A stroll into any store in Mexico will leave you feeling totally overwhelmed with Tequila choices. With bottles ranging from $30 to $3,000, colours anywhere between clear and gold, and glistening bottles of all shapes and sizes, it’s difficult to know what’s what. That’s why I have put together this simple guide just for you. So next time you’re visiting Mexico, you can show off your tequila knowledge to all your friends, that is of course, until you get too drunk to remember any of this post.
Photo Credit hangoverprices.com
The very first step in categorising your Tequila is to know if it’s made with 100% Blue Agave, or if it’s a Tequila Mixto. 100% Agave Tequila is made purely from the Blue Agave plant’s sugar, and begins its life directly in the fermentation vessels. Tequila Mixto on the other hand, only has to be 51% Blue Agave, and the rest is made up of different types of sugar or molasses. Another unique aspect of Tequila Mixto is that you can legally manufacture it outside of the traditional Tequila regions, where as 100% agave Tequila must only be mad win these regions. After the Blue Agave percentage has been calculated, the Tequila is then further categorised into one of the following five groups:
Also known as white, silver or platinum, this is the Blue Agave spirit in its purest form. Tequila Blanco is usually made from 100% Agave, however, there are a few rare Mixto versions available. As this Tequila is rarely aged more than a few weeks it retains all the strong original flavours of the Blue Agave plant, including the best part, its sweetness. After distillation, Tequila Blanco is normally bottled right away, although in some cases it is left to ‘settle’ for up to 2 months, giving the tequila a much softer, less harsh flavour.
Tequila Blanco is usually served in a regular shot glass or served as the ever popular Mojito! Some of the Mexican’s favourite brands of this young Tequila are; Jose Cuervo Traditional Plata, Herradura Plata and Centenario Plata.
Also known as gold or joven (young), this is the cheapest type of Tequila on the market. Tequila Oro is most often Mixto, and the golden colour comes from adding caramel colouring before fermentation. This young tequila is never usually aged, and is often only 51% Blue Agave. However, as always, there are some exceptions. The golden colour can sometimes come from blending a Tequila Blanco with an aged Reposado or Añejo, and in this case the tequila can also be 100% Agave. Sneaky little golden Tequila.
Tequila Oro is usually served in mixed drinks and cocktails to mask its harsh flavour. Some of the most popular brands of this Tequila are; Jose Cuervo Especial Gold, Agavales Tequila Gold 110 and El Relingo Oro.
Reposado means ‘rested’ in Spanish, and as its name suggests, this is the first in the line of aged tequilas. This particular Tequila is left to rest between 2 to 12 months before being bottled. Reposado Tequila begins to turn golden as it ages because it absorbs the colour from the wooden barrels it rests in. This Tequila is most commonly aged in American or French Oak barrels, although many different types of wood can be used. Occasionally, Reposado Tequila is aged inside barrels previously used for cognac, whiskey or wine, giving it an even more unique flavour. Who could say no to some wine Tequila?
Due to its brilliant flavour, Reposado is very rarely mixed when being served, and is most commonly drank from 2-ounce shot glasses. The top Mexican picks of Reposado Tequila are; Maestro Dobel Diamante, Don Julio Reposado and Sauza Hornitos.
Once a Tequila has aged for a year it is called an Añejo, although many are left to age for up to 3 years. Much like the Reposado Tequila, Añejo is aged in a wooden barrel. However, unlike the younger tequilas, Añejo must be aged in barrels no bigger than 600 litres. This process of ageing gives the Tequila its rich, dark and almost Amber colour.
Añejo Tequila has a much smoother, richer and more intricate flavour than the younger versions, making it perfect to sip slowly. Although there are many amazing brands of Añejo, the Mexican’s favourites are; Don Julio 70, Herradura Añejo and Cuervo 1800 Añejo.
5. Extra Añejo
This is the Grandpa of all Tequila, and as you probably guessed, a Tequila is classed as Extra Añejo if it has been aged for over 3 years. This ‘ultra-aged’ Tequila is a new type of classification, which became only became official in the summer of 2006. The ageing process is identical to that of Añejo Tequila, just longer. Extra Añejo Tequila takes on an almost mahogany colour, and is so strong that it must be diluted with distilled water before it’s bottled. Due to the rich flavour of this dark Tequila, it is often mistaken for other aged spirits. Extra Añejo Tequila is the most expensive not just because of its intense flavour, but because distillers will only ever let their finest spirits be aged for such a long time.
Extra Añejo is only ever enjoyed slowly, seriously, the Mexicans will hunt you down otherwise! Some of the most popular brands include; Cuervo Reserva De La Familia, 1800 Milenio Extra Añejo and Revolucion Extra Añejo.
Photo Credit Don Jose
There are a few other Tequila products on the market, such as Tequila liqueurs, Tequila cremes, Tequila soft drinks (yes, Mexicans are introduced to Tequila at a very young age…) and flavoured Tequila. Many of these products are used in cocktails, deserts and interesting fusion cuisine, but the only true forms of Tequila are listed above.
What is your favourite type of Tequila? Let me know in the comments below!
Stay Salty x