Talk about late bloomers. Tapatio* Tequila ($33/one liter bottle, 40% alcohol by volume), a new spirit hitting shelves in the US, is a 75-year old brand that is popular in Mexico for having a balance of flavor, quality, and value.
Produced at La Alteña (NOM 1139) in the highlands of Jalisco with 100% estate-grown blue agave by distiller Carlos Camarena, the spirit has plenty of bold spice and agave flavor rarely seen in budget-friendly brands. If the name of the 75-year old distillery doesn't sound familiar, the other brand it produces should be: El Tesoro.
La Alteña is known for production methods that are deliberately hands-on and labor intensive to maximize flavor, and Camarena uses many of those techniques, while incorporating a little more automation for El Tapatio. While agave hearts get cooked in the same ovens over a four-day period and double distilled in copper pot stills, the piñas get crushed with metal rollers instead of the stone wheel tahona.
Imported and distributed by St. Helena based distillery Charbay, the tequila is great on its own, but really shines in cocktails like Margaritas and Palomas. Available now at the Cask store, you can also try it alone or in a cocktail at Tommy's Mexican, Tres, Beretta, and Goose & Gander.
*Just to clarify, the spirit isn't a hot-sauce laced, cross-promotional product like the Doritos, but refers to the nickname given to residents of the state of Jalisco, the geographic heart of tequila production. Feel free to make a batch of sangrita chaser with the hot sauce if you insist on having both at the same time.