A tequila expert, I am not but here is a little Tequila 101 and how I learned to LOVE Tequila! It all started about 12 years ago in Puerto Vallarta. I was invited by the Tourism Board to a private tasting with the manager of the Porfidio Distillery. I accepted graciously though I was dreading it, I didn’t EVEN like Tequila! But I knew it was a very special invitation I should not decline. Boy, am I ever glad I went! What I learned is… I don’t like cheap Tequila, imagine that! After tasting the different classifications and various ages, re-tasting to make sure I knew what I liked, I REALLY don’t know how I got back into the van! All I know is, I am glad I had a driver and my preferences began at a mere $75! The most expensive bottle I tasted was about $300 –if I remember right I was taught to drink my Tequila neat, no ice, just sipping it. None of that lick your hand, pour some salt, down the hatch and bite the lime mess for me. Savor the flavor, each one is different and sip it like a very fine wine. Oh, and Tequila does not have a worm in it, that is Mezcal and cheap ones at that. The whole worm thing is just a marketing gimmick.
What I also learned is there are 2 categories of Tequila and at the time, there were 4 classifications. The 2 categories are 100% Blue Agave and Mixto, which is at least 51% Blue Agave and 49% sugars. I look for 100% Blue Agave or 100% Puro de Agave (the word Azul may also be found) on the label, it is a Mixto otherwise. 100% Blue Agave currently can only be distilled in certain regions of Mexico. This is similar to the international laws of champagne. The area of Tequila has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site, It is where the original blue agave fields are and where Tequila was first distilled. There are many species of agave, tequilana weber blue is harvested for Tequila production. Each distillery is issued a unique NOM (identification) by the government to ensure quality and standards are met. The NOM can be found on the label. Some distilleries manufacture more than one brand. As of 2006 Mixto may be distilled in other countries.
Now there are 5 classifications of Tequila. The first is Plata/Silver/White/Platinum, the “true” Tequila. It is typically bottled immediately after distillation though it can be held for 1 -2 months in stainless steel containers for a smoother taste. I really haven’t found a Plata Tequila I Iike. Maybe I just haven’t tried the right one… yet!
The Gold/Oro/Joven has additives for color and sweetness and usually made from Mixto. I make margaritas out of this type or out of a lower priced Reposado. Some high end Jovens are crafted by combining Plata, Reposado and Anejo, the price will reflect this as well as the designation of 100% Blue Agave.
The Reposados –now we are talkin’! It is rested for 2 -11 months more commonly in oak barrels. Often the barrels have been previously used for wine, bourbon or cognac though virgin barrels are also used. This naturally enhances the color and flavor of the Tequila. I find it hard to tell the difference between a high end Reposado and an Anejo but as I said,I am no tequila expert.
Anejos are classified as extra-aged, aged for 1-3 years in barrels holding less than 600 liters. I find them smoooooth (not a typo) and the color is darker than a Resosado- and of course with age comes price, some are several hundred. If given a choice and a “reasonable” price ($40-75), I prefer these. My favorites have a slightly sweeter finish. Some of the bottles are collectible, they may also be numbered like artwork ( 26/1200) especially if it is bottled in a hand blown, talavera, crystal bottle or from a small batch. I hate to admit it, but we have quite a collection of empty bottles!
Most stores in the US do not carry the newest classification, Extra Anejo. This category was added in 2006 and is given to the Tequila aged over 3 years. I have to admit, I’ve not purchased this quality of Tequila, I have tasted it. I am certain it is worth the price, I just haven’t found one I can afford! I will keep searching, there has got to be one, I just know it!
Gaining popularity in the last few years are Tequila infusions and flavored Tequilas, liquors and crèmes.
I tend to shy away from these. I have seen pepper, fruit and herb infused Tequilas. Tequila has become
so popular it is now reviewed and rated by criteria such as aroma, initial taste, body,smoothness, finish, presentation
and price just like fine wines-with notes and hints and yada-yada. These reviews can help you select Tequila based
on your preferences. I like what I like and hope you will try a tequila tasting or flight of tequila given the opportunity.
Like me, you may find you just needed to sip a better quality of tequila!
Do you have a favorite, let me know–I am always on the hunt for a good Tequila
Saturday we went to Woodmans in Rockford to replenish our stock. We chose Jose Cuervo Tradicional Reposado, Herradura Anejo, Cielo Reposado, El Tesoro Anejo, Casa Noble Reposado this time. El Tesoro is new to us. A Mexican businessman in Cancun told us if we put the Jose Cuervo Tradicional in the freezer, it gets very creamy and is a popular way to serve in Mexico. Casa Noble is one of my favorites,it is organic and distilled by Cofradia.(-remember how a NOM is issued to each distillery) .Herradura means horseshoe and is a longtime favorite.
In a future post, I will share with you some of the nice bottles we have purchased and glassware we have collected.