A jimador in the middle of a blue agave field. The jimador –harvester- cuts the blue agave plant to begin with the process.

Tequila, everyone knows about it and almost everyone has tasted it. What most are not aware of are the various types of tequila and the importance of reading its label. Laugh all you want but Mexico’s tequila is equal to France’s champagne in refinement class and designated regions. With the thought of tequila, you are probably reminiscing of past university days of cheap tequila shots while your stomach is churning. Well, before I began my research, this is exactly what I did. But, to my surprise and with each shot of tequila I took, my eyes were opened more and more to the world of Tequila. I discovered things I never knew and these new-found facts ignited my desire to dive deeper into the bottle, metaphorically, of course.

Tequila!

Every year millions of tourist flock to Mexico and the majority of them return to their hometowns with souvenirs. Tequila is one of the most purchased items. But, do tourists really know exactly what type of tequila they are buying? Despite my in-depth investigation, this may be the only question I can not answer. So, to all prospective tourists on the way to Mexico, have no fear. I have done the research. Consider me your tequila guide.

Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Añejo and Extra-Añejo are not brands of tequila. Instead they are types. Each type is distinct and differs in flavors that are granted by variations in the aging process. Without going into detail of the procedure, let’s just break down the 5 different types of tequila by flavor.

1. Blanco is considered the most popular among tequila connoisseurs. Upon tasting, the flavor of the agave and its sugars stand out.

2. Joven, almost identical to blanco, contains burnt sugar to give it a smoother taste and mask the flavor of the agave for those who do not enjoy it.

3. Reposado, woody in color and smoother than blanco or joven, is aged roughly for 2 months. Due to its enjoyable flavor and economical price, reposado is the most popular tequila type.

4. Añejo, aged for a year or sometimes longer, is considered to be of good quality and comes highly recommended for first time drinkers. With one sip of Añejo tequila, you realize where you went all wrong in your college days.

5. Extra-Añejo, is aged anywhere between 3 to 5 years and, depending on the brand, its flavor consists of dry wood, vanilla, cinnamon and sometimes rose petals. Because of the lengthy amount of time and the tender loving care needed to produce Extra-Añejo tequila, this is the most expensive and refined tequila types.

Extra Añejo

Now that you know a Blanco tequila from and Añejo and a Añejo from a Joven, it is time to learn how to read a label. If you think tequila is tequila regardless of the label, au contraire my friend. Tequila is not tequila unless it is marked with two acronyms, one numbers and one very important description. Sound complicated? Well, its not. The four things you must find on a label are:

1. The label must be marked with NOM, Norma Oficial Mexicana, or in English, Official Mexican Standard. NOM is an agency employed by the Mexican government and it purpose is to ensure that the proper variety and origin of agave is used in the process.

2. CRT is the Tequila Regulatory Council and if the letters CRT are not on the label it is tequila that has not been manufactured under the proper administration. Think of it as quality control.

3. The NOM number. The Official Mexican Standard assigns every tequila producer with a number. Legally, this number must be presented on every bottle produced.

4. 100% Agave. If it is not 100% agave, it is just a mix made to mimic the real deal.

Other than the types of tequilas and how to read a tequila bottle label, tequila is a multifaceted and multi-fascinating topic. Rich in history, unique to the one and only Mexico, tequila related topics can range from origin to process to tequila food and drink recipes. Nevertheless, with basic knowledge of varying tequila types, flavors and labels, I have faith that you can now go forth and purchase good tequila to take home. Let’s raise our glasses to that! Cheers.

Kristin’s Favorite Tequilas:

tequila_herradura_preview 1. Herradura Reposado is aged for 11 months and  the agave heart used to make this premium tequila is cooked with dry wood, vanilla and cinnamon. Hence, its highly pleasant flavor.

tequila-don-julio 2. Don Julio Reposado is a resposado tequila that has been stored in charred oak barrels.This particular tequila contains nodes of vanilla and chocolate and blends well with any and all citrus juices.

tequila-mexico 3. Clase Azul Plata is a blanco tequila from the Clase Azul tequila family, a family well known for preserving its quality and tradition. This particular blanco tequila is full  original agave flavor and all of its sugars, a must try for any experienced tequila taster.

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kristin Kristin McCollum is a travel writer that has spent the past year traveling and working throughout Europe and Mexico. Now settled on the Yucatan Peninsula, she finds inspiration in every person she meets and in the natural beauty which surrounds her. Follow Kristin on Twitter.

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COMMENTS

3 Responses to “Tequila: What You Didn’t Learn in College”

  1. Christina

    Nice article! I think it’s time for another tequila tasting… You KNOW how much I like a quality tequila.

    Reply

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