Every Expresiones Del Corazón Tequila, Ranked

You don't have to be a tequila expert to appreciate a fine bottle of the stuff, and you don't even have to like tequila at all to appreciate the interesting things going on at the Casa San Matías estate. That's where Corazon distills all of its tequila under the auspices of CEO and owner Carmen Villarreal, who has prioritized initiatives for a better world, such as gender parity within the company, organic production, and innovative new techniques like a biodigester that minimizes production's environmental impact to one of the smallest carbon footprints in tequila and spirits at large.

But for those who do like tequila, one of the best innovations at the estate excites the tastebuds directly in the form of the annual Expresiones del Corazón releases. (And those who don't just may change their tune once they try the lineup for themselves, which along with the standard-issue reposado, were highly awarded in the World Tequila Award's assessments for the world's best tequila.) Tasting Table got our hands on the full lineup. Our thoughts and rankings on the 2023 Collection (but released in early 2024) will help you pick the best bottle if you don't want to nab the entire array.

What is the Expresiones del Corazón 2023 collection?

Each year, the company puts out special bottles whose contents have aged in choice barrels exchanged from other parts of the Sazerac family. Much of it has resided in used wood from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but you'll also find this year's edition of the French Oak, which formerly housed Old Charter bourbon.

Bourbon and rye must be made in new oak barrels, but when the whiskey is ready, those barrels have plenty of life left in them that other spirits can take advantage of. Very often, scotch whisky producers buy old American barrels for their effects on the softer barley whisky aged in a milder clime, but you'll see intriguing cross-spirit productions like the Expresiones del Corazón collection more and more frequently (expect plenty of similar releases in the newly opened American single malt whiskey designation).

Mezcal, of which tequila is a part, stands apart from most spirits for its singularly nutty, toasty flavor. Where most other spirits offer neutral, sweet, or herbal notes, tequila can be said to serve up comparable flavors found prevalently in whiskey but very idiosyncratic to the agave plant that replaces grains. This makes whiskey barrels a natural match to age tequila while still conferring new qualities.

Where to buy the Expresiones del Corazón 2023 collection

We're not going to bury it till the end: The Expresiones collection is a desirable family of tequilas well worth your time, and it's presently available on Drizly, Frootbat, and Cask Cartel. You may be able to find it in other places, including simply checking with your local liquor store if they specialize in higher quality bottles and not just a handle of basic stuff for Friday night fun. Still, it's nice to know you have options if you can't spot it locally at a comparable price. However, Sazerac has called these limited-quantity distributions without spilling full production details, so better to err on the side of acquisition; a bird in the hand is worth two in the agave piña.

Now, that's not to say you're going to find these at the suggested retail price. While the Blanco is sticking closely to its $60 sticker in most places, those labels that have resided in highly desirable whiskey nests like Stagg and William Larue Weller sell online for two to four times as much as their $80 suggested. Additionally, if you're hunting for the latest version (or an earlier one), a lot of online alcohol retailers don't differentiate by year or batch, and you're in a bit of a blind gamble. Still, there's enough similarity above a high threshold of quality that only the most discriminating collectors and drinkers will be upset by any differences.

How the Expresiones del Corazón 2023 collection is made

Corazon sources its barrels from the Buffalo Trace distillery after the bourbon that previously occupied those casks has been bottled up. While the barrels are no longer allowed to house a spirit that can legally called bourbon, they're still great for other spirits, including non-bourbon whiskey.

The youngest of these bottles is the French Oak, aged for 13 months. The oldest is the Weller 12, which sat for 26 months. The rest of the lineup hews close to either side, with the Sazerac Rye at two years exactly and the Stagg at 22 months, while the William Larue Weller only needs 15 months to reach its final form.

The exception is the Artisanal Small Batch Blanco, which is not aged. This base spirit represents the estate's flagship product and is included in the lineup both for comparison and as an example of the tequila at its peak. It's distinct from the Single Estate Blanco, which retails for less. The Artisanal is produced specifically for the Expresiones collection.

