A 7-Step Guide to Tequila
Tequila is Mexico’s signature spirit. But do you know how to drink it for maximum enjoyment? Or know all about how it is made? With Volcán De Mi Tierra new to our shelves, we’ve put together a 7-step guide to this elegant spirit.
1. What is tequila made from?
Tequila is made from blue agave, so named because its spiky leaves are blue. Agave may look like a cactus, but it is actually a succulent which takes around 7 or 8 years to mature into a plant suitable for tequila. When we think how winemakers harvest grapes every year, that seems particularly impressive. When the agave is ready, jimadors, expert harvesters, cut away the leaves and cut out the sweet piña (centre).
2. How do you turn agave into tequila?
To make tequila, agave needs to be cooked, crushed, fermented and then distilled. At Volcán di mi Tierra, this is done in the traditional way. First the agave is roasted in a traditional brick oven. Then it is milled with a ‘tahona’ (a large volcanic stone), which gently crushes the agave to separate juice from fibres. After being fermented slowly in wooden tanks for particular flavour and aroma, it is distilled into a clear tequila. It might then be aged, or bottled straight away.
3. Tequila is from Mexico, right?
Yes! In fact, it takes its name from the Mexican town of Tequila, in the state of Jalisco. And while technically tequila can be made in 5 Mexican states, most, such as Volcán de mi Tierra, is crafted in Jalisca. Tequila has a long heritage in Mexican culture. The Aztecs are thought to have been the first to ferment agave juice, while the Spanish began distilling a spirit like tequila in the 16th century. Many of their traditional techniques are used at Volcan de mi Tierra today.
4. What are the different types of tequila?
Some tequilas, such as Volcán de mi Tierra, are made from 100% agave, as you can see written on the bottle. Other tequilas, classed as ‘mixto’ (mixed) must include a minimum of 51% agave, with cane sugars making up the balance. Within those categories, there are a few different terms it’s worth being aware of:
- Blanco (white): Unaged, or aged for less than two months;
- Reposado (rested): Aged for more than 2 months;
- Añejo (old) Aged in casks for a year or more;
- Extra Añejo (extra old): Aged in casks for three years or more;
- Curados: Flavoured with natural ingredients such as fruit.
- Cristalino: Named for its clarity, this is aged, then filtered through charcoal. At Volcan De Mi Tierra this is a blend of añejo and extra-añejo, filtered to extract the colour and most prominent wood notes, showcasing crisp agave flavours.
5. What affects a tequila’s taste?
Where the blue agave is grown and how the spirit is aged, can all change the taste. For example, Volcan de mi Tierra’s complexity results from its blend of lowlands agave (which brings distinct herbal, citrus and spicy notes) and the fruity hints of cherry and pear derived agave grown in the highlands. Then there’s the ageing process. Oak casks can bring honeyed notes to aged tequila, such as reposado. Meanwhile, Volcán De Mi Tierra’s Cristalino is first aged, and then filtered, to highlight the agave flavours instead.
6. Do you always drink tequila in shots with salt and lime?
Granted, that is many people’s experience of tequila. But we’d suggest you might enjoy premium tequila such as Volcan De Mi Tierra more, when you drink it in other ways.
- Cocktails: Try Volcán De Mi Tierra Blanco’s herbal, citrus notes in a Volcán Winter Margarita.
- Sipping: Drink Volcán Cristalino neat or on the rocks, for aromas of tobacco, dried fruits, chocolate and agave.
7. How long can you keep a bottle of tequila?
Like other spirits, unopened bottles can be kept for a long time. Tequila is not like wine, which continues to age in the bottle. Once you’ve opened your bottle, store it upright, in a cool, dark place, to preserve its flavour for as long as possible. Find out more in our guide to storing spirits.