Tequila is a distilled spirit produced from the agave plant that is only produced in certain parts of Mexico. Tequila has several types with unique production methods that distillers follow.
Tequila vs. Mezcal
Mezcal is referred to any distilled spirit made from the blue weber agave plant. Technically all tequilas are mezcal, but all mezcals are not tequila. Mezcal uses greater variety of agave grown in only nine Mexican regions and is only produced in those regions. The most significant difference is in how the agave is processed. Mezcal distillers traditionally bake the agave in earthen pits to add a smoky flavor.
This spirit is produced by distilling the fermented juices of the Agave tequilana plant. The plant looks like a giant aloe vera with spiked barbs on the tips. It requires seven to ten years of growth before the blue agave plant is ready to be harvested. Agave produces a large bulb referred to as piña, which resembles a large white pineapple. After the leaves are removed, the piñas are cut and slowly baked in steam or brick ovens to transform the starch into sugar. The baked agave is then finely crushed in order to squeeze the sweet juice. The next step is to ferment the juice with yeast to convert the sugar into alcohol. The fermented agave juice is often distilled twice to produce a high volume alcohol concentrate which is called tequila ordinario. Depending on the type of the tequila, tequila ordinario either rests briefly in tanks or ages in barrels. Some tequila goes through filtering or blending before being bottled and after the aging process.
It has a earthy flavor with an alcohol kick. Dependent on where the agave was grown and the type, each tequila has its unique taste. Blanco tequilas offer the purest tequila taste, with an earthy and semi-sweet agave flavor. Tequila made in lowland areas is usually fruitier and earthier. Tequila from the highlands is greener and brighter in color. Barrel aging gives tequila an oaky flavor.
There are many different brands yet only five types are produced in Mexico. Blanco: Blanco or mostly referred to as silver or white is a clear spirit. These tequilas are rested no more than 60 days in stainless steel or oak tanks if they are aged at all. Joven: Joven or young or oro fo gold is a mix of white and aged blends. Reposado: Reposado or rested tequilas are aged in oak casks for a minimum of two months up to nine months. The barrels mellow the flavors of a blanco and impart a soft oakiness and light straw color to the Reposado. Añejo: Añejo or old is aged in white French oak or bourbon whisky barrels for at least one year in order to produce a dark and robust Tequila. Many añejos are aged up to three years. Extra-Añejo: Extra-añejo or muy añejo is rested over three years in barrels and has a profile that rivals some of the oldest whiskies with complex flavors.