“To make a great aged tequila, you must start with a quality Blanco.”

Meet Espolòn’s Maestro Tequilero, Jesús Susunaga Acosta, the man who took the reins of Campari’s Casa San Nicolàs’ Distillery in Los Altos, Jalisco after the passing of Espolòn founder, Cirilo Oropeza, in 2020. Barely a year into his new post, the 17-year distilling veteran rolls out Oropeza’s final innovation.

Espolòn Cristalino is an Añejo tequila spiked with extra aged stocks, then charcoal filtered to remove its color. According to Acosta, there’s an additional benefit to carbon filtering that transcends appearance.

“Charcoal filtration is not just about removing color,” Acosta says. “This process softens harsh tannins often found in extra-aged tequilas. Cristalino looks like a Blanco, but drinks smoothly, with the complexity of finely aged tequila.”

Espolòn Cristalino is bottled at 80 proof and is hitting store shelves presently at $6o. Below, Acosta walks us through a tasting of Espolòn’s core expressions: Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, and Cristilano. Along the way, he explains how the liquid changes from its aging, and explains his ideas about what makes a good tequila great.

Espolòn Blanco

“Blanco is the purest expression of tequila. Espolòn Blanco is made from a combination of pot and column distilled tequila to strike Espolòn’s unique flavor and smooth drinkability. When it comes to making a great Blanco, agave flavors needs to be present.

Espolòn Blanco emphasizes notes of cooked and raw agave, bright citrus like lemon and lime, plus herbal notes. For us, it’s also important the tequila tastes the same as it smells.”

Espolòn Reposado

“To make Reposado, our Blanco ages in a medium toast oak barrel for at least two months. Take a sip, and you taste vanilla, as well as cooked agave. The raw agave in the Blanco begins to fall away in favor of barrel influence.

There is still bright citrus here, but also a distinct oak note from the cask and a creamy mouthfeel.”

Espolòn Añejo

“Our Añejo matures a minimum of one year in the same oak as the Reposado. From there, the tequila is finished in ex-bourbon barrels from Wild Turkey. Its more aggressive char amplifies the agave and introduces butterscotch in addition to vanilla and big tropical fruit.

The Blanco or Reposado is a lovely base for a cocktail, but I like drinking our Añejo neat or with an ice cube. Most importantly, this is the base for the baby in our house, Espolòn Cristalino.”

Espolòn Cristalino

“Cristalino is an Añejo tequila that is close to an extra Añejo. Older stocks are added to our Añejo before carbon filtering, which is done minimally to preserve as much flavor as possible while removing color and flavors we don’t want.

There are oak notes on top of caramelized agave, honey, and dried fruit. Cristalino is slightly more drying from the tannin than the other expressions, but its curiously gentle and smooth. Like the Añejo, drink this neat or with an ice cube to explore the complex flavors.”

John McCarthy is a spirit, travel, and lifestyle journalist, managing editor, and author of The Modern Gentleman and Whiskey Rebels: The Dreamers, Visionaries & Badasses Who Are Revolutionizing American Whiskey. McCarthy is also editor of Barleycorn Drinks and Director of Judging of the John Barleycorn Awards.