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Saturday, 4 August 2012

tequila



agave plant

The brand "tequila" is controlled by the Mexican government. Anybody interested in its production must comply with strict regulations set forth by the Secretary of Economy (formerly Secretary of Industry and Commerce) who has delegated authority upon the Tequila Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila) CRT, a private non-profit organization based in Guadalajara, Jalisco responsible for the regulation, verification, and quality certification of tequila. The Council oversees every aspect of production, from agave cultivation to bottling and labeling in order to guarantee consumers of the genuineness of the product.
To ensure that tequila is genuine, it must be produced according to the strict standard NOM-006-SCFI-1994 and must bear the official standard or NOM (Norma Oficial Mexicana) and the Council's monogram "CRT" on the label. Premium Tequila must also have the "100% Agave" markings on the label. Each approved tequila distiller gets its own NOM that ensures that the product complies with the official Denomonation of Origin.

History

The history of tequila began when the Spaniards arrived in Mexico in the 16th Century. The Conquistadors brought the process of distillation with them and when it reached the western Mexican town of Tequila the townspeople were quick to put it to good use.
They knew that the blue agave plant contained sugars that could be fermented, and very probably there was a fermented drink that the native Indians would drink. By fermenting and distilling the sweet sap of the blue agave plant, they produced liquor with a distinctive taste. For many years tequila was a local liquor with relatively low demand. In the early 1980's the famous Herradura Reposado was sold almost exclusively at the distillery in Amatitán with few cases going to Mexico City. But then in the 90's it became fashionable to sip tequila and production soared as new brands were introduced to a growing and discriminating market. People began to demand more authentic tequilas, particularly those made following artisan tradition and Premium Tequilas made 100% with the sap of the blue agave.
With the new millennium more brands came into the market and tequila has become one of the top three best seller liquors in the world. Blue agave production has soared covering extensive fields where none were harvested before. As one travels in the western states of Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Guanajuato you will see beautiful rolling hills covered by a pale blue agave that seem to go as far as the eye can see.
There is a lot of confusion in encyclopaedias and dictionaries about the meaning of the term “tequila”. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a Mexican liquor distilled from pulque”, a serious error that most tequila websites repeat. The famous Encyclopaedia Britannica defines it as: “distilled liquor, usually clear in colour and unaged, that is made from the fermented juice of the Mexican agave plant, specifically several varieties of Agave tequilana Weber.” We all know that tequila can be clear, pale, amber, and even dark brown and it is aged to produce Añejo.

TEQUILA AND MEZCAL

Mezcal is part of the Mexican culture. It may be a popular saying, a social icon, a toast, there's always mezcal, or tequila for that matter. Just as Cognac is a special type of brandy produced from specific grapes grown in a select region of France not all brandy has the distinction of being Cognac. In like manner, all liquors distilled from any agave plant are "mezcal", but only those made from the blue agave are branded as Tequila, all the others are mezcal. The most famous mezcal is distilled from a variety of agave grown in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, and the finest comes from the wild agave known as "papalomé" that it is so potent that two shots can really knock you down! The language of tequila can be very confusing. To begin with Tequila is the name of the town where production originally began, and it is also the name of the volcano overlooking this town. Locals in the Tequila Region refer to the blue agave plant as "mezcal", and the fields where this plant is harvested are known as "mezcaleras". Many distillers call to the distilled liquor mezcal and is only called tequila when finally bottled. Before tequila became known as it is today, it was called "vino mezcal" or mezcal wine. The official Mexican standard or NOM defines Tequila as the product of fermentation and distillation of the blue agave juices (mostos) obtained at the distillery from agave cores or piñas grown in the Tequila Region and allows for the addition of up to 49% sugars from sources other than the agave plant. However the NOM defines as Tequila 100% Agave as the one containing sugars exclusively from the blue agave plant and it must be bottled at the distillery. Alcohol content must be between to 35º and 55º Guy Lussac (70 to 110 Proof).

