Tequila – Definitely Not Just A Shot

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Tequila means different things to different people.Whether you prefer your tequila neat, in a Margarita, a shot with a lime, or enjoyed on the beach, it’s a spirit that’s easily enjoyed in many situations.

Tequila snobs will absolutely turn their nose up to those that do that salt, lime, shot, oblivion thing. Not that shots don’t have their place, but whatever tequila you’re shooting—even if it’s a blanco, actually took a minimum of eight years to get to the glass. To say the least ,tequila definitely deserves some respect.

Tequila is made from blue agave; a plant and not a cactus and by law must be made in Mexico. There are five types of tequila; silver, gold, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo.

It is primarily produced in Jalisco from the succulent blue agave plant after maturing for 8 years.  These agave plants are of a one-time use and the heart is cut out and processed to make tequila or Mezcal.  Flavors vary from the fermentation process, it’s surrounding and whether it’s a high or low land plant.

After the hearts are cut out of the blue agave plant, they are then steam-cooked to prepare for fermentation. And while tequila, like vodka and gin, is a clear spirit, it is actually pot-distilled at least twice.

Once distilled to strength, tequila’s either bottled or aged for a period of time in any variety of wooden barrel or cask.  Younger tequilas will have more of that green, earthy heat while aged tequilas will be mellower and increasingly rich and complex as age time increases.

The 5 Types of Tequila

When scanning your tequila options at your local party store, you will find five types of tequila. They are silver, gold, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo.  

Silver (also called white or blanco) is a clear spirit that can be either 100%agave or mixto. These tequilas are "aged"—more like "rested"—no more 60 days in stainless steel tanks, if they are aged at all. The unaged blancos give the drinker the rawest taste of agave available and have a notable earthy flavor that is distinctly tequila. If you have not tasted a blanco, then you are missing out on the pure taste of the agave plant.

Silver tequila is primarily used for mixing and is perfect for any tequila cocktail and often smoother than the gold tequila shots. If you are looking for an affordable, all-around tequila to keep in stock, a blanco is your best option.

Gold Tequilas are the ones that many older drinkers are familiar with, particularly if you spent any time doing tequila shots in the last few decades of the 20th century. Gold tequilas are responsible for many bad tequila.

These are often unaged tequilas that are typically mixtos and have been colored and flavored with caramel, oak extract, glycerin, syrup, and other additives. While many gold tequilas leave something to be desired in comparison to the other classes, there are now a few decent bottlings available. If you are going to drink a gold tequila, stick to heavily flavored cocktails or (if you must) shots.

Reposado tequilas are aged in wood casks for a minimum of two months and many are aged from three to nine months. The barrels mellow the flavors of a pure blanco and impart a soft oak flavor to the agave as well as giving the tequila its light straw color. It has become popular for distilleries to age their tequilas in used bourbon barrels, which adds another dimension to the finished taste.

A little more expensive than blancos, reposado tequilas are the middle ground of the three main types found that are now pretty standard in a brand's tequila line-up. They are versatile enough to be used in a great number of tequila cocktails but make great sipping tequilas as well.

Añejo tequila is "old" tequila. These tequilas are aged, often in white, French oak or used bourbon barrels for a minimum of one year to produce a dark, very robust spirit. Most añejos are aged between 18 months and three years while some of the best can spend up to four years in barrels. Many tequileros believe that aging longer than four years ruins the earthy flavor tones of the spirit.

Añejo tequilas tend to be very smooth with a nice balance of agave and oak. You will often find butterscotch and caramel undertones, which makes these perfect for sipping straight (chilled if you like) or for those really special cocktails.

You can compare an añejo to a high-end whiskey. You can sip these tequilas in a snifter to get a real sense of their aromas and flavors.  As might be expected, añejo tequilas are some of the most expensive on the market, though there are many reasonably priced options available.

Extra-Añejo tequila means extra-old. These tequilas spend over four years in barrels and have a profile that rivals some of the oldest whiskeys around. Of course, the price of these tequilas reflects their extra time in the barrel and these are ones that you will want to save for straight sipping, enjoying every second of the experience.

Tequila is one of the most fascinating distilled spirits available. There's no better way to find a new appreciation for the production and effort that goes into it than to visit Mexico and see it for yourself.  If that is not a current option, then be sure to mark your calendar and come to Fern Hill’s 6th Annual Tequila Barrel Launch on Friday,August 23rd starting at 7 pm. It will be a tequila experience to remember!  Call Fern HillGolf Club today at 586-286-7400 or reach out to us on the contact form on our website to reserve a table for your friends!

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