Tequila and Mezcal
Both Tequila and Mezcal hold a denomination of origin, they must follow strict guidelines in order to be produced and more importantly commercialized. From the variety of Agave used for their production to the geographical location. The denominations of origin for Tequila and specially Mezcal continue to change to this date, however, it is of outmost importance to make sure that the products we consume are certified and registered which will mean that we’re consuming what we expect from each brand.
Every batch of Tequila must be twice distilled according to government regulation (CRT). After a second distillation the tequila must be cut down with water to its desired alcohol percentage (ABV) prior to being bottled, rested or aged. Mezcal follows the same process, however, can be distilled up to three times according to government regulation (CRM).
The CRT (Consejo Regulador De Tequila) is the government regulation responsible for certifying Tequila and The CRM (Consejo Regulador De Mezcal) is its counterpart responsible for certifying Mezcal. Both the CRT and CRM are responsible for quality control and send representatives to distilleries on a daily basis whose task is to inspect the liquid that is to be bottled as Tequila 100% Agave, Tequila Mixto or Mezcal. In the case of aged Tequila, the barrels used for any ageing process are stamped as they are filled on premise to ensure the barrel is only opened once, upon bottling. In both cases each council aims to regulate any liquid sold as Tequila or Mezcal by certifying it under strict guidelines before it can be exported and or sold nationally.
Artisanal defines a product that is made in a traditional or non-mechanized way. In this case, Artisanal Mezcal utilizes traditional Mezcal making production methods which includes fermenting in hollows of stone, wood or clay containers or animal skins as well as optionally fermenting and/or distilling with the maguey fibres. This category excludes the use of autoclaves (pressure cookers) and stainless steel tanks for fermentation and single batch distillation is done only in clay pots or copper stills. Although there is an allowance of milling with modern shredders, importance is placed on utilizing traditional hand, stone or wooden milling for the grinding process.
Ancestral Mezcal is a minority amongst the Mezcal classifications as it is rarely available due to its small-batch, hand-made production process which has been handed down through generations of Mezcal producing families for thousands of years. The production of Ancestral Mezcal follows a much more stringent process compared to any of the other Mezcal classifications. The Agaves must be cooked in earthen pits, hand crushed by stone or wooden mills and fermented in animal hide, wood or earthen and stone vats before being distilled in clay pot stills. The agave fibres remain for the duration of the fermentation and distillation process. Although this process creates exquisite Mezcal it
Tequila is classified in two main categories, Mixto and 100% Agave, these are categories certified by the CRT (Tequila Regulatory Council). These two categories will determine the method in which the Tequila is produced, its ingredients and more often than not, its quality. Mixto Tequilas have been exploited for years by multinational corporations and brands to produce large volumes and supply a demand that exists for people who believe all Tequila is the same and its drank to “get drunk”. Whilst Mixto Tequilas have been leading the way in volume for generations, 100% Agave Tequilas have slowly started to position themselves as the preferred choice for Tequila enthusiasts around the world.
Tequila Mixto is by law, a Tequila produced with 51% Agave sugars and the remaining 49% being any source of sugar. This is technically a mix of raw materials which will lower the cost of producing Tequila however the quality will also be questionable. Australia is one of the few countries where imports of Tequila are higher for the 100% Agave category rather than Mixto, a trend we hope continues.
100% Agave Tequila, like the name suggests is produced utilizing only 100% sugars derived from the Agave plant, as it is Tequila this must be Blue Agave (Tequilana Weber). This category of Tequila is the true representation of the spirit, the full notes and aromas derived from the Agave are present only in this category however even though there are many 100% Agave Tequilas in the market, it is also important to look into artificial colouring and flavouring practices that some distilleries use to standardize their productions.
This is when the liquid that is produced after distillation Is bottled without undergoing any ageing process. Also known as Joven or “Young”, this expression of tequila can be rested before it’s bottled and appears clear and translucent in colour. This expression is the purest form of tequila, usually featuring a strong presence of roasted and/or raw agave flavours.
Reposado or “rested” refers to the short time this expression spends ageing in barrel. To be called a reposado the Tequila produced after distillation must be aged for at least two months in oak barrels. The short amount of time spent resting in oak wood produces yellow gold and straw hues and light notes of oak wood and vanilla.
Aňejo translates to Aged which in this case, makes reference to the minimum duration of one year that the Tequila must spend in oak barrel to become what can then be called Aňejo Tequila. After ageing for this amount of time, the oak wood gives the Tequila rich golden, caramel hues and contributes notes of vanilla, oak and light caramel.
Extra Aňejo refers to the extensive ageing process, governed by its minimum ageing requirements of three years in oak barrel that this Tequila must undergo to receive its name. The ultimate aged expression of Tequila, the wood from the barrel over time, breathes and leaks deep caramel and toffee hues into the tequila and notes of vanilla, toffee, oak and caramel.