Article By Ricardo
On my last trip to Mexico, I visited the town of Tequila in Jalisco Province, located in the west-central part of the country. It is a small town where colorful houses and colonial architecture are visible at first sight. As I traveled through the outskirts, my eyes got caught by the beautiful blue agave plants, the plant from which tequila is made, and once I entered the town proper I could smell their sweet aroma.
There are plenty of distilleries in the town that offer tequila appreciation and professional tasting tours (as well as Mariachi shows and Mexican cuisine!). I decided to join a tour at La Rioja José Cuervo because their tour promised more than ten different tequila shots.
We started with a general explanation about tequila production. Everything starts with planting and tending the agave plant; after harvesting they are transported to ovens where they are slowly baked for over 48 hours; then the extracted agave juice is poured into either large wooden or stainless steel vats for several days to ferment.
The two basic categories are mixtos, which contains 51% pure tequila and 49% glucose and fructose sugars and are perfect to mix with cola or to prepare margaritas, and pure tequila, which is to be imbibed straight.
Like other liquors all color, aroma, taste and aftertaste characteristics depend on vessels, fermentation processes and aging. While in Tequila, I tasted five types: Blanco (white/silver), Reposado (rested), Joven (young/gold), Añejo (aged/vintage) and Reserva (ultra aged).
Blanco is the purest liquor, which is stored immediately after the first distillation and sometimes aged less than two months in stainless or oak vessels. Personally, I like its citric and sweet taste and its sweet aroma, but the aftertaste is a little harsher.
If you want to taste a more complex, smoother and subtler tequila, reposado is a good choice. It is rested no longer than three years but for at least two months in small oak barrels. You can tell the difference between two-month tequila, a ten-month tequila and a three-year one by looking at the golden color and its body; if it has rested for a shorter time, the color is less golden and the body is not as full. Its flavor is complex, so I suggest drinking several shots until you get completely drunk and are better able to decode the flavors.
Tequilas can be a combination of two types; for example, silvers mixed with some rested ones will make a new type: Joven. It still has the citric flavor of Blanco and the wood flavors of Reposado, giving it the best of both worlds. You can enjoy it as a digestive drink, highly recommended if you’ve eaten a beef burrito with loads of spicy guacamole.
Añejo is the vintage and classic tequila; it’s aged for a year minimum, up to three years. If you go to Mexico and attend a good friend’s wedding, a quincenera (a girl’s fifteenth birthday celebration) or a business meeting, there will be plenty of bottles of this. Enjoy the aromas and taste by drinking it as if you were enjoying being with your friends.
If you have been invited to a very fancy celebration you probably would drink Extra Añejo/Reserva (ultra aged). This type has been aged for at least three years and as many as seven years, although some special editions are aged for ten or more years. A very wise suggestion: DO NOT waste it by drinking it as if you were in a competition. You would do better to enjoy it as you would a classy gathering, soaking in the deep amber color, wood aromas and sharp aftertaste, rather than by shooting it as the crazy-spring-break-Cancun foreigner type would.
Leave the lime and salt for silver tequila; professionals recommend tasting Reposado and Añejo with a good 100% cacao chocolate bar and sometimes a little bit of cinnamon to enhance its aromas. Remember, tequila doesn’t have to be a quick and dirty way to start a messy night; it’s just as good to enjoy it for what it truly is—a complex and enjoyable spirit.