6. Corazón Sazerac Rye 18 Añejo tequila

The most tequila-smelling of these labels rather than any adjacent flavors, the Sazerac Rye inhabitant quickly disperses into chlorine, hyacinth, and bread dough. Now, that's a combo you've never imagined before today.

It's difficult to quantify the actual taste in the moment rather than as it hits or exits, which becomes a throughline in this series but may be an asset or a drawback according to your tastes. While most tequilas, even añejos, tend to put a boot down firmly in the soil of flavor country, these have been mollified so much by their time in the barrel and whatever lingering whiskeys they interact with that the taste runs around your mouth, daring your tongue to catch it.

By the time the finish slides into lemon, it's a receding wave upon the shore. If it weren't for the muted Sazerac, we'd say there's a direct line from whiskeys with a powerful kick to the amount of complexity and even guided subtlety that lands in these cousin spirits. Sazerac is not known for its temerity. It's unquestionably good, but it's not the favorite here. It's a little too ethereal once it's upon the taste buds.

5. Corazón Artisanal Small Batch Blanco tequila

The Artisanal Small Batch Blanco impresses even tequila newcomers but also presents an idiosyncratic profile that may not be to everyone's taste. While its nose, as with this entire series, is fruity with a trace of pine but no harshness — really, just everything you want a tequila to tantalize you with before the first sip — the taste is where things get funky. The Blanco offers up peanuts and menthol on your tongue, albeit in a nicer fashion than that combination suggests. This is likely the "powerful notes of cooked agave" that Corazón describes in its press release, but you'll have to work harder to detect citrus and green apple as per the expert tongues describing their product, with the latter appearing on the finish.

While it chews beautifully and gives up a wonderful experience to change minds that thought they don't love tequila, its greatest strength might be how well it resides in your mouth after you've swallowed. It's a very rewarding slow sipper if you include the gaps between as part of the drinking experience. Inhale lightly, and its subtleties will manifest to reward you.

Most clear liquors are a hard proposition to drink on their own, but this Blanco has no such problems, and to that end, it serves up a great, unique value prop. You also won't feel bad using it to make a great but simple cocktail that lets the tequila continue to shine through.

4. Corazón Weller 12 Añejo tequila

The Weller 12 expression is new to the lineup, although we do have William Larue Weller returning this year as well. Weller 12 isn't part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection but is a fantastic bourbon, as per us. So it's nice to see it here,

The nose is pineapple all the way, while the taste is a standout in this array for boldly displaying chocolate, hazelnut, and orange peel. Once you've got a swig, it stays pretty close to its calling card, but there's a bit of curdle at the end that detracts a touch. It's almost like a reverse of the Sazerac, where it finds the perfect balance before whiffing the landing. It's hard to knock a drink down too far for being "almost perfect but not quite," but it does mean that your budget for a single bottle in the 2023 Expresiones might better go to one of the labels below.

Still, you wouldn't turn this down, and its introduction does give us hope that down the road, we'll encounter a Corazon Daniel Weller Emmer Wheat Añejo release some year.

3. Corazón William Larue Weller Añejo

The nose is markedly fruity, as with most of this collection, but William Larue Weller really is the sweetest-smelling of the bunch. It's almost the smoothest drinking in the entire batch, which is really saying something. With a very palatable flavor and zero kick, Corazon's William Larue Weller expression does the best job of representing this signature easygoing product without under-exhibiting its flavor.

So what's holding it back? Well, it could use a little more oomph in the alcohol department. It comes through so smooth you might mistake it for wine, but if barely-taste-the-booze is the quality you're after — and a great many folks who are may mistakenly believe that they don't like tequila — then this could be the bottle to get out of the 2024 releases. We found it to taste a little less like what it is, perhaps undershooting its character to underscore its charisma. As with the Sazerac, William Larue Weller shows most of its character on the final, resounding notes, so if you're in it for the taste, it will reward more and smaller sips rather than gulps: Somewhat counterintuitively, since you'd think a mouthful is your best chance to acquaint yourself with its flavor. Instead, it's one more argument in favor of making this pour a luxurious, slow-paced meet and greet.

