Cuervo’s latest doesn’t stray far from its profitable core: Jose Cuervo Especial is a mixto tequila (meaning it’s over half blue agave and the rest neutral grain spirits) and unaged.
The results should surprise no one: Especial is a crystal clear and clean spirit, (it’s also known as simply “Cuervo Silver,” although it doesn’t actually say “Silver” on the primary label), an extension of Cuervo’s amazingly successful “Cuervo Gold” line, currently the world’s best-selling tequila.
Complicating matters is the prior existance of a tequila already known as Cuervo Silver — Jose Cuervo Clasico, a very inexpensive mixto which is a fixture at any liquor store alongside Cuervo Gold. I’m not sure if it will be discontinued as the new Especial Plata/Silver rolls out, but be aware that both bottles are likely to be on shelves together for the forseeable future. (For many, the big difference will be price: Clasico runs about $13, Especial Plata about $18.)
As far as the taste, the new Cuervo Silver is nothing remarkable, but it’s honestly not bad. It’s got a healthy slug of agave on the nose and on the palate, a little charcoal, and a touch of veggie character, but it’s all very mild, with a short and clean finish and just a modicum of the heat you normally get from cheaper mixto tequilas. It’s overall quite a straightforward spirit and I expect the masses will drink it up without complaint, 100% agave or no.
The price is, however, something of a puzzle. At 18 bucks you can find plenty of 100% agave tequilas on the market in this neighborhood: 1800 Silver can be found for $22. Even Cuervo’s own Tradicional bottling — 100% agave and aged at that — is $22 and even less if you catch a sale. Maybe Especial will end up settling in at lower prices than it’s currently slated for, but for four more bucks, upgrading to a pure agave tequila makes more sense than I can argue with.
B- / $18