Tequila has grown up. Once thought of as suitable only for shots and margaritas, tequila has entered the consciousness of lovers of fine spirits. As a result, there’s more to know and more to learn about the different types of tequila to help you choose what to try.
What All Tequilas Have in Common
All tequila comes from Mexico, specifically the states of Jalisco (which includes the city of Tequila), and some select cities in the states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas. All tequila is made from the blue agave plant.
When the agave has grown long enough, skilled workers called jimadores harvest the plants by hand. They cut off the spiny leaves, and load the hearts of the agave on trucks to head to the distillery. There, the agave is baked, crushed, and fermented.
Tequila Varies by Age, Color, and Region
The five major types of tequila are:
Blanco: Also called Plata (Silver) or white, Blanco tequila is minimally aged, if it is aged at all. It might be set aside in stainless steel for 30-60 days to let it smooth out. Blanco is best used for mixed drinks.
Joven: “Young” tequila with a golden color is made by blending Blanco with older tequila. True Joven tequilas don’t contain added sugars or colorings.
Watch out for “gold” tequilas that are actually “mixtos,” made with spirits distilled from many different types of agave. These may have added caramel coloring and sugar. Look for “100% blue agave” on the label.
Reposado: This means “rest.” Reposados are aged from 2 months to a year in oak barrels. Reposados add some gravity to mixed drinks like margaritas.
Añejo: Literally, “old.” Añejo is aged for at least a year, usually longer. With Añejo, you enter the realm of sippable tequilas that can stand on their own.
Extra Añejo: Older than Añejo, Extra Añejo ages for at least three years, developing a deeper amber color and more complex flavor.
These five categories identity the different types of tequila you may find in your local store or online.
Agave has “terroir” just like grapes for wine do. Highland agave produces a sweeter, more floral tequila. Lowland tequilas give a more herbal experience, with a minerality gained from lowland soils.
The Difference Between Tequila and Mezcal
Both tequila and mezcal are made from blue agave. The difference lies in how the agave is cooked. For tequila, the agave is baked or steamed in an oven. Mezcal is cooked in underground, earthen pits lined with hot rocks. It may be cooked with wood and charcoal in the pit as well.
If you’re looking for tequila, mezcal, or other high-end liquor, you’ll find what you’re looking for here at VS Liquor.