Differences in Tequila
The word tequila is a proprietary term, legally limited for use in the Mexican production of blue agave distilled spirits. First commercially produced during the 16th century by Spanish conquistadors in the Mexican village of Tequila, the alcoholic drink wasn’t exported to the United States until mass production began in 1884. Tequila is labeled according to four different types, plus one sub-type, distinguished by age, ingredients and distillation methods.
Blanco tequila, often called white or silver tequila is aged less than 60 days. Sometimes the tequila is immediately bottled after distillation in oak or stainless steel barrels. Blanco, often the least expensive, tends to be harsher than other tequilas. Blanco tequila, used in shots, is often chilled to create a smoother sensation.
Joven tequila, sometimes labeled oro or gold, constitutes nearly the same product labeled Blanco. Caramel food coloring, in addition to other ingredients, is added to the Blanco mixture to create the subtle gold color of Oro tequila. Popular because of its low cost, Oro tequila is considered a mixto tequila, due to its less than 100 percent agave-derived composition.
Reposado translated from Spanish to English means rested. Reposado tequila is aged from two months up to a year. Due to being aged, Reposado has a richer taste and provides a distinctly smoother experience. Reposado is one of the most popular types of tequila sold in Mexico.
Anejo, referred to as vintage tequila, is aged for at least one year but less than three years. Anejos are typically rested in barrels previously used to age bourbon in American, Canadian or French distilleries. Anejo is dark in appearance, taking on the color of the bourbon barrels. Anejo may also have a slight but noticeable bourbon flavor.
Extra Anejo, a sub-category added in 2006, is simply tequila aged longer than three years. It may also appear darker and more opaque than regular Anejo tequila since tequila becomes darker the longer it’s aged in bourbon barrels.
Commercially flavored tequilas first appeared on the market in 2004. Before then, the Tequila Regulatory Council of Mexico restricted the sale of flavored tequilas marketed with the tequila name. Jalepeno, margarita and passion fruit are just a few of the flavored tequilas available today.
Other important factors affect the taste and quality of tequila. Mixtos use at least 51 percent agave with added glucose and fructose sugars. Pure agave tequila has no other added ingredients. Plants grown in the Mexican highlands used in the production of tequila are more robust and are considered superior to plants grown in the lowlands, which may be smaller and consist of more fiber than juice and pulp.