You can’t really blame the American consumer for reaching for familiar labels, when it comes to tequila. The last half decade has seen a huge surge in new tequila brands available in the U.S., but it’s often difficult for consumers to really know what sets any of them apart from one another. The distilleries themselves are rarely the focus of any marketing campaign, and indeed in many cases it’s only the intense tequila geeks who can identify the distilleries at all for any given brand. In many cases, a single distillery produces many separate tequilas for various brands either owned by the distillery of contract distilled and aged at that location. And with most tequila lineups in the U.S. offering the same three-pronged series of releases—a blanco, a reposado, and an anejo—they all just start to blend together with time.
Given that, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t notice Espanita among those newer tequila brands on store shelves. This line, from Jalisco (the heart of tequila country) started hitting U.S. shelves in 2017 and has arguably flown under the radar since then. Like most of its direct competitors, Espanita offers three core expressions: blanco, reposado and anejo, all produced by Impulsora Rombo S.A. de C.V. in Jalisco. As is standard for the category, they all weigh in at 40% ABV.
And honestly, there’s not much else to differentiate this one brand—they’re not doing anything really novel or unusual, although their product is available at a pretty competitive price point for a smaller distillery. They do note that their agave is sourced from the Highlands (Los Altos), which is traditionally associated with “fruitier, sweeter tequilas with aromas that are floral and light,” whereas Lowland agaves are often associated with more earthy, intensely mineral or herbaceous flavors. However, like single malt scotch regions in Scotland, that’s really only a starting point in knowing what to expect. You never really know until you taste.
So with that said, let’s do exactly that.
Espanita’s flagship blanco tequila is pretty darn affordable, and immediately striking on the nose with notes that are fresh, floral and spicy. This seems pretty vegetal to me right off the bat, with both fresh and roasted agave notes, and the evocation of salt/seaweed. I’m not getting much on the fruity side, but instead more of a suggestion of pepper, earth and green notes.
On the palate, I likewise find this fairly salty, briny and earthy, with a mild sweetness that is balanced by spiciness and a moderate amount of ethanol/heat for the proof point. Lots of black pepper notes are present on the palate, with some of the fruitiness of freshly crushed peppercorn, along with slight resin. I certainly don’t think this reads as the fruitier, more citric, “grapefruit candy” profile I’ve had in more blanco tequilas recently—rather, it’s a bit more green and savory than that. That might make this one a bit less approachable than some of the other popular brands on the shelf, but it still strikes me as a characterful mixer, especially when you’re not seeking overt sweetness.
Espanita’s reposado tequila has been rested in oak for 6 months; longer than the mere two months that is required for the designation but a fairly standard period for many reposado brands. I found myself quite enjoying this one, as the brief oak aging has nicely smoothed out some of the more idiosyncratic qualities of the blanco tequila, smoothing it out to form a generally approachable dram.
On the nose, I’m getting hints of oak here, along with butterscotch and a greater citrus presence, which also makes this dimension read as a bit more sweet. On the palate, Espanita Reposado brings that sweet citrus to life with hints of vanilla bean and moderate residual sweetness, with just enough drying astringency to rein things in. We’re left with a dram that isn’t particularly complex, but it’s easy to like. Those who prefer to make their margaritas with reposado rather than blanco tequila (I’m in this camp) will likely find this one very up to the job.
At 18 months in the oak, Espanita Anejo has been aged for considerably longer than the Reposado, and it shows with a profile that has seen significant evolution. Where the reposado possessed only a kiss of the wood, this bottle has been influenced in a considerably more direct way—not inherently a good or bad thing, but simply a matter of taste to tequila lovers.
On the nose here, I get a more pronounced butteriness, evoking buttered popcorn, along with a significantly more toasted note that make me think of roasted almonds or a sweeter marzipan. The spicy and vegetal notes, meanwhile, have been tamped down considerably on the nose and the palate. Tasting it, I’m getting a fair bit of vanilla extract, roasted almonds and hints of juicy red fruit—an interesting combination, and something that made me jot down a note reading “tequila meets marzipan?” Clearly intended for neat drinking rather than mixing, I nevertheless think there are likely interesting mixology applications available here.
All in all, you can at least say that the Espanita line of tequilas does a good job of differentiating each of its bottles from one another, going from the spice, freshness and herbaceousness of the blanco to the unusually nutty palate of the anejo. And with its reasonable price point, it seems unlikely you’d regret taking any of these for a spin.
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.