It’s National Tequila Day! Does everyone have their snifters/rocks glasses/reading glasses ready?
Shortly after I started this blog back in Sept 2014, I wrote a post for a cocktail called Volver along with a Tequila Challenge. The challenge was, “Sip your Tequila instead of taking shots” and an encouragement that “Tequila can be used in so many more recipes than a standard Margarita.” The goal of that post was to open the eyes of the American public to the fact that drinking Tequila does not equal blackout drunk, but that it is a beautiful, complex, and earthy spirit. It is full of life.
Today, I’m not going to make any drinks, I’m just going to smell, sip, and talk about Tequila.
All Tequila begins as Blanco because that is what comes right out of the still. The aging process for Tequila actually begins with the Blue Weber Tequiliana Agave plant itself. These plants are usually grown for anywhere between 7-12 years before being harvested by los jimadores. These agave farmers pull the plants from the earth and strip the beautiful blue leaves from the piña, or heart of the Agave. The piñas are baked for several days, mashed, washed, smashed, and juiced producing a liquid to be fermented. After fermentation is complete, all 100% Blue Agave Tequila is distilled at least twice to remove impurities and bring the spirit up to proof.
So that’s Blanco. No aging in wood, no additional flavours. Literally the purest expression of Agave possible. It’s magnificent. I am absolutely Team Blanco. I fully believe in Blanco and I fully love to sip Blanco. Pictured above is Casa Noble Crystal Blanco Tequila. It has most definitely become one of my favourite Blancos, because Casa Noble is all about passion, heart and terroir.
Terroir is a French word wine enthusiasts use to mean “the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine from the environment in which it is produced.” Essentially, terroir conveys that you, the person drinking the wine should be able to smell and taste what the actual land tastes, smells, feels like. It’s a powerful concept and it absolutely applies to Tequila.
Whatever Blanco becomes your go-to Blanco, be sure you can sip it and be sure you can taste terroir.
Reposado means “rested” en Español and that is precisely what Reposado Tequila is. Once Blanco Tequila leaves the still, it is rested in (usually American but sometimes French) new or ex-bourbon white Oak casks for 2-11 months, imparting some woody, vanilla, and carmel flavors but not much.
Reposado Tequila is actually the most popular type of Tequila in Mexico because it’s a little less wild and a little more refined than Blanco. The thing about a good Reposado is that you can definitely still taste the Agave. I love using Espolón’s Repo because it is smooth and plays well with others. It has enough flavours and fullness to make a cocktail interesting but is also wonderful to sip on its own. (Actually, Espolón Blanco is really great for sipping too.)
There isn’t a lot to say about Reposado because it’s not a contentious expression of Agave. Repo is juuuuust right.
Now here’s the contention! Here’s where people are getting fired up. Oh Añejo Tequila, what on earth happened to you? Who stole your soul? Who took your Agave away?
Recently in the Tequila industry people have begun to take sides about Añejo Tequila. There is even a book called How the Gringos Stole Tequila which details the impact that America’s recent thirst for Tequila has had on the industry. And one of the greatest impacts has been on Añejo Tequila.
Añejo means “old” en Español and is usually aged in American (but sometimes French) white Oak ex-whiskey casks for 1-3 years. I want to emphasize those last two parts again, ex-whiskey casks for 1-3 years. It could also be aged in ex-sherry casks, ex-Rum casks, etc. Now, this itself is not inherently evil, I mean really, we can’t get too moral or riled up about the aging process of a spirit.
Where we can get a bit upset is when the spirit no longer tastes like itself. With the American market getting soooooo much more interested in Añejo Tequilas have come a whole bunch of products that no longer taste like Agave. They taste like the casks they were aged in: Bourbon, Cognac, Sherry, Rum but somehow not Tequila.
“Gurl! Are you saying we shouldn’t drink these Americanized Añejos? They’re so delicious and smooth! Weren’t you just saying how Tequila should be sipped?”
Yes, I did say that Tequila should be sipped and these Añejos are totally delicious and definitely made for sipping. Yet, perhaps they should be in a different category, a category not called Tequila.
However, this is not the case with Corralejo Añejo which totally still tastes like Agave and totally still feels like Mexican Tequila that Mexicans made out in the fields of Guanajuato, Mexico. There are plenty of Añejos full of terroir and have been mellowed out by a few years in oak. Personally, I like those the best.
Why bring all of this up on National Tequila Day? Because we need to know what we’re drinking when we drink Tequila.
This has been Home Bar Girl encouraging you to think about and sip your Tequila on National Tequila Day.