Review: Chinaco Tequila – Complete Lineup (2013)

Review: Chinaco Tequila – Complete Lineup (2013)

chinaco blancoAn oddity in the tequila world, Chinaco — one of the first, if not the very first, 100% agave tequila released in the U.S. — is produced not in Jalisco (where the vast majority of tequila hails from) but in Tamaulipas, a state to the east which borders on the gulf of Mexico. This terroir gives Chinaco a considerably different character than most Jalisco tequilas — in fact, it is the only licensed distillery in Tamaulipas altogether.

Everything in Tamaulipas is a little different. The soil is a mix of types, quite different from the clay you will find in Jalisco, and the distillery’s location, less than 50 miles from the Ocean, offers uniqueness, too. Even the agave growing elevation — ranging from 500 to 5000 feet — spans what would be considered both highland and lowland growing areas in Jalisco. Agave used in Chinaco is all organic.

So, how does Chinaco taste? Thoughts follow.

All expressions are 80 proof.

Chinaco Blanco Tequila (2013) – Huge vegetation on the nose, pure agave through and through. The body is funky and tough, a push through the weeds and swamp water to a finish of tobacco, tar, and earthy tree roots. Touches of lemongrass and juniper add complexity, but ground it firmly as one of the more unique blanco tequila experiences. B- / $41

Chinaco Reposado Tequila (2013) – Aged for 11 months in white oak barrels not from Bourbon country but from France and England, some former Scotch casks. Still has loads of agave on the nose, but it is mercifully tempered by sweet vanilla notes from its time in barrel. The reposado’s got spice, fire, and burnt sugar notes, but it’s the racy agave — still earthy and prickly — that commands your attention. The peppery finish is long and complex. Altogether a solid and quite interesting reposado that keeps the sweetness at an appropriate level. A- / $48

Chinaco Anejo Tequila (2013) – Aged for 30 months in the same barrels as the reposado, plus some bourbon barrels, as well. Heady with alcohol notes, this anejo is again a racy and peppery spirit, only with an extra level of sweetness atop it. Clear wood character takes hold on this tequila, which is somewhat at odds with the butterscotch-meets-peppered-bacon character that lies beneath. I like the increased vanilla and creme brulee notes in the body here, but the deep wood character — rough and dusty at times — doesn’t play well with the other notes in the spirit, throwing it a bit out of balance. B+ / $59

Chinaco Blanco Tequila (2013)




Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.


  1. Judith on April 12, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I have enjoyed Chinaco ever since its inception, in Tamaulipas. It was always my favorite tequila.
    I am now living in the US and I find it difficult to find a constant bottle of Chinaco. One bottle I bought was undrinkable and I wondered if it was adulterated, although it was purchased at a reputable wine shop.
    The last time I ordered Chinaco at a wine bar, it had no taste of agave and reeked of black pepper.
    It is very disappointing. I miss the old taste of a good Chinaco blanco.

  2. rico on May 23, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    I hae the same issue…I remember drinking Chinaco in San Francisco in the late 80’s and early 90’s…then the rumor (truth?) of the distillery fire, then Patron came on the market followed by Don Julio as tequila’s popularity soared. Chinaco…where did that constant soft-oakey, lightly earthy flavor go? I’ve been experimenting with replacements as it has become so unpredictable.

    • Vincent R Casella on July 21, 2023 at 12:39 am

      I really thought it was me and somehow my taste buds had changed. I ran across this review by accident because I was longing for the old taste I remember.

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