With its folklore mystique and time-honoured traditions, tequila production is considered a fine art in Mexico. No longer just enjoyed by the locals, tequila’s fiery flavour is increasingly popular worldwide. But, although tequila originated in Mexico, and has been produced there for over 400 years, it is not strictly a Mexican native.
After Spanish Conquistadores in the early days of colonial Mexico ran their supplies of Spanish brandy dry, they decided to take a leaf out of the book of the resident Mexicans - descendents of the Aztecs - who were making a drink called ‘Octli’ from a local succulent growing in the arid conditions. After a little practice, and much refinement, they produced a spirit that would later be known as tequila.
Contrary to popular opinion, the Agave succulent used to craft this potent spirit was not a cactus, but is actually part of the lily family.
If you’re a tequila drinker, you may have noticed the drink referred to as ‘mezcal’ on the label. This leads to much confusion over what is tequila and what is mezcal. The most basic explanation is that mezcal spirit is produced from any type of agave, all over Mexico, while for a mezcal to bear the name ‘tequila’, it must be produced using only the Blue agave. A further distinction is made between 100% agave tequila and mixto tequila. Unless labelled as ‘100% agave’, a tequila may only contain 51% agave, the other 49% can be from any source of sugar.
For tequila to be authentic, its label must read, NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana, or the Official Mexican Standard). NOM regulates tequila production in five official regions of Mexico: Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. In keeping with these traditions and regional significance, in 2006 UNESCO recognised the agave landscape and ancient tequila-making facilities of western Mexico as a world heritage site.
Tequila involves distilling the juice of ripe blue agaves. When the plants have reached their peak ripeness - after eight to ten years’ growth - the leaves are stripped off leaving only the core or ‘piña’. These cores can weigh from 20 to 40 kilos, with each piña making approximately eight bottles of tequila. The piñas are then cut up and roasted - turning their starches into sugar pulp. Juices are then pressed from the pulp and placed in fermentation tanks.
Distillers then add yeast, which begins to act upon the sugars of the roasted pulp, turning it into alcohol. The fermented juice is distilled up to three times, in either customary copper stills or modern stainless steel stills. The first distillation is always a rough, low-grade distillate, with the second or third run used to purify and perfect the liquor.
Tequilas are granted different flavours based on ageing length and the barrel type in which they are stored. French or American white oak is often used, and the degree of barrel charring will add to the flavouring.
As with all spirits, there are levels of quality and classification. Five basic types of tequila exist:
Why not try tequila today!
A revolutionary infusion of extra premium Tequila and rich central American coffee. Serve neat, over ice, in coffee or as a dessert topping.
Tequila Blue is an exceptionally smooth premium quality tequila distilled from the hearts of the Blue Agave plant.