities from the heads and tails of the agave distillate. This is indeed a powerful pour, exploding with sweet plantains and burnt sugar layered with savory notes of green pepper and a touch of white pepper.

With blanco, reposado, and añejo representing the “123” of this USDA certified organic brand’s name, the 1 is quite logically a blanco. Made with agaves that are as much as 10 years old—a rarity in today’s fast-moving tequila environment—this blanco reflects founder David Ravandi’s devotion to creating agave spirits that express the ultimate in terroir and complexity. With delicate floral aromas and flavors of fresh agave, citrus and a subtle peppery kick in the finish, this is the perfect blanco for sipping on the rocks or using as a base for cocktails.

How should you drink blanco tequila?

In spite of its earlier and now outdated reputation, the best blancos are very sophisticated spirits. They are also very versatile, thanks to—depending on brands—being adaptable to sipping straight, enjoying with ice, or used in cocktails. They can even be taken as a traditional shooter, although much of a blanco tequila’s subtle nuances may be lost if you just “knock it back.”

How does tequila differ from mezcal?

Both, by law, must be made in Mexico and distilled from roasted agaves, but tequila can only use the Blue Weber variety and must be distilled in the town of Tequila in Jalisco and four other specifically designated Mexican states: Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Also, the agaves are primarily steam-roasted in ovens. On the other hand, mezcal can be made in any of nine specified Mexican states, primarily in Oaxaca, but also in Durango, Michoacán, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas and Puebla. In addition, mezcal is typically made from agaves that have been cooked by fire, smoke, and heat in rock-lined pits,

How did we choose the tequilas on this list?

I start by “nosing” the tequila, pouring a small amount in a Glencairn tasting glass, just enough to fill its wide base, which narrows towards the top to concentrate the aromas of the liquid. With blancos I’m looking for the purity of agave—it can be crisp and herbaceous, or subtle and smooth, but the essence of the agave has to be there. After all, you drink a blanco to literally get the spirit of the plant that gives tequila its character.

Why should you trust us?

Richard Carleton Hacker has been writing about spirits, restaurants, wines and cigars for over forty years and has written for Robb Report since 1995. His work has also appeared in numerous other lifestyle magazines, including Playboy, The Quarterly Review of Wines, Tasting Panel, and the Somm Journal. In addition, he served for 10 years as a judge and team captain for the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. He has authored 11 books published in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany, including The Ultimate Cigar Book and The Connoisseurs Guide To Worldwide Spirits. He was knighted in Germany and is an honorary member of numerous whisky and wine societies, including the Scotch whisky industry’s exclusive Keeper of the Quaich honorary society (where he is one of fewer than 200 people worldwide to hold the coveted title of Master of the Quaich), and the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne. He has traveled the world visiting countless distilleries in Scotland, France, and Italy and, of course, Mexico. His books on spirits and cigars are currently available on Amazon.

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The Boldest, Most Exciting New Timepieces From Watches & Wonders 2024

Here are the highlights from the world’s biggest watch releases of the year.

By Allen Farmelo, Carol Besler, Paige Reddinger, Oren Hartov, Victoria Gomelsky, Cait Bazemore, Nick Scott, Justin Fenner 10/04/2024

Watches & Wonders, the world’s largest watch show, is in full swing in Geneva. The highly anticipated cascade of new releases is marked by confident individual brand identities — perhaps a sign that watchmakers are done scrambling through the violent collision of restricted supply and soaring demand for high end watches. All seem to be back on solid footing.

Steady confidence is a good thing. Consider Jaeger-LeCoultre offering up traditionally styled grand complications or Vacheron Constantin revamping the classic Patrimony with smaller cases and vintage-inspired radially brushed dials. Consider TAG Heuer celebrating the 55th anniversary of the square Monaco with a skeletonized flyback confidently priced at US$183,000, or Moser similarly showing off a fascinating skeletonized tourbillon in its distinctive 40 mm Streamliner at US$86,900. IWC has leaned hard into their traditionally styled Portugieser line, including an astounding Eternal Calendar complication. We find the storied French houses of Cartier, Chanel and Hermes blurring the lines between jewelry and watchmaking with the technical prowess and artistic whimsy that originally earned these brands their exalted place in the hearts and minds of sophisticated aesthetes. Confidence abounds in 2024.

We could go on and on with examples, but the watches below will demonstrate that for 2024 the big watch brands dared to be themselves, which appears to have given them the confidence to take some seriously compelling horological risks. We have separate coverage of off-show releases and, of course, Patek and Rolex, so keep and eye out for those.

