Review: Gran Centenario Gallardo Is A $600 Treat For Neat Tequila Drinkers

Gran Centenario has been making tequila since 1857, and it has experimented with and launched several varieties over the years to create a whole range of flavors. You can select from varieties ranging from the more clear, herbal, and fruit-forward plata to the full-bodied and carefully aged añejo. One of the brand's newest additions, the Gallardo, has taken a long time to prepare and boasts one of the most complex flavors in the brand's lineup.

But before you go ahead and purchase the $600 limited-edition Gallardo bottle, you should get a sense of what exactly it is that you're buying. I had an opportunity to taste it firsthand to see if it's worth the price, or if you're better off choosing something else in the ever-expanding market of premium tequilas.

Some recommendations are based on firsthand impressions of promotional materials and products provided by the manufacturer.

What is Gran Centenario Gallardo?

According to the company, this bottle is meant to commemorate a man named Lazaro Gallardo, the tavern owner who founded Gran Centenario over 150 years ago. Gallardo honors his legacy and distinct tequila-making process, which impacted how Gran Centenario, as well as other tequila companies, have created new varieties since that day. Before he came along, hacienda models of tequila manufacturing had giant teams that would produce tequila and get it out to market, but didn't really have a creative direction in terms of how to further develop the final flavor.

Gallardo believed that there were ways to perfect the final product, and he started by combining small percentages of tequilas aged for different periods of time together to see what flavor would be developed. The limited-edition variety named after him is now the newest drink among Gran Centenario's tequila varieties. 

The drink itself bears a dark amber color and comes in a glass bottle topped with a winged silver cap. It is known as an extra añejo, which is a darker tequila variety that must be aged for a minimum of three years in oak barrels in order to earn that designation.

Availability and cost of Gran Centenario Gallardo

Gran Centenario Gallardo is a limited-edition tequila, so there are only 679 bottles currently available to retailers in the U.S. If you can't find one of these retailers near your physical location, you can also order it online at Reserve Bar. It costs $600 for a 750-milliliter bottle, so be prepared to splurge if you want to buy a bottle for yourself.

Alternatively, if you don't want to commit to a bottle just yet, you can also order it in several top-tier restaurants and bars throughout the United States. Though it's not available everywhere, several locations in large metropolitan areas, like New York and Los Angeles, serve Gallardo alongside other tequila varieties. Whether you want to ask for it neat or mixed into your favorite tequila cocktail, it's always a good idea to go ahead and get a taste of it before spending hundreds of dollars on a bottle.

How to drink Gran Centenario Gallardo

You can drink Gallardo however you want, including in mixed tequila cocktails. But, since it's such an expensive and full-bodied liquor, the right way to drink it is neat or on the rocks. Combining tequila with mixers dilutes the flavor. While this might be a great way to use cheaper, less robust tequilas, a spirit as high-priced as Gallardo should be able to stand on its own.

Not to mention that as a darker tequila of the extra añejo variety, the Gallardo probably won't complement lighter and summery tequila drinks like zesty Palomas and margaritas as well as a clearer tequila variety would. The aging process confers a lot of subtle notes into the drink. These would otherwise be obliterated by a strong mixer, or muddy the notes of a mixed drink that would be better suited for more straightforward, less complex tequila notes, like the ones found in a reposado.

If you absolutely need to try Gallardo in a mixed drink, try a cocktail that's spirit-forward, like a tequila-based negroni or an Oaxaca old fashioned. The latter substitutes tequila in for the usual base of an old fashioned.

How Gran Centenario Gallardo is made

According to Gran Centenario, Gallardo is made via the Seleccion Suave process pioneered by Lazaro Gallardo himself, which combines rested tequilas with newer varieties. The aging process involves deriving tequila from the agave plants of the Jalisco highlands and letting it mature over three years in American white oak and French oak barrels. 

To add another note to the drink, the liquor is then put into Bordeaux casks that formerly held red wine. Notes of the wine seep into the tequila, giving it a slightly fuller, darker taste. A deep char is done on the oak — there are different levels of charring, and Gran Centenario does between a level 2 and a 3, which is the highest — to create a more intense transfer of flavor from the barrels to the tequila. Obviously, this specific process was arrived at after years of trial and error, according to the Gran Centenario representatives who spoke to us about the drink, and finalized at the discretion of the tequila makers' expertise. The resulting añejo tequila is often sweeter than a less-aged reposado.

Taste test

Prior to tasting the Gallardo, I tried the brand's most adjacent tequila variety in terms of aging and flavor — the Leyenda — to get a better idea of what was different and unique about the Gallardo. The Leyenda is Gran Centenario's other extra añejo variety and bears a lot of similarities to the Gallardo, including a similar aging process.

The Gallardo definitely had a more robust flavor than the Leyenda and it went down much smoother. I could detect a variety of beautifully composed notes in the Gallardo, especially once it had seeped into my palate, and nothing pulled me too much in any direction. I could clearly pick out some peppery and oaky flavors, as well as some earthier spices and nutty flavors, all of which balanced each other out very well. It was one of the few tequilas I've tried that I could drink neat, as I personally gravitate toward reposados over añejos.

Is Gran Centenario Gallardo worth it?

True tequila lovers, especially those who love fuller-bodied varieties reminiscent of darker liquors, will certainly appreciate having a bottle of Gallardo on hand at home. Moreover, if you like to drink your tequila neat, or love sipping on spirit-forward tequila varieties, the Gallardo is definitely an excellent choice. I would also recommend trying this beverage in a drink like an Oaxaca old fashioned, which substitutes añejo tequila in for whiskey. 

However, if you prefer your tequila in more diluted and mixed drinks, or in lighter, summery tequila cocktails, there are much more affordable reposado varieties for you to purchase that will complement those flavors better. Therefore, deciding on whether the Gallardo is a wise purchase or not comes down to what type of tequila drinker you are and what you plan on using the spirit for. For me personally, I would buy one — but only one — bottle of Gallardo to have on hand for some smooth tequila cocktails I could make as a nightcap, or for a drink with a friend, at home.