The five types of tequila:
Blanco or plata (white or silver)
Type (tipo) 1: the most
common type and the original form of tequila. It's considered 'unaged' and is under 60 days old.
may be bottled fresh from distillation or sometimes stored in
stainless steel tanks before bottling. Sometimes this is a harsh,
young (joven) drink, but it can also be tastier and more robust than
highly refined varieties, especially if it's marked "100% agave" (see
below). Some distillers may 'rest' blanco tequilas in large oak barrels
for more smoothness - the maximum allowable period is 30 days.
Joven, joven abocado (young and smoothed),
also called gold (oro)
2: basically the same as blanco, but with colouring and flavouring
ingredients added to make it look aged and smoothen the harshness. These are also called suave
or oro (gold) because of its colouring (usually through added
caramel and sometimes oak essence, up to 1% total weight). In the
industry they're known as mixto, or mixed blends. Generally they're
not as good as 100% agave, but they are also very popular for export
sales. Note that Herradura also calls its 100% agave reposado tequila "gold," but it is not to be confused with a gold mixto
(see pure and mixto tequilas).
Reposado (rested or aged)
Type 3: This tequila is aged from two months to up
to a year in large oak casks or smaller barrels. These casks may be as
large as 20,000 litres. This is where the tastes become richer and more complex. The longer the
aging, the darker the colour and the more the wood affects the flavour,
although the larger the cask, the less the wood contact. Reposado accounts for more than 60% of all tequila sales in
Mexico. It was the first type of aged tequila. Some companies use
the same small barrels for añejo and reposado tequilas while others
prefer the high-capacity vats. The larger the vat, the less the wood
contact with the aging tequila.
Most producers age in oak, American, French and Canadian
preferred. However, Asombroso has a reposado aged in red wine
barrels, which imparts a pink tinge to the tequila, and adds a
A few companies will use new barrels for reposado because they
can impart a wood essence and a smoothness in less time than an used
barrel. After these barrels have been used for aging reposado a few
times, they are then used for añejo tequila.
An unofficial term sometimes used for reposados aged longer than
usual is 'gran reposado.'
Añejo (extra aged, or vintage)
Type 4: Now called "extra
aged" - stored in government-sealed barrels of no more than 600
liters, but usually about 200 liters, for a minimum of a year. They
may be aged longer - as long as eight to ten years, although many
authorities say tequila is at its best at four or five years. It may
be removed from the barrels and racked into stainless
steel tanks after four years because evaporation in the barrels can reach
50% or more in some areas. Many of the añejos become quite dark and the
influence of the wood is more pronounced than in the reposado variety.
The barrels most commonly used for añejos are previously used
bourbon or whisky barrels from the USA, Canada or France. New
barrels are rarely used because they make the tequila too woody too
past, after three or more years, these añejos may have been called
"muy añejo" or "tres añejos" by the manufacturers - a term not recognized
officially. These have since been replaced by type 5, below.
Extra añejo (maduro; ultra aged)
The new type 5. A new
añejo type as of the 2006 NORMA. Tequila which has been left to mature
for at least three years in oaken wooden containers having a maximum
capacity of 600 liters (but usually under 200 liters); the commercial alcohol by volume must be
adjusted by the addition of water as in other tequilas. Also called vintage.
this was only introduced in 2006, it is still a rare product, but
many producers have been storing tequila for this expected release, so more
are being readied to appear soon. In
April, 2007, the forum tour learned that many producers are
storing añejos for later release in this category - five, seven and
possibly even ten-year-old tequilas will be on the market in 2007. Initial tastings of
these extra-aged tequilas suggest they will be rich, complex, and
delightful - with highlights of chocolate, caramel, leather and
As a general rule of thumb, the older the tequila, the higher the
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Reserva de casa, reserva de la familia
officially recognized types,
these usually mean premium, and may be a limited production variety
or even a rare single barrel product. Most
are also añejo but may also be reposado.
Other unofficial categories include gran reposado -
which should mean it was aged longer than the minimum - and blanco
suave which suggests a smoother blanco. These are all attempts by manufacturers to identify their product
as unique or at least better, within the rigid government guidelines for labelling
and can be described as more artistic than official descriptions.
Regardless of any unofficial descriptions, better tequila
should also be identified as 100% agave.
have similar alcohol content - roughly the
same percentage as any standard spirit including scotch, vodka, gin
or bourbon - around 38-40% (equal to 76-80 proof). Generally tequilas
sold in Mexico are at 38%, while export tequilas are at 40%.
Mezcal may have a higher proof. Proof used to be higher, around 45%, but
in the shortage of the 1930s, many distillers dropped their alcohol
volume to the current levels, and it remained at that level ever
since. Although tequila can still legally be made up to 45% alcohol today,
that is not a common practice. The minimum percentage for tequila is
35%, lowered in 2000.