2. Corazón George T. Stagg Añejo tequila

Stagg seems to have drawn the most consistent praise across Expresiones reviews, and our take isn't about to change that. With its cherry nose and vanilla taste, it also offers the most whiskeyed finish of the lot, drawing bourbon drinkers across the bridge into the world of aged tequila. And, of course, anything with the name Stagg on it draws some heat from the collectors and drinkers market that wants to see how far the quality carries beyond the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and the Stagg (formerly Jr.) releases.

Perhaps that spirit is evident in the fact that this bottle alone offers some kick to the nostrils. With a few drops of water, it settles a bit, but there wasn't an abundance to mollify in the first place, so you may handily take it straight. But wait! It turns out this Stagg-quila is exceptional on the rocks. In fact, a tall pour into a highball full of ice seems like the perfect way to savor your Corazon on a hot day. With the cubes' chemistry, that cherry fruitiness subsides, and a nice straw taste settles over it.

1. Corazón French Oak Añejo tequila

This is, on repeated samplings, the best aroma of the bunch: Spicy, punchy, but soft, it starts off like dragonfruit before trailing into birthday cake. The funny thing is the pleasant aroma gets a little more pungent and prevalent with ice; on the rocks, the profile that wafts into your welcoming nostrils is more papaya and strawberry.

Moving on to actually drinking this beverage, an inadvertent "Oh, that's nice" escapes your lips, which are preoccupied with imprisoning every last drop of this tequila.

Despite the name, you'll get the most traces of oak on our winning pick's final flourish — though you can induce it earlier with a few drops of water if you'd rather have it hit the entire time it's on your tongue. Otherwise, up till that, it's chocolate, vanilla, and a very pleasant almond (which, admittedly, is probably the oak indirectly), all of which you can bring to the fore with ice. It's a curious characteristic that cold seems to enhance these flavors rather than mute them, but hey, it works.

If you respect tequila but find its nuttiness daunting, lucky you: The nuts here are all whiskey. And any oaky bitterness blends right into the final flourish like it was always meant to be there. In fact, this bottle might have had the reverse effect: We're now moved to find a bottle of the Charter Oak series's French Oak expression and see how it taste-tests next to a bottle of Stagg.

Which is the best bottle in the Expresiones del Corazón 2023 collection?

It was a hard-won honor, but the results were never in doubt. Stagg and French Oak both present formidable, impeccable effects upon the Corazon base tequila, but French Oak edges out the more famous bourbon every single time.

Don't mistake us; there's not a bad bottle in the bunch, including the well-developed Blanco. But even if you're on a budget, the higher expressions are well worth the price bump if you can find them at the suggested price. However, if you can, stock up because the second bottle will pay for the first and then some. But, if you strictly want to test what the best of the lineup tastes like, reach straight for the French Oak. To be clear, the Stagg will not disappoint in the least. But you're likely to find it at a higher price for a photo finish second in a no-price-tags race.

Is the Expresiones del Corazón 2023 collection worth tracking down?

Even with inflated costs, this collection is well worth your dollar. We'd say that even up to the low 200s, you're not going to regret our top two picks, and the winner can be had for $130 to $170 at the moment.

Below the French Oak and Stagg Expresiones, there are several great tequilas, but as speculation drives them up past their MSRP of $80, you risk disenchantment by paying collector prices for fine but not perfect tequila. In the final tally, you've got room for risk up to 150% of the listed price with most of these (more for the top two, less for the Blanco), but don't wait too long. Earlier editions have climbed mighty high: Well into the high hundreds. Whether you want to bulk up the value of your collection or are, in our opinion, the better kind of collector who wants to try everything on your shelf, the 2023 edition of the Expresiones del Corazón is a safe bet and a tasty pour.