A Clear-Cut Guide to a New Type of Tequila

What is cristalino Tequila?

Cristalino Tequila, a relatively new variation of the agave spirit, is gaining popularity among Tequila enthusiasts. The term “cristalino” refers to its crystal-clear appearance, achieved through charcoal filtration. Similar to white rums, cristalino Tequila can also be barrel-aged and then filtered to remove any color. It falls within the range of reposado to extra-añejo, meaning it can be aged for as little as two months or several years. However, it cannot be classified as a blanco, which spends fewer than two months in a barrel. Some bottlings may even contain sweeteners, often agave nectar.

Why is cristalino Tequila relatively unknown?

Cristalino Tequila is a relatively new category in the Tequila industry. The first commercial cristalino was introduced in 2012 by Don Julio. Enrique de Colsa, master distiller of Tequila Don Julio, explains that the variant, originally named “Don Julio 70 Añejo Claro,” was developed between 2006 and 2008 and officially launched to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Don Julio González’s Tequila-making journey. Other Tequila producers have also released their own cristalino versions, some with different names like Herradura Ultra, Qui Platinum, and Dobel Diamante. The lack of standardized naming conventions contributes to the unfamiliarity of the category.

Why aren’t the names standardized?

The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT), the governing body for Tequila in Mexico, has not officially established cristalino as a distinct class or category. As a result, producers have the freedom to use varying terms and names for their cristalino products. However, to be recognized as a cristalino, producers must demonstrate that the Tequila underwent a maturation period in oak barrels and specify the color removal process. This differentiation ensures that cristalino remains distinct from blanco/silver/plata Tequila, which lacks barrel aging.

What are the flavor characteristics of cristalino Tequila?

Although cristalino Tequila may resemble a blanco visually, its flavor profile is more reminiscent of a reposado or añejo Tequila. It often exhibits subtle notes of honey, almond, or coconut, with a smooth, long finish and less peppery or citrusy bite compared to a typical blanco. Many cristalinos present a hint of sweetness, making them ideal for mixing in sweet cocktails or dessert drinks. Bartenders in the United States have embraced cristalino Tequila, incorporating it into martini-like cocktails or sweeter libations.

While the category continues to grow, some traditional Tequila drinkers may express reservations about cristalino. Karinna Enriquez Hurtado, master taster for Tequila Herradura, acknowledges that the innovative practices employed in creating cristalino Tequila might not sit well with purists. Nevertheless, producers aim to cater to both traditional and modern audiences by offering premium Tequilas that can be enjoyed by all.

Last Updated: May 8, 2023

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