MANUFACTURING OF TEQUILLA

The process of tequila begins when a blue agave plant is ripe, usually 8 to 12 years after it is planted. Leaves are chopped away from its core by a "jimador" who assesses the plants ripeness. If the plant is harvested too soon, there won't be enough sugars to do the job. Too late and the agave's sugars will have already been used to form a once-in-alifetime stem "quiote" that springs 25 to 40 feet high so that the seeds grown at the top of the stem can scatter with the wind. The jimador's task is a crucial one; once he decides that the plant is ready, he wields a special long knife known as a "coa" to clear the core. The cores or piñas (Spanish for pineapple) weight an average of 40 to 70 pounds, and can weight up to 200 pounds. The photo shows a ripe agave, at least 8 year old) that is being harvested. The “piña” in the photograph (third at right) will be visible when all the leaves (pencas) have been cleared.
Piñas are hauled to the distillery where they are cut in half or chopped and put to roast. Starches turn to sugar as the piñas are roasted in furnaces called "hornos". Modern distilleries use huge steam ovens to increase output and save on energy. Roughly speaking, seven kilos (15 lb.) of agave piña are needed to produce one liter (one quart U.S.) of tequila.
Different agaves and processes produce mezcal with different names throughout Mexico: stotol in Chihuanhua, mezcal in Oaxaca, and bacanora in Sonora.

FERMENTATION

The roasted piñas are then shredded, their juices pressed out and placed in fermenting tanks or vats. Some distilleries use the traditional method to produce tequila. In this method –artesian tequila– the cores are crushed with a stone wheel at a grinding mill called "tahona" and the fibers are dumped into the wooden vat to enhance fermentation and to provide extra flavor. Once the juices are in the vats yeast is added. Every distiller keeps its own yeast as a closely guarded secret. During fermenting, the yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.

DISTILLATION

Juices ferment for 30 to 48 hours then they are distilled twice in traditional copper stills or more modern ones made of stainless steel or in continuous distillation towers. The first distillation produces a low-grade alcohol and the second a fiery colorless liquid that is later blended before being bottled. Alcohol content may be between 70 and 110 Proof. At this moment the liquor is no longer mezcal but tequila. All types of tequila start with this colorless distilled spirit. Each type will be called depending on its aging.

TYPES OF TEQUILAS

Tequila can only be produced in Mexico, in the Tequila Region, and must comply with strict Mexican government regulations. In order to satisfy an ever-growing demand and a multitude of consumer's preferences and tastes, tequila is produced in two general categories and four different types in three of those categories. The two categories are defined by the percentage of juices coming from the blue agave:
Tequila 100% Agave. Must be made with 100% blue agave juices and must be bottled at the distillery in Mexico. It may be Blanco, Reposado, or Añejo.
Tequila. Must be made with at least 51% blue agave juices. This tequila may be exported in bulk to be bottled in other countries following the NOM standard. It may be Blanco, Gold, Reposado, or Añejo

The NOM standard defines four types of tequila:

Blanco or Silver
This is the traditional tequila that started it all. Clear and transparent, fresh from the still tequila is called Blanco (white or silver) and must be bottled immediately after the distillation process. It has the true bouquet and flavor of the blue agave. It is usually strong and is traditionally enjoyed in a "caballito" (2 oz small glass).
Oro or Gold
Is tequila Blanco mellowed by the addition of colorants and flavorings, caramel being the most common. It is the tequila of choice for frozen Margaritas.
Reposado or Rested
It is Blanco that has been kept (or rested) in white oak casks or vats called "pipones" for more than two months and up to one year. The oak barrels give Reposado a mellowed taste, pleasing bouquet, and its pale color. Reposado keeps the blue agave taste and is gentler to the palate. These tequilas have experienced exponential demand and high prices.
Añejo or Aged
It is Blanco tequila aged in white oak casks for more than a year. Maximum capacity of the casks should not exceed 600 liters (159 gallons). The amber color and woody flavor are picked up from the oak, and the oxidation that takes place through the porous wood develops the unique bouquet and taste.
Reserva
Although not a category in itself, it is a special Añejo that certain distillers keep in oak casks for up to 8 years. Reserva enters the big leagues of liquor both in taste and in price.

