The Mexican government has established a number of regulations to control what can be called tequila and how it is made. Tequila that follows these regulations is authenticated by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) and carries a NOM number on the label which identifies the distillery.
Tequila must be made with at least 51% Blue Weber Agave. The legislation allows for the remaining sugar to come from non-agave products, such as sugar cane which also grows in Mexico. Tequilas made with 100% Blue Weber Agave are labelled as such, those made with less than 100% are called “mixto”.
Tequila can only be made in five areas of Mexico with 99% being made in Jalisco, home to the town Tequila. Tequila must be bottled between 35 and 55% abv. There are five classifications of styles of tequila.
Blanco tequila is often used in cocktails, the classic example being the ‘Margarita’. It's tequila in its purest form with no minimum ageing requirements and no colouring. The result is a clear tequila that allows the raw vegetal characteristics of the agave to shine through. Regulations allow resting in wood for up to 60 days, this softens the flavour and may result in a hint of colour.
- Examples - Sauza Silver, Villa Lobos 100% Blanco, Aqua Riva Tequila Blanco and Don Julio Blanco Tequila
Blanco tequila that has added colourings and flavourings is known as Joven or Gold. The flavouring, usually caramel is added to mellow the flavour through a process known as “aboçado”. Like Blanco tequila, Joven is a popular choice for mixed drinks.
Reposado translates to restful, a nod to the ageing of the liquid. The tequila is aged in oak, either small casks or vats holding up to 20,000 litres for a minimum of 60 days. It can be softened by aboçado. It has a straw-like colour, with an elegant, soft flavour which is influenced by the wood. This is the most popular style in Mexico and of growing interest in the UK On-Trade, especially 100% agave examples.
Añejo (Extra Aged)
These tequilas are aged in government sealed oak barrels holding no more than 600 litres for a minimum of one year. They can also be softened by Aboçado. The ageing process deepens the colour of the liquid to amber. The oak produces a smoother, richer, and more complex flavour, perfect for sipping over ice.
Muy Añejo (Ultra Aged)
Ultra aged means a minimum of three years. Stored in oak barrels holding no more than 600 litres these tequilas are darker in colour, smoother and more complex than other tequila styles. Like the other styles of tequila, they can be softened by aboçado. After such a length of time ageing, these tequilas are much darker, moving towards a mahogany. Some are aged for as much as 8 years, in this instance, the oak can begin to overwhelm the Tequila. This produces a spirit with strong similarities to other oak aged spirits.
- Examples - Jose Cuervo Reserva de la Familia and Villa Lobos Extra Añejo
The use of additives including caramel, oak extract, glycerin or sugar syrup to soften the taste of tequila. The amounts of these ingredients used should be less than 1%.
To find out more about this category, its history and its future, take a look at our new Tequila brochure. Inside you will find our new range, some perfect serves and top tips on how to maximise the potential of the category.