Add Scottish actor Sam Heughan to the long list of celebrity liquor brands. Sort of. Heughan has announced a collaboration between his company, Sassenach Spirits, and one of Mexico’s most respected tequila producers, El Tequileño. The partnership is a one-time release of El Tequileño The Sassenach Select, a tequila aged for two years in American oak, then finished for four months in French oak pipones, or large vats.
But it’s decidedly not a celebrity tequila, says Steffin Oghene, El Tequileño’s vice president of global marketing and business development and, like Heughan, a native of Edinburgh. When Heughan and his business partner, Alex Norouzi, approached the company to make them a tequila, “We said no,” Oghene explains. “Because we don’t make tequila for anybody else. That’s been the thing for 62 years.”
Most tequila distilleries produce for a number of labels; the one that makes The Rock’s Teremana, for example, has also made Casamigos, Avión, and dozens of other brands. But El Tequileño has only made El Tequileño since its founding in 1959. The distillery’s line of tequilas includes everything from a surprisingly delicious mixto blanco to platinum, reposado, añejo, and other aged expressions. In its six decades, El Tequileño has been under the management of just three master distillers, all from the founding family.
Heughan, the star of Outlander and founder of My Peak Challenge, started Sassenach Spirits in 2020, launching with a blended whisky whose first release sold out immediately. But offering spirits beyond whisky was always in the cards. After a visit to El Tequileño, Heughan asked if the distillery would make a tequila for Sassenach’s line. And asked. And asked. Each time, the answer was no.
Persistence is a trait Heughan shares with his on-screen character, Jamie Fraser, however, and El Tequileño finally caved, agreeing to produce a single batch of tequila—with the caveat that it would be bottled under the El Tequileño brand. “We said, that we can do,” Oghene recalls. “We can work together, [but] we’re not going to make your tequila.”
Third-generation master distiller Jorge Antonio “Tony” Salles worked with Heughan and Norouzi to create a custom blend, drawing from stocks that had initially been set aside for El Tequileño’s Reposado Gran Reserva. The tequila is made with Highlands agave—an appropriate synergy with the Scottish Highlands, the source of some of the liquid used in Sassenach Whisky—and water from El Volcán, the extinct volcano that looms over the town of Tequila.
During Heughan’s visits to El Tequileño, he shared plenty of drams of the Sassenach whisky with Salles—which no doubt helped cement the eventual partnership. In addition, the choice to finish Sassenach Select in French oak was inspired by the whisky’s own maturation program, which includes a stint in French oak madeira casks. “The French oak is a really toasty oak,” Oghene says. “When you taste it, you get the vibrancy of our Platinum and Reposado Gran Reserva, but the more you try it’s kind of like drinking a Chassagne-Montrachet.”
El Tequileño Sassenach Select is available exclusively in the U.S. for $100. There are 55,000 bottles available, which sounds like enough to go around—but don’t underestimate the demand from diehard Outlander fans.
Regardless of how you feel about the show, if you like top-quality tequila, Sassenach Select will be an excellent addition to your shelf. Check out the tasting notes below.
El Tequileño Sassenach Select
Rooted in herbaceous and earthy aromas, with the honeyed sweetness of cooked agave, vanilla, and spice, this tequila has multiple layers to explore and deserves your time and attention. The palate is spiced and rich with toasted oak, sugared almonds, sweet vanilla, and herbs. It’s rich and full-bodied, a true sipping tequila, and a worthy pour for both tequila and whisky fans alike.
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