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A Gucci Garden Blooms in Sydney

On a rainy Sydney night, the drinks talent from Maybe Sammy mixed with guest bartenders from Giardino 25 in Florence, for a night of liquid magic.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 13/04/2024

Since hanging out its shingle in 2022, Giardino 25, the all-day café and bar located in Gucci’s palatial, multidisciplinary space in Florence, has been a boon to stylish tipplers. Taking inspiration from one of its previous tenants (a longstanding florist), the garden-themed joint (Giardino is the Italian word for garden) serves delicious aperitivi and dangerously addictive cocktails.

 

Umbrian native Martina Bonci is in hair-to-brogue Gucci for her artful bartending session at El Primo Sanchez. 
Aurora cocktai at Giardino 25, Florence.

Giardino 25 took bloom this past Tuesday at a pop-up at El Primo Sanchez in Paddington. The Maybe Cocktail Festival in Sydney is a series of 20 events scattered throughout the city curated by the award-winning Sammy’s Cocktails team. The festival aims to spur knowledge-sharing and foster excellence in Australia’s drinks scene.

“Last year we held 16 events and they were all packed,” says Stefano Catino, director of hospitality at Public, the management company behind Maybe Sammy venues and bottled drinks, “so this year we’ve curated extra events and flown out even more international bars and bartenders.”

“Nineteen of the 21 events are free to attend, which is very important to us,” he continues. “The cost of living is high, and it’s very expensive for Australians to travel overseas, so this festival allows people to drink cocktails from an amazing bar in Rome or try a Tommy’s Margarita from the gentleman who created it without the cost of a plane ticket.”

Dressed head to toe in Gucci,  and using the bar as her personal catwalk, Giardino 25’s special guest, Martina Bonci, looked every bit the star behind the bar. “We have brought our mix of classic Italian influences and innovation,” she told Robb Report, “so guests in Australia get a little slice of what we do in Florence.”

Among her tantalising pours were powerful dirty martinis decorated with shimmering gold leaf and Aurora, a transparent twist on the Negroni.

Reflecting on her whirlwind trip down under, Bonci said their visit to Bondi Beach and the cocktails at Maybe Sammy were the highlights.

“The bartenders at Maybe Sammy are world-class,” she explained. “There is a good reason they win awards and have a respected reputation overseas. And El Primo Sanchez has such a fun atmosphere—we had a great night.”

Martina Bonci, Bar Manager at Gucci Giardino 25, has been honored twice as ‘Best Bartender in Italy’ by both the Bargiornale and Blue Blazer Awards. 

Bonci, who came to prominence in a long string at Milanese hipster joint Gesto and is known for her use of agave, favors drinks dripping with seasonal fruits and citrus flavors. Having tried her creations, we do, too.

She made a serious impression on Sydneysiders, who would do well to make a pilgrimage to see her in action on home turf. As if any of us need another reason to visit Italy.

The Maybe Cocktail Festival, continues this weekend in Sydney, with the public welcome to attend a Bartenders Brunch at Sydney’s Alpha on Sunday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm, hosted by George Calombaris. 

View the program: Maybe Cocktail Festival @maybe_cocktail_fetsival

All images courtesy of Gucci.

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Patek Philippe Brings Back Collector Favourites at Watches & Wonders 2024

Both the Nautilus Chronograph and Aquanaut Travel Time receive a welcome return.

By Josh Bozin 10/04/2024

If you’re a watch fan, there’s every reason to believe that a Patek Philippe Nautilus, Patek Philippe Aquanaut—or both—would be high on your wish list. Both collections are of historical significance, helping pave the way for the influence of the steel sports watch category—and subsequent chokehold on the market today.

So, when Patek Philippe unveiled its newest releases at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, it was a pleasant surprise to see the return of two of the best past iterations of the Nautilus and Aquanaut collections.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Nautilus Chronograph

First, we get a new Nautilus Chronograph, with the return of the revered 5980, now replete with a new case in white gold and a denim-like strap (a contentious issue among watch pundits). Discontinuing all Nautilus 5980 models earlier this year, including the collector-favourite 5980/1AR in Rose Gold, left a sombre feeling among Nautilus fanatics. These celebrated chronographs, renowned for their distinctive porthole-inspired design and air of sporty elegance, are some of the most sought-after watches in the Patek Philippe catalogue. Thus, the revival of the 5980, now in white gold, is a cause for collectors’ celebration.

The new offering retains its chronograph function with mono-counter tracking 60-minute and 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock on the dial, but now comes on a new denim-inspired, hand-stitched fabric strap with a Nautilus fold-over clasp in white gold—some will love it, some won’t.

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe

The Calibre CH 28‑520 C/522 powers this new Nautilus with its flyback chronograph, all of which is visible through the transparent sapphire crystal caseback. The dial is also incredibly eye-catching, with a beautiful opaline blue-gray hue accentuated by white gold-applied hour markers with a white luminescent coating. It is priced at approximately $112,000.