GLOSSARY

agave fruit

• Agave. Plant with long spiny leaves of the lily family. There are more than 400 species, all native to North America and mostly to Mexico. Tequila is made exclusively from the agave azul that grows in semiarid soils and takes from 8 to 12 years to mature. Pulque is made from the maguey that grows in the cooler highlands and has become a hallmark of the Mexican countryside. Other agave is used to produce henequen (sisal).
• Agave azul (Blue Agave). The specific variety of agave from which tequila is made. It grows in the Tequila Region. The correct name is Agave Azul Tequilana Weber.
• Aguamiel. The sugary sap from the maguey that ferments into pulque.
• Añejo. Tequila Blanco aged in oak barrels for more than a year. It has a golden amber color with a soft, smooth, complex flavor.
• Autoclave. A large steam pressure cooker used to cook the agave piñas.
• Barrica. Barrel mostly made of oak that previously held bourbon or whiskey.
• Blanco. Clear, fresh from the still tequila is called Blanco (white or silver). It has the true bouquet and flavor of the blue agave.
• Caballito. A two to three ounce glass 3 to 4 inches tall used in Mexico for tequila. The glass is slightly tapered making the mouth wider than the bottom, although it may be a perfect cylinder.
• Cabeza. The first portion of distillate (heads), highest in alcohol and aldehydes, which is usually discarded. See also Corazon and Colas.
• Cactus. Drought resistant spiny plants with succulent stems like the saguaro, peyote and nopal (opuntia). No liquor is produced with any cactus plant.
• Coa. A machete type tool used by the Jimador for harvesting agave.
• Colas. The final portion of distillate containing the lowest alcohol and soapy flavors, usually recycled into another distillation.
• Corazon. The “heart” of distillation containing the best flavors and aromas for tequila.
• CRT. Tequila Regulatory Council (Consejo Regulador del Tequila), a private non-profit organization responsible for the regulation, verification, and quality certification of tequila.
• Distillation. The process of purifying a liquid by successive evaporation and condensation. Tequila is made with double distillation, and some brands go through a third one to enhance purity.
• Fabrica. A tequila distillery.
Fermentation. The formation of alcohol from sugars by the action of enzymes. In the tequila process the sugars come from the roasted agave piñas, and the enzymes is the yeast added to the sap or “mosto”. The yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.
• Gran Reposado. 100% Blue Agave tequila made in small batches and rested in wood barrels for twice as long as most Resposado.
• Hijuelos. Offsprings of the agave plant, which are replanted and develop into mature agave plants. It is the preferred form of propagation for most agave plants.
 Horno. The traditional oven used to cook agave piñas.
• Jimador. The laborer who harvests agave. The jimador's task is a crucial one, since he decides when the plant is ready, usually 8 to 12 years after it is planted. He has to cut off all the spiny leaves to obtain an almost perfect core or piña.
• Joven abocado. Joven or young is Tequila Blanco mellowed by the addition of colorings and flavorings, caramel being the most common. It is also known as Extra or Gold. Mostly used for Margaritas.
• Los Altos. One of the major growing regions for Blue Agave, a mountainous area with rich red volcanic soil east of Guadalajara.
• Madre. A mature or “Mother” agave plant from which hijuelos have been harvested.
• Maguey. A Carib word encompassing agaves that are mostly used for pulque. It has become a hallmark of the Mexican countryside.
• Mezcal (or mescal). All liquors distilled from any agave plant are mezcal, but only those made from the blue agave are branded as tequila. Tequila is mezcal produced in the Tequila Region.
• Mosto. The unfermented juice extracted from the roasted agave piñas.
• NOM. Norma Official Mexicana. The official Mexican standard or NOM defines tequila as the product of fermentation and distillation of the blue agave juices (mostos) obtained at the distillery from agave cores or piñas grown in the Tequila Region. It is assigned by the government to each tequila distillery, identifying which company made and bottled each brand of tequila.
• Nopal. Native to Mexico it is a member of the cactus family, and is commonly referred to as “prickly pear”. Nopal is a great source of vitamin C and extremely nutritious. Its fruit, known as “tuna”, is served with lime juice for breakfast or lunch.
• Ordinario. The first run distillate when making tequila.
• Piña. The pineapple-shaped heart of the agave plant. The average weight is 40 to 70 pounds, and can reach up to 200 pounds. Roughly speaking, seven kilos (15 lb.) of raw agave piñas are needed to produce one liter (one quart U.S.) of tequila.
• Piloncillo. Unrefined sugar made from dried sugarcane juice, used in production of tequila joven or abocado.
• Pipon. Tank, usually made of oak, used for storing tequila.
• Pulque. Fermented Mexican drink, made from the maguey or Century plant. The maguey is milked daily by a tlachiquero to obtain the aguamiel sap using a gourd or acocote. Pulque is slightly foamy and mildly alcoholic.
• Quiote. A once-in-a-lifetime stem that springs from all agave plants to produce seeds. It may reach 25 to 40 feet high so that the seeds grown at the top of the stem can scatter with the wind.
• Resposado. Reposado or rested is Tequila Blanco that has been kept in white oak casks or vats called pipones for more than two months and up to one year. The oak barrels give Reposado a mellowed taste, pleasing bouquet, and its pale color.
• Sangrita. A spicy and refreshing non-alcoholic chaser made of fresh orange juice, grenadine and chile piquín. Sangrita is the Spanish diminutive for “blood” and is served in a “caballito”.
• Tahona. The ancient traditional stone wheel used to crush and extract juice from cooked agave. It is still used to produce traditional tequila.
• Tequila. Both the region and the town that gave the spirit of tequila its name.
• Tepache. A Mexican drink made of the fermentation of pineapple juice. In some regions pulque is added.
• Tequila Region. The “Denomination of Origin” law has defined the area in which the blue agave is grown. It includes the state of Jalisco and some regions in the states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas.
• Tesgüino. Mild alcoholic beverage of Central and Northern Mexico produced by the fermentation of corn. It is similar to beer with bits of corn and it is the traditional drink of the Tarahumaras or Rarramuri Indians.
• Tuna. The fruit of the nopal. It is served chilled with lime juice.
• Yeast. Consists largely of cells of a tiny fungus. It causes fermentation in alcoholic beverages and is used as leaven in baking. It is added to the tequila mosto to induce fermentation. The yeast acts upon the sugars of the agave plant converting them into alcohol.

