Tequila is an alcoholic spirit that comes from the Blue Agave plant. It is originally from Mexico where the law states that it can only be produced in certain regions within the country. These areas are mainly in the state of Jalisco as well as some parts of the states of Michoacán, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, and Nayarit. Production of Tequila outside of these areas is illegal and could result in some serious legal consequences.
The History of Tequila
The native people of Mexico would use Tequila in religious ceremonies as well as for medicinal purposes. In 1758, Jose Cuervo acquired full cultivation rights for the growth of Agave along with production rights for tequila. This was the first-ever commercial undertaking of tequila production.
The Five Types of Tequila
Most Tequilas are made at 38% to 40% alcohol content which is about 80 proof. There are however some that are stronger at 55% alcohol content which is about 110 proof. The categories are according to age before bottling. There are five main categories which are Blanco, Joven, Reposado, Anejo, and Extra Anejo.
Blanco is a “white spirit” and enters the bottling process immediately after production or within two months after distillation.
The Reposado or “rested” ages in oak barrels for a duration that is more than two months but less than one year.
Joven is a mixture of the Joven and Blanco types. An example of a Joven is Jose’ Cuervo which is quite popular around the world.
Anejo ages for a period between one and three years. Its aging occurs in small oak barrels.
Extra Anejo are those that age for a period that exceeds three years. They are the newest addition to the tequila categories as they were introduced in March of 2006.
Traditionally, tequilas are taken with a piece of lime and some salt. This practice continues in Mexico and many other parts of the world. Those taking it “neat” will usually use a shot glass known as a Caballito, which is Spanish for little horse. Tequilas are however also used in the preparation of various cocktails such as the Margarita which is very popular in the United States.
There are more than one hundred distillers within the areas of Mexico with production rights. These distilleries produce about nine hundred different brands altogether. Through trade agreements, the Mexican government has ensured that tequila remains a purely Mexican affair. Any drinks made outside the specified regions of Mexico cannot use the name tequila. Even with the exact same ingredients and processes, the drink cannot be “tequila”. With international consumption currently estimated at around thirty million cases, the Mexicans have good reason to protect this business. When you consider that each case is nine liters which translates to more than two hundred and seventy million liters of tequila you understand the reason for the overzealous protection of their national drink.
Even though the production remains within Jalisco and those listed, there are a lot of multinational companies in the business. Along with the family-owned distilleries, these businesses employ thousands of people on their production lines as well as indirectly. Agave farms and distribution companies contribute more employment opportunities than a lot of other economic activities in Mexico. This is one of the main reasons why the government of Mexico prefers to retain production within its borders. There is also significant tax revenue by the companies that produce tequila.
If you plan to visit Tequila, in Jalisco check out our Jalisco page by clicking here.