Started from the bottom now we here should be the new motto for tequila in the American market. Throughout the last 15 years, it has evolved from a bottom shelf liquor enjoyed by frat houses and people on a budget, to a premium liquor, appreciated by CEOs and professionals across the country. A shot of decent grade tequila in most trendy bars or clubs will cost you up to $20 a shot. Not all tequilas in this newfound American market, however, are created equal. Many Americans don’t know what separates first-rate tequila from the substandard (hangovers, yuck!).
There are five classes of tequila: White or Silver, Gold, Reposado, Añejo (aged) and Extra-Añejo (ultra aged). White or silver tequila is usually bottled right after it’s distilled, but will occasionally be stored up to two months in steel tanks or oak barrels in order to create a smoother taste. Despite this, blanco tequila is still going to give you that notorious burn going down. Gold tequila is, well, total crap. It is basically just silver tequila with added color and flavor. Under Mexican law, tequilas have to be 100% agave in ordered to be sold as tequila. Gold tequilas are only 51% agave and are considered mixers, best left for cheap cocktails. Reposado is the first stage of aged and rested tequila. It is normally stored in barrels or tanks 2-11 months. This tequila will have a pale golden hue that becomes darker as it ages. Most consider the flavor of Reposado tequila to be a good balance between wood and agave tones.
Tequila Añejo, the fourth tier of tequila, has to be aged for at least one year. The Mexican government requires añejos to be aged in barrels that do not exceed more than 600 liters. This type of tequila is going to have a more sophisticated taste containing wood, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel undertones. Needless to say, this tequila should not be mixed, but sipped on and enjoyed for optimum taste. Añejo tequilas tend to be the most expensive on the market. Extra-Añejo, the newest tequila on the block, was created in 2006. This tequila has to be aged for a minimum of three years. The flavors in an extra-añejo are very rich, and will have hints of chocolate, wood, smoke and caramel. If you really want to impress your friends, and empty your wallet, this tequila is your best bet.
If you are a person who loved tequila before all of the hype, then you’ve probably noticed your favorite brands going up in price. While there are still plenty of family-owned, boutique tequila, a lot of multinational companies are purchasing and mass distributing tequila brands they acquire. A British company, Diageo, acquired the tequila brand Don Julio after trading it for Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey. This concerns tequila lovers, as they worry that their favorite brand will go down in quality once it is taken over. Celebrities such as Sean Combs, George Clooney, and Sammy Hagar each have their own tequila brands. Sean “Diddy” Combs and Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, beers and wines, recently joined together to purchase DeLeón, a boutique brand that is currently being distributed in 18 states. After Diddy’s success with Ciroc, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if DeLeón becomes a popular player in the tequila world. As somebody who appreciates tequila, whether it’s silver or extra-añejo, I am more than happy for its global success—minus the gold crap. Oh, and, you shouldn’t be worried about finding a worm at the bottom of your tequila bottle because you’re thinking of Mezcal—which is an entirely different article for another time.