Your Guide To The 5 Types Of Tequila And How To Use Each

Tequila, the beloved spirit of Mexico, has captivated palates, ignited fiestas and accounted for many forgotten nights out around the world. As one of the most renowned and celebrated alcoholic beverages, it carries with it a  distinctive flavour profile that sets it apart from other spirits. It’s even earned itself its own day, and each year July 24th is celebrated as Derived from the succulent agave plant, tequila's origins can be traced back to the rugged landscapes of Mexico, where it has been crafted for centuries with deep-rooted cultural significance.

The story of tequila begins in the region of Jalisco, Mexico, and its surrounding areas. The indigenous people, long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, fermented the sweet juice of the agave plant, also known as "pulque," to create a sacred beverage believed to connect them with the gods. With the Spanish colonisation, the process of distillation was introduced, paving the way for the evolution of tequila as we know it today.

The heart of tequila lies in the blue agave plant, scientifically known as Agave tequilana Weber. The agave, which resembles a large succulent with spiky leaves, takes years to mature, sometimes up to a decade or more. Cultivated and harvested by skilled jimadores, the agave is then carefully transformed into tequila through a meticulous process that involves cooking, crushing, fermenting, distilling, and ageing.

Tequila's popularity soared beyond the borders of Mexico over the years, becoming a symbol of celebration, culture, and tradition. It has found its way into bars, clubs, and homes across continents, captivating a diverse range of enthusiasts with its distinct flavours and versatility. 

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Most casual drinkers think of tequila as one single drink, but it has a much more complex role than that. Beyond its use in cocktails, tequila has also garnered respect among connoisseurs who relish the complexities of aged expressions, sipping and savouring the finest tequila is akin to sipping on aged whisky or cognac. The genuine appreciation for tequila's heritage and craftsmanship has led to a growing market for premium and artisanal brands that prioritise the use of 100% agave and sustainable practices.

Blanco (Silver) Tequila:

Blanco tequila is the purest form of the spirit, unaged and bottled immediately after distillation. It is transparent and offers the true essence of the agave plant. Blanco tequila is known for its vibrant and fresh flavours, with strong notes of agave, citrus, and pepper. The taste is often crisp and herbal, making it an excellent choice for cocktails like Margaritas and Palomas. The lack of ageing allows the natural agave flavours to shine through, making it a favourite among tequila purists.

Reposado Tequila:

Reposado, which means "rested" in Spanish, refers to tequila that has been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of two months but less than a year. This short ageing process imparts a golden hue to the tequila and introduces more complexity to the flavour profile. The time spent in the barrels adds notes of vanilla, caramel, and slight oakiness while still preserving the agave's herbal and citrus undertones. Reposado tequila strikes a balance between the rawness of Blanco and the deeper complexities of aged varieties.

Añejo Tequila:

Añejo tequila is aged for a minimum of one year but less than three years in oak barrels. As a result, it takes on a rich amber colour and develops a more robust and sophisticated taste. The ageing process rounds out the sharp edges of the spirit, creating a smoother and more refined experience. Añejo tequila showcases pronounced caramel, butterscotch, and toffee flavours, with the agave flavours still present but mellowed. This type of tequila is often sipped neat or on the rocks to fully appreciate its depth and character.

Extra Añejo Tequila:

Extra Añejo is the newest category of tequila, introduced in 2006, and it denotes tequila that has been aged for at least three years in oak barrels. This prolonged ageing produces a dark, mahogany colour and results in an ultra-premium spirit. Extra Añejo tequila boasts an incredibly smooth and complex taste profile with prominent flavours of dark chocolate, roasted coffee, and even spiciness akin to fine whiskey. The agave essence is still detectable but takes a back seat to the remarkable blend of barrel-aged nuances.

Joven (Gold) Tequila:

Joven tequila is a blend of Blanco and aged tequila, often with the addition of colourants and flavourings. While some high-quality Joven tequilas do exist, many in this category are meant for mixing rather than sipping due to their lower quality and artificial additives. The taste of Joven tequila can vary significantly depending on the brand and production methods, ranging from rough and harsh to slightly more mellow with hints of caramel and vanilla.