Celebrate Cinco De Mayo With The Top Cristalino Tequilas

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the victory of a badly outnumbered Mexican army against the invading French in an obscure 19th century battle. It’s a day that is more closely observed in the U.S. than it is in Mexico, where it generally passes unnoticed, and which, through some clever marketing, has become an American celebration of tequila.

It’s a good occasion then to delve into Cristalino tequila, a new category of tequila that is taking the U.S. by storm. Tequila is the fastest growing spirit category in the U.S., and Cristalino is the fastest growing type of tequila.

Cristalino tequila is typically an añejo or extra añejo tequila that has been filtered with activated charcoal in order to remove its color and enhance its fruity and floral character. The result is a clear tequila, similar to a blanco, which also retains the taste and aroma profile of a tequila that has been barrel aged.

The typical Cristalino offers the barrel aged flavors of an añejo or extra añejo, such as caramel, vanilla and oak, and the fruity and floral elements of a blanco. It also offers up a rounded, silky mouth feel, with a notable palate weight and smooth texture.

Just as every añejo or extra añejo has its own unique aroma and flavor profile, the same is true of Cristalino Tequilas. Some Cristalinos are sweet, with a very pronounced aroma of vanilla and caramel other less so. In some cases, these flavors are so pronounced that they seem artificial; like a Chardonnay whose vanilla flavors have been overly enhanced with oak chips.

Stylistically, Cristalinos can vary from dry to sweet. Some producers add agave syrup to their Cristalino to enhance the sweetness and smoothness. The Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) allows the addition of certain additives to tequila, provided they do not exceed 1% of the volume. If you find a Cristalino a touch too sweet, try it with a slice of lime.

The CRT requires Cristalinos to show the influence of barrel aging, but does not specify a minimum aging period or that they need to be crystal clear.  

Octavio Reposado Cristalino and Partida Roble Fino Cristalino Tequila Reposado, for example, are both Reposado Tequila and are aged in oak barrels for approximately six months. They retain the silky smoothness typical of Cristalinos, but the vanilla and caramel notes are subtler.

Volcan de mi Terra’s Cristalino is a blend of añejo and extra añejo tequilas that have been aged in either ex-bourbon casks or Cognac barrels. Each Tequila is filtered separately before being blended together. After being allowed to marry, the Cristalino is bottled. Unlike the crystal-clear expressions, however, Volcan’s Cristalino has a light golden sheen.

Cristalino is the fastest growing tequila category in Mexico, and has had a profound impact on that market. It is responsible for making Tequila the largest spirit category in Mexico, and for shifting its consumption to more than 50% female. It has also broadened Tequila’s appeal to younger millennials, especially millennial women.

There are currently around 50 brands of Cristalino tequila in Mexico, around forty of them are available in the U.S. or have announced plans to begin U.S. distribution.

Below are tasting notes from six of the top rated Cristalinos currently available in the U.S. All six are made from 100% blue agave. They represent a range of finishing techniques and a broad array of aroma and flavor profiles.


Tequila Partida Añejo Cristalino, 40% ABV, 750 ml

Tequila Partida Añejo CristalinoPhoto, courtesy Partida Tequila

Partida’s Añejo Tequila is aged for a minimum of 18 months in ex-bourbon barrels before it is filtered and bottled as a Cristalino.

On the nose, there is a pronounced aroma of cooked agave, along with notes of vanilla and caramel and some cinnamon.

On the palate, there is more caramel, bordering on maple syrup, lemon zest, along with fruit notes of pear, some apple, golden raisin, fresh fig and some tropical fruits, in particular mango, pineapple and some banana. The tequila has an oily, mouth coating quality.

The finish is long, smooth and sweet, with hints of pineapple and a mild but lingering pepperiness.

Partida also has a Roble Fino in a Reposado, an Añejo and as a Cristalino expression. Roble Fino means “fine oak,” and is a reference to the use of Oloroso Sherry butts that were previously used to mature single malt whisky. Only, 7,200 bottles were released across all three ranges.

The casks are obtained from Edrington, the owners of such iconic single malts as The Macallan, Highland Park and the Glenrothes. Edrington Americas handles distribution, marketing and sales for Partida in the U.S.

In the case of the Partida, Roble Fino, Cristalino Tequila Reposado Sherry Oak Finish, 40% ABV, 750 ml, the Tequila is aged in ex-bourbon casks for a minimum of six months, and then undergoes an additional two months of finishing in a “ex-single malt, sherry seasoned casks.” This expression is the first ex-single malt sherry cask finished, reposado Cristalino.

The sherry cask seasoning adds notes of dried fruits and almonds, typical sherry cask influences, to the notes of cooked agave, caramel, vanilla and toasted oak.

On the palate, the Cristalino is candy sweet. The Sherry cask finishing further adds to the tequila’s smooth, silky character. The Cristalino offers up flavors of dried red fruit, lemon zest and marzipan, along with cooked agave notes. There are additional notes of vanilla and caramel, although these are more subtle than in the typical Cristalino, along with some dried herbal notes and a mild chili pepperiness.

The finish is long, sweet, with dried fruit flavors and a lingering vegetative and peppery note.


These are all outstanding Cristalino tequilas. They are varied, underscoring the fact that as distillers continue to experiment with different cask finishes and production protocols to create new aroma and flavor profiles in tequila, these changes will ultimately be reflected in a broadening of the styles of Cristalino available to consumers.

Whether straight up, on the rocks or in cocktails, Cristalino tequilas have much of to offer consumers and are well worth exploring.