Pure tequila vs. mixto
covered in another page on this
site, but briefly, the two categories of tequila are 100% agave or puro
de agave (100% agave is always the choice of connoisseurs) and what is simply called 'tequila' but
commonly known as mixto (the alcohol in a mixto is made from a minimum 51%
agave sugars and the rest can come from other sugars such as corn). If the
label does not specifically say 100% agave, then it is always a
mixto regardless of any other descriptions.
Very few producers make a single-barrel tequila, although a
few have emerged in the ultra-premium category. Aged (añejo) tequila is
blended to minimize the independent effects of the wood on any one
batch. Single-barrel would mean a greater variation between barrels than
between batches and the consumer cannot be assured that any two bottles
of single barrel tequila will be alike. Single-barrel reposado may come
a larger wooden tank (depending on producer) that is close to 20,000
litres, so it is more likely to be consistent.
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Flavoured tequilas and tequila flavours
Producers had made some
forays into flavoured tequilas and tequila-flavoured drinks in the past.
This seemed to be a
slow but steadily growing market segment and the CRT agreed
to open a new description to allow producers to further branch
into this market. The new 2006 NORMA allows for flavoured tequila
infusions to be bottled in Mexico and labelled as tequila, noting,
"sweeteners, coloring, aromatizers and/or flavorings permitted by
the Ministry of Health in order to provide or intensify their color,
aroma and/or flavour..."
Generally these flavoured products are made with mixto
tequilas, not 100% agave. However, read the label to
confirm, since some companies may offer 100% agave tequilas in their
The "tequila-flavoured" drinks, on the other hand,
may not have any tequila at all and any such claims may be misleading.
Some may use agave syrup as a base, but even then there is no guarantee
that the syrup is from the blue agave. The Canadian beer Mexi-Quila, for
example, has no tequila at all, despite the marketing. Instead it
uses agave syrup. I haven't been able to read the label of Budweiser's
Tequiza or Tequiza Extra but I suspect it's equally true. Caveat emptor.
Tequila Rose is one of the more well-known mixes: a sweet cream
liqueur of strawberry and tequila flavours. More recently they
introduced a Java (coffee) and Cocoa mix. See
. Others have included Distinqt, T.Q. Hot, Margaritaville,
Tarantual Azul, and a citrus-flavoured entry from Cuervo
called Mistico, described as "as a white spirit that can be mixed
with juices and sodas, or drunk chilled and straight."
In March, 2001, Amatitan-based producer Tukys, announced a line of
"premium tequilas flavored with "innovative flavors of Tequila":
mandarin orange, kiwi-strawberry, lime, watermelon and even vanilla
coffee." Acording to the press release, "To keep the original
flavor, Tukys makes all its Tequila from 100% Blue Agave. "
Tukys Tequilas are 40 proof, rather than the regular 80 proof. The
company said this will appeal to a larger spectrum of clientele. See
www.tukys.com. Unfortunately for the company, the press release
opened with the line,
"El Paso, Texas -- When it comes to Tequila, a
few standard thoughts come to mind: a frosty margarita glass rimmed
with salt, a tequila sunrise, a shot glass in one hand and a lime in
the other or maybe even the dreaded worm."
association between the mythical worm and tequila surely did not help the
company's image among the educated tequila drinkers.
For some reviews of flavoured tequila, see:
In February, 2001, I discovered a bottle of Oaxacan
on sale in stores in Zihuatanejo. Didn't try it -
next time. But it appears that the trend to flavoured drinks was expanding
even then, and a new generation of drinkers is demanding new taste
experiences. Around that
time, I also received a bottle of Del Maguey
mezcal that contained a lime in it - the bottle had been tied
around a blossom that grew into a mature lime in the bottle. The natural
lime oils slowly infused the mezcal, starting out as a delicious mix,
but gradually overpowering the mezcal. It is best enjoyed within a
few months of bottling.
In 2005, Blavod Extreme Spirits, a company known for its flavoured
vodkas, announced it would soon be introducing a flavoured tequila,
in a joint venture with Suntory International Corp. The same group
El Diamante del Cielo tequila.
photographs of bottles of tequila liqueurs are at
There are recipes online for making your own flavoured tequilas.
Here's an almond version: at
here. You can experiment with similar recipes by
infusing your own tequila with fruit, nuts and agave nectar. Aging can
be done in the small barrels sold in may stores in
and around the town of Tequila.
There are several popular agave-flavoured liqueurs available in
Mexico, such as Agavero (in production since 1857). Mexican law prohibits them from calling
them tequilas, however some have strong agave flavour similar
to tequila, but sweeter.
The newest entry into the flavoured tequila market is
Tequila, which offers a wide variety of infused tequilas that break away from
the traditional tastes and types, as well as a line of traditional 100%
agave tequilas for the purists. Included in this list are lime, prickly pear and kiwi fruit
infusions, all at 67 proof (33.5%). Their 100% agave tequila bottles are also handmade collectible works
of art (many tequila bottles have become very collectible,
especially over the past decade).
Even the ultra-premium tequila producers are getting into flavoured
tequilas. Patrón has its XO Café, a tequila-based coffee liqueur, a
mix of Arabica coffee essence and agave.
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