TEQUILA BRANDS - 100% AGAVE

There are more than 600 brands of tequila. Just visit a liquor store in Guadalajara or Mexico
City and you will see rows of beautiful hand-made bottles with exotic names on the labels.
The following is just a sample of 100% Agave brands showing the brand, the region where it
is produced and its alcohol content.

Tequila Blanco

Casa Noble. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Chinaco. Tamaulipas. 80 Proof.
Corralejo. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Don Julio. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
El Viejito. Atotonilco. 80 Proof.
Hacienda del Cristero. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Herradura. Amatitán. 92 Proof.
Herradura Ligero. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Lapiz. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Las Trancas. Capilla Guadalupe. 76 Proof.
Mayor. Guadalajara. 76 Proof.
Patron. Arandas. 80 Proof
Pura Sangre. Tequila. 86 Proof.
Real Hacienda. Tequila. 80 Proof.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Tres Generaciones Plata. Tequila. 80 Proof.

Tequila Reposado

Alteño. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Arette. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Atalaje. Capilla de Guadalupe. 76 Proof.
Bambarria. Guadalajara. 80 Proof.
Caballo Negro. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Cabrito. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Casa Noble. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Cazadores. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Centenario Cuervo. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Centinela. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Chamuco. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Chinaco. Tamaulipas. 80 Proof.
Conmemorativo 100 Años. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Conquistador. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Corralejo. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Corralejo Triple. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Cuervo Tradicional. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Don Andrés. Tesistán. 76 Proof.
Don Julio. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Don Leoncio. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Don Tacho. Arenal. 76 Proof.
Dos Amigos. Arandas. 76 Proof.
El Charro. Arandas. 80 Proof.
El Tequileño Especial. Tequila. 80 Proof.
El Viejito. Atotonilco. 80 Proof.
Galardón. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Herradura. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Herradura. Antiguo. Amatitán. 76 Proof.
Honorable. La Laja. 76 Proof.
Hornitos. Tequila. 76 Proof.
La Cofradía. Tequila. 76 Proof.
La Perseverancia. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Las Trancas. Atotonilco. 80 Proof.
Ley .925 Tequila. 80 Proof.
Mayor. Guadalajara. 76 Proof.
Milagro. Tepatitlán. 76 Proof.
Oro Azul. Jesus María. 76 Proof.
Patrón. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Porfidio. Arenal. 80 Proof.
Porfidio Single Barrel. Arenal. 80 Proof.
Pura Sangre. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Real Hacienda. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Revolución. Antonio Escobedo. 76 Proof.
Sauza 100 Años. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Siete Leguas. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Tequileño Especial. Tequila. 76 Proof.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Zafarrancho. Jalisco. 76 Proof.
30-30. Capilla de Guadalupe. 76 Proof.

