Tequila, often associated with a misspent youth, having one too many shots and a terrible hangover the next day. The reality is that tequila is a wonderful and complex spirit, so in this week’s blog post we shall try to clear any misconceptions up and discover more about its little known counterpart, Mezcal.
Firstly, what is tequila made of? It is quite unique in its production as it is made from Agave. There are over 200 different varieties of Agave and it is indigenous to Mexico and southern United States. It thrives in the hot desert like conditions often found there.
Tequila must be made with Tequilana Weber or Blue Weber agave in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, and Guanajuato by law. It must also consist of at least 50 percent agave with the best examples being produced with 100 percent agave.
The basic flavours of Blue Weber are lovely herbal spicy notes with hints of citrus.These flavour profiles can change and differ depending on the process that the producer uses. For example the tahono method, this process uses a stone wheel to crush the plant. Adding extra sweet flavours that are often similar to sweet potatoes.
Agavecocina states “By taking the heart of an agave plant and steaming it, tequila producers shred the heart (known as the piña) until a juice called aguamiel comes off. The aguamiel is then mixed with cane sugar and yeast, then fermented for several days. Then the juice is distilled twice in copper pots and reaches 90-proof or higher.”
Tequila can also be aged in oak barrels, gaining a range of different flavours and aromas. When aged in American oak barrels it imparts flavours of vanilla and caramel, French oak imparts dry fruit flavours and Hugarian Oak gives the tequila citrus elements.
You may have seen different age statements on tequilas. Tales of the Cocktail Foundation states that “extra añejo is the most aged of all tequila types. Blanco or silver tequila is not aged, while reposado tequila is aged for a minimum of two months and up to 364 days. After 365 days, the tequila becomes añejo, and then after three years, it becomes extra añejo.”
Mezcal has been produced for nearly 400 years, often by small family run village distilleries. One thing to note is that tequila is a type of mezcal not mezcal is a type of tequila. It is also protected by a denomination of origin and can only be produced in nine states of Mexico; Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Michoacan, Guerrero, Durango, Tamaulipas, Puebla, Zacatecas and Guanajuato.
Unlike producing tequila where you can only use one type of agave in mezcal you can use any. This allows mezcal producers a great diversity of choice, each type brings a different range of flavours to the final spirit. Also unlike tequila it has to be made out of 100 percent agave.
Casa Agave suggests “As with any step of creating mezcal, how it is done has an impact on the flavours of the end product. The most traditional way of baking an agave is to this day still the most widely used, which is in a dug out cone shaped earthen pit.” This gives the agave a smokey caramelised flavour. They are then crushed, fermented and distilled to create a spirit. It can also be aged in the same method as tequila.
We have a selection of tequilas produced by the outstanding VIVIR, with a range of age statements to suit every palate. They make a mean Margarita as well as being perfect for sipping. There are also mezcals in store if you would like to give this alternative spirit a go.