All tequila is made in Mexico. Specifically, in five states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Tamaulipas. Most is
made in the state of Jalisco, where the town of Tequila resides. There are many cities around Tequila which produce many different
brands of tequila. Amatitán, Arandas, Atotonilco, Tlaquepaque, Tepatitlán are some of the more widely known tequila-producing towns.
In order for a product to be able to use the name "Tequila," it must be produced in the authorized areas of Mexico. If it's produced outside those
areas, it must be called "agave spirits," much like champagne produced outside the Champagne, France area must be called "sparkling wine."
One thing I didn't know was what the different types of tequilas are. Generally the blanco (white or silver) tequilas
are cheaper, though there are some very good ones out there. Patron Platinum is quite good, though in my opinion nowhere
near worth a bottle's $210 price tag. Likewise, the añejos are typically more expensive, though there are some
which I didn't particularly like. I've found a number of people who have distinctly different preferences
than mine- Some prefer the "burn" of a blanco, some like the "middle-of-the-road" characteristics of the
reposados, and some prefer the smoother añejos. I think I'm more of an añejo person, though I do have an appreciation
for all of the types.
- Mixto: Often labeled as "Gold," it is tequila fortified with another type of alcohol. It often has caramel
to add sugar and coloring and oak, glycerin and other non-agave sugars to make it more palatable. Cuervo and Sauza "Gold"
fall into this category. Cuervo Especial (Cuervo Gold) is only 51% tequila (so they can use the name), and 49% cane sugar alcohol.
- Joven: Young tequila.
It's a blanco with some rested or aged tequila added to it. It's easier than aging all the tequila, and gives some more interesting flavors
to a blanco.
- Blanco: Almost always not aged at all, it can be "rested" in oak for up to two months. Distilled, put in a bottle, and sold. Usually (much)
harsher than aged tequilas. Also called "silver," "crystal," or "plata." Many say that the blanco product of a distiller will give the most accurate representation
of what that distiller produces. This is because the taste isn't influenced by the oak barrels used for the reposado and añejo profiles.
- Reposado: Meaning "rested," a reposado is aged in oak for two months up to one year. Smoother, and generally has more flavors due to the influence
of the oak barrels.
- Añejo: Aged in oak for one to three years. Smoother still, with more complex flavor and body.
- Extra Añejo: Aged in oak for three to five years, sometimes longer. It's rare to see a tequila aged longer than 7 or 8 years.
Extra añejos are less common than the other profiles, and are usually MUCH more expensive. This is due to the slow evaporation of the tequila while in the barrels.
A larger amount of raw materials must be used to produce an extra añejo than would be needed for an equivalent amount of shorter-aged (or non-aged) tequila.
The following aren't tequilas, but they're Mexican alcohols often lumped in with tequilas:
- Mezcal: An agave spirit that can use any of many different kinds of agave, or "maguey," not just the blue agave.
The agave is roasted in an enclosed pit with burning wood, which adds a tremendous amount of smoke to the agave.
Often uses an open flame distillation instead of an alambic steam distillation, and is often much more smoky than tequila.
While purists say that the only traditional types are blanco or joven, there are also reposado, añejo and even extra añejo types. Generally made in the Oaxaca region of Mexico.
- Sotol: This is a distilled spirit made from the "Desert Spoon" or "Sotol" grass plant. The ones I've tasted have flavors similar to tequila.
There are of course blanco, reposado, and añejo types of sotol.
- Bacanora: An liquor based upon agave made in the state of Sonora in Mexico. It was invented and produced in pre-colombian or pre-hispanic times, LONG before the Spanish influence came to the Americas.
- Raicilla: Another liquor based upon agave made in western Jalisco. It's traditionally been somewhat of an underground or outlaw product, but is now
starting to be made legally.
- Pulque: The traditional native drink of the central area of
Mexico. It's fermented (though not distilled) juice from the maguey or century plant, which is a different species of agave- Agave Americana. Pulque too was
created in pre-colombian / pre-hispanic times.