Also returning to the fold is the Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time, now with its own bluish hue dial—similar to its Nautilus counterpart. After discontinuing the Aquanaut Travel Time 5164A this year, as well—a watch often regarded as the greatest Aquanaut to date—Patek Philippe surprised all with the new 5164G in white gold. Its greatest attribution is the clever Travel Time GMT function, which clearly rivals the Rolex GMT-Master II as perhaps the travel-friendly watch of choice (if acquiring one was that simple, of course).

For those who prefer the Aquanaut’s sportiness and easy-wearing rubber strap, this newest iteration, with its Opaline Blue-gray dial and matching rubber strap with a deployant clasp, is undoubtedly an icon in the making. The new 5164G has a 40mm case and features the Calibre 26‑330 S C FUS movement, which can also be viewed via the transparent sapphire crystal caseback.

Expect to pick up the new Aquanaut Travel Time for around $95,250.  

Patek Philippe
Patek Philippe Aquanaut Travel Time

 

Follow @robbreportau for all your Watches & Wonders coverage, and more!

 

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Rolex Kicks Off Watches & Wonders 2024 with a New GMT-Master II

The new stainless steel GMT-Master II has already been dubbed the “Bruce Wayne”.

By Josh Bozin 09/04/2024

It may not be the GMT that watch pundits were speculating on—or that collectors were hoping for—but the new Rolex GMT-Master II with a new grey and black ceramic bezel adds dazzle to the revered Rolex collection, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.

The idea of a new Rolex GMT launching at the world’s biggest watch fair is cause for a little madness. While the watch community eagerly awaited what was thought to be the discontinuation of the highly sought-after GMT “Pepsi” and the return of the GMT “Coke,” the luxury Swiss watchmaker had other plans.

Instead, we’re presented with a piece that, on paper, hasn’t changed much from previous GMT releases. That’s not to say that this isn’t an impressive release that will speak to consumers—the new GMT-Master II ref.126710GRNR, dubbed the “Bruce Wayne,” is definitely a sight for sore eyes.

Rolex
Rolex

This new GMT retains the same dimensions and movement as the other watches in the GMT collection, along with its 40mm size case and the option to fit either an Oyster or Jubilee bracelet. The obvious changes, albeit subtle, come in the way of its mostly monochrome return; a fact that will appease traditionalists. If you’re opposed to the attention-drawing “Pepsi”, “Sprite”, or “Batman” iterations, this model is a stealthier pick—much like pseudonymous Bruce Wayne.

The other noticeable change is the “GMT-Master II” now applied in green text and a 24-hour hand in green; perhaps a nod to the 2007 Basel World GMT release.

Like many Rolex timepieces, this will generate great hype and attention, so don’t expect allocations to come easily.

Rolex
Rolex

Model: GMT-Master II
Reference Number: 126710GRNR

Diameter: 40mm
Case Material: Stainless steel
Dial Colour: Black
Lume: Chromalight on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 100m
Bracelet: Oyster or Jubilee

Movement: Caliber 3285
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT
Power Reserve: 70 hours
Winding: Automatic

Price: $17,150 (Oyster); $17,500 (Jubilee)
Availability: Now. Non-limited edition

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Moments in Time

Silversea’s Kimberley adventures transport passengers into a different dimension.

By Vince Jackson 09/04/2024

Whoever refuted the theory of time-travel has clearly never set foot in the Kimberley, a geological relic where craggy landscapes forged hundreds of millions of years ago remain untouched, and dinosaur footprints are still etched into the ochre terrain. And while traversing one of the planet’s last great wildernesses in a 4X4 holds rugged appeal, a more refined way to explore the Western Australian outback is by cruise liner. 

Enter the Silver Cloud, one of Silversea’s most luxurious vessels, available for 10- or 17-day expeditions. Upon arrival via private executive transfer, expect a level of intimacy that’s often conspicuous on other cruise experiences. With a maximum of just 200 guests, attended to by 212 staff, the Silver Cloud can lay claim to the greatest passenger-to-crew ratios operating in the Kimberley. Twenty-four-hour butler service is standard for every suite, along with ocean views—no matter if you plump for a modest 22 m² Vista Suite or supersize to a 217 m² Grand Suite.

Yet bigger is not necessarily better on water; the ship itself is compact enough to manoeuvre into isolated coves and waterways that larger vessels—or, indeed, four-wheel-drive Land Cruisers—are unable access. Each sunrise brings the promise of an unforgettable adventure, whether hopping on a Zodiac at Koolama Bay to witness the cascading thunder of the 80-m-high, twin King George Falls, or embarking at Swift Bay to scramble over rocky standstone and view the disparate rock-art forms on display at the sacred Wandjina art galleries—some reckoned to be up to 12,000 years old.

Another example of the Kimberley’s ability to propel you back through time.

Prices from $15,500 pp (10 days) and $23,900 pp (17 days); June 9-19, and August 8-25 or August 25- September 11 respectively; silversea.com

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