Tequila is a regionally specific name for a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, primarily in the area surrounding the city of Tequila, 65 km (40 mi) northwest of Guadalajara, and in the highlands (Los Altos) of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco. Although tequila is similar to mezcal, modern tequila differs somewhat in the method of its production, in the use of only blue agave plants, as well as in its regional specificity. Tequila is commonly served neat in Mexico and as a shot with salt and lime across the rest of the world.
Tequila comes in an abundant array of colors that ranges from a simple clear distilled beverage to a dark amber brown. The color of the tequila varies greatly on the aging process and the type of wood used for storage. The white version of tequila, known as silver tequila or blanco, is the product obtained without or very little additional aging process.
As well, the spirit must contain between 38-55% alcohol content, which is fermented from a wort, which contains no less than 51% sugars from the agave plant. Consuming silver tequila provides for the purest form as little aging has occurred. What is known as gold, joven or oro tequila is usually silver tequila with the addition of grain alcohols and caramel color, however, some higher end gold tequilas may be a blend of silver and reposado. Rested (reposado) or aged tequila (añejo) are aged in wooden containers. The aging process can last between two months and three years and can create or enhance flavors and aromas. The aging process generally imparts a golden color.
The two basic categories of tequila are mixtos and 100% agave. Mixtos use no less than 51% agave, with other sugars making up the remainder. Mixtos use both glucose and fructose sugars.
Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories:
- Blanco ("white") or plata ("silver"): white spirit, unaged and bottled or stored immediately after distillation, or aged less than two months in stainless steel or neutral oak barrels
- Joven ("young") or oro ("gold"): unaged silver tequila that may be flavored with caramel coloring, oak extract, glycerin, or sugar-based syrup. Could also be the result of blending silver tequila with aged or extra-aged tequila.
- Reposado ("rested"): aged a minimum of two months, but less than a year in oak barrels of any size
- Añejo ("aged" or "vintage"): aged a minimum of one year, but less than three years in small oak barrels
- Extra Añejo ("extra aged" or "ultra aged"): aged a minimum of three years in oak barrels, this category was established in March 2006.
With 100% agave tequila, blanco or plata is harsher with the bold flavors of the distilled agave up front, while reposado and añejo are smoother, subtler, and more complex. As with other spirits aged in casks, tequila takes on the flavors of the wood, while the harshness of the alcohol mellows. The major flavor distinction with 100% agave tequila is the base ingredient, which is more vegetal than grain spirits (and often more complex).
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