The fastest growing segment in the tequila category isn’t blanco, reposado, añejo or even extra-anejo. It’s cristalino. This relatively new product is essentially añejo tequila—aged at least one year in oak barrels—that is filtered through charcoal to remove the color and otherwise alter the final product.
The newest cristalino tequila to hit the market comes from Hornitos, the brand that’s also behind Black Barrel, a tequila that’s “aged like a whiskey.” Their just-released Hornitos Cristalino begins as a triple-distilled añejo before undergoing a unique filtering process that also “gently stirs the spirit to uncover the herbal, fresh, agave forward notes typical of a Plata tequila.” The purpose is to maintain the complex character and sweetness you’ll get from barrel-aging without losing those agave notes. The result should be a tequila with a balanced and rounded profile.
We had a chance to taste the new tequila at a recent launch event. Hornitos Cristalino Tequila was poured neat and mixed into a variety of cocktails, including a Paloma and Blood Orange Margarita. Both were perfectly pleasant, but we preferred drinking this one on its own to experience all that aging, filtering, and general nuance.
On the nose, the tequila exhibits more oak than agave, but there is some earth alongside the sweet vanilla. On the palate we noted some honey and floral notes, plus butterscotch and toasted oak. It’s round, smooth, and easy to drink.
On the one hand, cristalino is a confusing category. If you want to drink a blanco tequila, great. If you want an añejo, also great. If you want something in between, how about a nice reposado? Of course, cristalinos are separate products entirely, and do offer a different drinking experience. So if you’re interested to sample something that’s not quite a blanco nor an añejo, well, this might be just the thing you’re looking for.
Hornitos Cristalino is 80 proof (40% ABV) and available for a suggested retail price of $29.99—notably less expensive than several others on the market. The brand suggests drinking it neat, on the rocks or mixed into a cocktail with club soda and fresh grapefruit juice.