Aged, oak, silver, blanco, mezcal, highlands. So many terms and adjectives are thrown around the tequila world, that it can be quite overwhelming. Let's make sense of all that today, so you'll know which types to pair with which drinks and you'll sound really distinguished in front of friends and guests.
What Qualifies as Tequila
Tequila is a very specific form of Mezcal. Mezcal is a classification of spirits that come from agave plants. All tequilas are mezcals, but not all mezcals are tequilas. Tequila comes only from the piñas of the blue agave plant. If it's from a different agave plant, it's simply not tequila.
Another factor necessary to classify a spirit as tequila is the geographical region it's produced in. Only 5 regions can classify official tequila:
- Jalisco (contains a city called Tequila)
- And Tamaulipas.
There are two types of climates that produce blue agave plants that yield tequilas in their respective regions. Different climate conditions may produce subtle flavor variances in the tequila products (sometimes even after a lengthy aging process).Highland Tequilas
These plants are grown at higher elevations, or "Los Altos", and wind up infusing the plant with more floral, fruity, and sweet notes from the clay.Lowland Tequilas
These tequilas are produced in lower valleys and volcanic landings and tend to produce more herbal, mineral-rich, vegetal, and earthy profiles.
5 Types of Tequilas
There are 5 categories of tequilas that are based on the aging process and purity.Blanco/Silver
Silver tequilas are aged for 2 months or less, but generally not at all. They're distilled and bottled straight from the blue weber agave plant. They contain a delicate floral/citrus profile and work fantastically in a Margarita.
An example would be this Dos Manos Blanco.Reposado
This type is aged between 2 and 12 months in European or American oak barrels. This process infuses light notes of wood and spiced vanilla. It works great in a Paloma, or really in any mixed cocktail.
An example is this Herradura Reposado.Joven
Joven is a mix of aged (Reposado) and unaged (Blanco) tequilas. It's light-medium bodied, with light notes of wood and florals. It works great in a Mexican Mule.
An example would be this El Pintor Joven.Añejo & Extra Añejo
These are the most aged tequilas, and they're also the most flavourful and strong. Añejo tequilas are aged 1-3 years in oak barrels, taking on the flavors from previous fermentations and the wood. They're great in a Tequila Sour.
An example would be this Arette Añejo.
Extra Añejo is aged 3+ years and its flavors are so intense they can often be compared to brown liquors like aged ryes/bourbons. Their flavor is complex and extremely woody/smokey with hints of burnt caramel. They're best sipped and savored and would shine in a Tequila Old Fashioned.
An example would be this Califino Extra Añejo.Mixto
Somewhat unpopular, these blends are between 51%-99% blue agave tequila (of any kind). Usually, the rest is a neutral cane sugar spirit and flavoring. They're generally less smooth and agave-forward (and much cheaper). They're good in Long Island Iced Teas and for cooking.
An example would be this Vespertino Tequila Crema.
Hopefully, this is clarifying and you'll go one to make some fantastic cocktails. At the end of the day, it's about what you like. Find more delicious premium tequilas at Chip's Liquor.