Scott’s liquor blogging got me thinking about one of my own current hobbies: Tequila. As I wrote in comments over there, most of my formative tequila experiences, like probably many people, involved shots/margaritas with Cuervo Gold or worse, and then later, in the morning, writhing in pain in bed, clutching my flaming skull and screaming at god to kill me. A few years ago a buddy of mine brought a bottle of fresh mezcal back from Mexico, and I loved it. In trying to find something like it, I began sampling 100% agave tequilas, and have been a convert ever since. Though I do occasionally enjoy a nice, big margarita (I would not have survived this summer in DC without them) I tend to think that any tequila worth putting in a margarita is better taken neat, in a lowball glass, or, if you're a big fancy-pants, in a snifter.
I generally prefer the blanco (also known as plata, platinum, or silver), clear, unaged tequila. This is where the agave flavor comes through the strongest. I like a few reposados ("rested" in charred oak barrels between two months and a year) and fewer still anejos (aged a least a year), though some connoisseurs insist that the latter represents the height of the tequilero's art. I disagree. While there's no question that quite a few reposados and anejos achieve a very impressive balance of flavors, for me there's nothing like the crisp, peppery finish of a good blanco.
As for brands, my number one fave is El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Interestingly, this bottle is less expensive than some of the other top-shelf brands like Don Julio, Casa Noble, and Herradura, all of which are great tequilas, but, in my opinion, don't come close to El Tesoro's flavor. Even in El Tesoro's anejo, the agave is right up front. A few other good brands to look for are Corralejo, El Charro, and Cazadores.