Time for a crash course in tequila appreciation: where it comes from, the way it’s made, and what it tastes like! Understanding the basics of tequila, one of the world’s finest spirits, is actually pretty straightforward.
There are 4 conditions for a spirit to be called Tequila:
- It’s made in the delimited zones around the city of Tequila, Mexico
- It’s made from the Blue Agave cactus plant, with at least 51% Blue Agave spirit
- It’s bottled in Mexico
- It’s been distilled at least twice
How Tequila is Made:
Tequila is one of the most labor intensive spirits to make in the world. The root bulb of the agave cactus, is harvested, then cooked by steaming, roasting, or even buried over coals underground. The roots are then juiced, and the juice is fermented before being distilled. The tequilas are then aged in wooden barrels, but aging time changes depending on what type of tequila is produced. The ripeness of the agave bulb, as well as the differences in cooking, distilling and aging methods means there is lots of variance between different kinds of tequila
There are 5 Categories of Tequila:
- Blanco/White or Plata/Silver: Usually un-aged and bottled immediately after distillation, or aged less than 2 months in stainless steel or oak barrels. It is clear and fresh tasting, where the true flavors and the intensity of the Agave are present, as well as some natural sweetness.
- Reposado/Rested: Aged at least 2 months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size Each distillery has its own preference for the type of barrel used in aging. Some of the most common are made from french oak or white oak. The type of barrel used and the resins and tannins exuded have a big impact on the finished product and produce the subtle nuances that distinguish one tequila from another.
- Joven/Young or Oro/Gold: A mixture of blanco tequila and reposado tequila, blended to achieve a balance of fresh and aged flavours.
- Añejo/Aged/Vintage: Aged at least 1 year, but less than 3 years in small oak barrels. A year or more of resting in a cool cellar produces a smoother and more sophisticated taste. American whiskey barrels, french oak casks, or cognac barrels, are commonly used to age this tequila, which is darker in color, more complex in flavor, and smoother than reposado tequilas.
- Extra Añejo/Extra Aged: Aged at least 3 years in smaller oak barrels. This is the newest classification of tequila. Aged or Extra Añejo tequila has been aged for a period of at least three years, without specifying the aging time in the label, in direct contact with the wood of oak containers with a maximum capacity of 600 liters.
Whatever tequila you prefer, you’re enjoying a drinking tradition stretching back thousands of years. Sip and enjoy!