No other liquid is surrounded by as many stories myths, legends, and lore as Tequila and it’s sister beverage Mezcal. Tequila is no longer a drink just for bandidos and rancheros. It’s just at home in the fist of today’s business men.
North Americans first distilled drink and it’s first commercially produced alcohol, Tequila, and her history is long and rich.
Mezcal wine, tequila’s grandparent, was the first produced only a few decades after the conquest that brought Spaniards to the New World in 1521. It held many different names such as Mexcal brandy, agave wine, Mezcal Tequila and finally just Tequila. Appropriately named for the town Tequila, a small town in a valley in Jalisco State, Mexico.
Tequila means “place of harvesting plants.”
First licensed manufacturer was gentlemen by the name of Jose Antonio Cuervo. Sr. Cuervo recieved the rights to cultivate a parcel of land from the King of Spain in 1758 and rest is history. Tequila gained national importance during the Revolution in the early part of this century when it became a symbol of national pride. The passion for french products were replaced by the patriotic fervor for Mexican goods. Prohibition in the USA further boosted tequilas popularity when it was smuggled across the border. Mexican spirits rose again in the USA after spirits from Europe became hard to obtain. Efforts to regulate the industry also grew in this period. In 1944, the mexican government decided that any product called “Tequila” had to be made by distilling agave in the state of Jalisco. The first standards were documented in 1947 and have been updated and revised ever since. Every tequila must have 51% agave tequiliana weber, variety azul. Most top of the line tequilas are made from 100% Blue agave, a fact that is always shown on the label. Now there is also a non-profit organization known as the Chamber of Tequila Producers which regulates the industry.
Mexcal vs Tequila
Mexcal is made in Oaxaca and some in Guerrero. Tequila is made in the northwestern state of Jalisco and few nearby areas. Both derive from Agave plants. Tequila is made from only agave tequiliana weber, blue variety, while Mexcal can be made from 5 different types of agave. Tequila is double distilled and few are triple distilled while mexcal is often only distilled once.
To make mexcal, the sugar rich heart shape of the agave called the Pina is baked in a rock lined oven and covered with layer of pine fiber mats and earth, giving mexcal strong, smokey flavor. Tequila pinas are baked or steamed in an above ground oven or auto claves. Tequila and Mexcal share a similiar amount of alcohol though currently there are over 1000 brands of tequila and around 100 different brands of mexcal.
There are different classes of Tequila as well Resposado tequila is the first stage of “rested and aged”. The tequila is aged in wooden barrels or storage tanks between 2 and 11 months. The tequila takes on a golden hue and the taste becomes a good balance between the agave and wood flavors. Many different types of wood are used with the most common being American or French oak. Some tequilas are aged in used bourbon/whiskey, cognac, or wine barrels and will inherit unique flavors from the previous spirit.
Anejo tequila is rested for a minimum of 1 year. The distillers are required to age Anejo tequila in barrels that do not exceed 600 liters. This aging process darkens the tequila to an amber color, and the flavor can become smoother, richer, and more complex.
Extra Anejo, in 2006 was declared a new classification, stating any tequila aged more than 3 years is an “Extra Anejo” following the same rules and process as regular anejos, with the extended amount of time for aging. The tequila becomes much darker, more of a mahogany color, and is so rich that it becomes difficult to distinguish it from other quality aged spirits. Extra Anejos are extremely smooth and complex.
Taste is the ultimate deciding factor. Some people prefer the rougher edge of the young blanco tequilas with their more distinct agave flavor. Others like the sharper almost peppery flavor of a middle aged Resposado. And some may prefer the smooth woody aroma in an older Anejo. Mexcal with it’s lava like flow as it goes down the back of your throat is preferred by others.
Like most other liquors, tequilas vary according to the company making them, the process used, the growing environment, the temprature, soil types, equipment used, age of the plants, and the means by which the plants are baked and aged all effect the flavor and the body.
Try them here with us and our wide selection. But be careful!! As you partake of this piece of Mexican Heritage, remember tequila is known to have been the cause of antics and behavior not normally observed!! Have fun and enjoy!!