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The type of barrel used in aging reposado or añejo varieties also makes a difference to the flavour and colour. Some distillers use French oak, others white (American) oak. Many buy barrels already used to age Scotch or Bourbon. Redwood is also used. How the barrel is charred can affect the result. The length of aging in the barrel also affects the tequila - many distillers only age their tequila in barrels for the required 60 days (reposado) or one year (añejo) and may rack it into stainless steel tanks after that to prevent further impression from the wood. Some aficionados feel too much wood can overpower the delicate agave flavour.


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Tequila sips

Updated Jan. 14, 2008

The five types of tequila:

Official designations

4 Copas Tequila BlancoBlanco 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. It 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)

Type 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 subtle sweetness.


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 quickly.

In the 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)

Asombroso extra añejo, aged 5 yearsThe 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.

Because 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 wood.


As a general rule of thumb, the older the tequila, the higher the price.

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Reserva de casa, reserva de la familia

Cuervo's Reserva de la Familia añejoAlthough not 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.



All tequilas 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


This is 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.


Single Barrel


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

pepper tequilaProducers 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 flavoured products.


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 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."


This unfortunate 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 orange-flavoured mezcal 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 produces El Diamante del Cielo tequila.


Some photographs of bottles of tequila liqueurs are at

There are recipes online for making your own flavoured tequilas. Here's an almond version: at recipeland and here. You can experiment with similar recipes by infusing your own tequila with fruit, nuts and agave nectar. Aging can also be done in the small barrels sold in may stores in and around the town of Tequila.

Patron XO CafeThere 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 Voodoo Tiki 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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