Tequila Añejo

Centenario 3 Años. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Chinaco. Tamaulipas. 80 Proof.
Conmemorativo. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Cuervo 1800. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Cuervo Reserva de la Familia. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Don Julio. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Gran Centenario. La Laja. 76 Proof.
Herradura. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Herradura Selección Suprema. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Tres Generaciones. Tequila. 76 Proof.

THE BEST TEQUILAS

Like any distilled spirit, tequila doesn't age once bottled. Unlike other spirits, however, there are no vintage years because tequila is produced year-round from a plant that takes eight to 12
years to mature and its ripeness doesn't depend on the climate of one particular year. The best tequila is the one you enjoy the most, of course! There are so many different brands that you
will surely find one that really pleases you.
100% blue agave tequilas
The StarRatings © José-Pablo Fernández

Excellent
These brands have the unique taste and bouquet of the agave plant, "the real stuff". Go the extra mile to get a bottle. They are pricey but they are worth it. These brands are better enjoyed when sipped at room temperature, although some people keep the bottle in the freezer.
Good
Drink them only when you can't find other better brands, but keep a bottle for friends who are not too picky in their choice of tequila.
Regular
These brands will not make you very happy, but you may drink them if they are the only brands available. Use them in Margaritas and other cocktails.

Tequila Blanco

Casa Noble. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Chinaco. Tamaulipas. 80 Proof.
Corralejo. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Don Julio. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
El Viejito. Atotonilco. 80 Proof.
Hacienda del Cristero. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Herradura. Amatitán. 92 Proof.
Herradura Ligero. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Lapiz. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Las Trancas. Capilla Guadalupe. 76 Proof.
Mayor. Guadalajara. 76 Proof.
Patron. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Pura Sangre. Tequila. 86 Proof.
Real Hacienda. Tequila. 80 Proof.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Tres Generaciones Plata. Tequila. 80 Proof.

Tequila Reposado

Alteño. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Arette. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Atalaje. Capilla de Guadalupe. 76 Proof.
Bambarria. Guadalajara. 80 Proof.
Caballo Negro. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Cabrito. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Casa Noble. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Cazadores. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Centenario Cuervo. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Centinela. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Chamuco. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Chinaco. Tamaulipas. 80 Proof.
Conmemorativo 100 Años. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Conquistador. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Corralejo. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Corralejo Triple. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Cuervo Tradicional. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Don Andrés. Tesistán. 76 Proof.
Don Julio. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Don Leoncio. Guanajuato. 76 Proof.
Don Tacho. Arenal. 76 Proof.
Dos Amigos. Arandas. 76 Proof.
El Charro. Arandas. 80 Proof.
El Tequileño Especial. Tequila. 80 Proof.
El Viejito. Atotonilco. 80 Proof.
Galardón. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Herradura. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Herradura. Antiguo. Amatitán. 76 Proof.
Honorable. La Laja. 76 Proof.
Hornitos. Tequila. 76 Proof.
La Cofradía. Tequila. 76 Proof.
La Perseverancia. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Las Trancas. Atotonilco. 80 Proof.
Ley .925 Tequila. 80 Proof.
Mayor. Guadalajara. 76 Proof.
Milagro. Tepatitlán. 76 Proof.
Oro Azul. Jesus María. 76 Proof.
Patrón. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Porfidio. Arenal. 80 Proof.
Porfidio Single Barrel. Arenal. 80 Proof.
Pura Sangre. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Real Hacienda. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Revolución. Antonio Escobedo. 76 Proof.
Sauza 100 Años. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Siete Leguas. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Tequileño Especial. Tequila. 76 Proof.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Zafarrancho. Jalisco. 76 Proof.
30-30. Capilla de Guadalupe. 76 Proof.

Tequila Añejo

Centenario 3 Años. Arandas. 76 Proof.
Chinaco. Tamaulipas. 80 Proof.
Conmemorativo. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Cuervo 1800. Tequila. 76 Proof.
Cuervo Reserva de la Familia. Tequila. 80 Proof.
Don Julio. Atotonilco. 76 Proof.
Gran Centenario. La Laja. 76 Proof.
Herradura. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
Herradura Selección Suprema. Amatitán. 80 Proof.
El Tesoro de Don Felipe. Arandas. 80 Proof.
Tres Generaciones. Tequila. 76 Proof

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