3 Things you didn`t know about Tequila
Tequila is the heart and soul of Mexico. It’s the national drink and it has been unfairly branded throughout history — even after the conquistadors introduced distillation to mezcal in 1530. Bet you didn’t know that or these other five things you didn’t know about tequila.
1. Tequila is aged in the plant, not the cask
Most of us know that spirits like whisky and wines are aged in oak barrels. Unlike these grape or grain-based beverages, tequila is derived from the blue agave plant (not a cactus as many believe), which is a member of the lily and amaryllis family of flowering plants. While some tequila, such as Milagro’s reposado and anejo is aged in barrels (unlike the brand’s silver line, which is not), the time to maturation is short; allowing tequila to age longer than four years could deteriorate the quality of the spirit. Nonetheless, blanco is bottled directly after distillation, resposado (rested) must be aged a minimum of two months by law (Milagro, however, ages theirs for six months), and anejo (old) is aged a minimum of 12 months by law (and, again, Milagro, ages theirs for 18 months).
The blue agave plant takes 8 to 12 years to mature, at which time the heart, called the pina because it resembles a pineapple, is harvested. The harvested pina typically weighs 50 kilos and will produce one case (12 bottles) of tequila. Timing is crucial when harvesting the blue agave, which is why it’s said that the aging is done in the plant. After waiting 8 to 12 years for the plant to mature, you know you’re getting close when the leaves are between five and eight feet tall, the plant’s diameter is 7 to 12 feet and the quiote (stem) shoots up from the center of the plant. As soon as the quiote shoots up, it’s removed (and harvesting isn’t far behind) because it will reduce the amount of sugar in the pina, which would make it unusable for the tequila-making process.
2. Tequila Is Like Champagne
Like champagne, tequila has Denomination of Origin, meaning that the spirit can only be produced in Mexico — and that’s usually done in the Jalisco state. If you think tequila is only a step above moonshine production in a broken-down shack, consider that it is among the most closely and regulated spirits in the world, watched by the Mexican government, the Tequila Regulatory Council and the National Chamber of Tequila Producers. While individual distilleries decide upon their own techniques or what they consider quality, other specifics like aging requirements down to what’s printed on the bottle are closely regulated. What makes the Jalisco region makes it deserving of being awarded with Denomination of Origin? First, tequila must be made with blue agave (agave tequilana). Second, the volcanic soil and climate in Jalisco is especially conducive to growing the plant. The region is further subdivided into two regions, the lowlands and the highlands, which has an affect on the profile of the final product. As Danny from Milagro puts it, “The highlands of Jalisco… provide a microclimate that provides an agave of extremely good quality, that provides tequila with a very distinctive profile; it’s very smooth, it goes down very, very smooth and it’s a fresh, clean, crisp taste.”
3. Tequila Goes Bad
As mentioned before, barrel-aging tequila for more than four years would deteriorate the quality of the tequila. The tequila loses some of its agave qualities and takes on more of the bourbon qualities from the cask in which it’s aged. So, actually, it doesn’t go bad, but you end up with something closer to whisky than tequila.
To help you out at home, you should know that once you open a bottle of tequila, you better be in the mood to drink it. Generally, you have one to two months before oxidization and evaporation diminish the quality of the tequila and destroys the agave profile.
Pop around to your local Ultra Liquors and select your favourite tequila from the wide range we stock.