“Started from the bottom now here we are” should be tequila’s new motto in the American market. Over the last 15 years, it has evolved from a bottom shelf booze enjoyed by frat houses and those on a budget, to a premium spirit, appreciated by CEOs and professionals across the country. A glass of high-quality tequila at most trendy bars or clubs will cost you up to $20 per shot. However, not all tequila in this newly discovered American market is created equal. Many Americans do not know what separates a first-class tequila from a subpar one (drunk, yuck!).
There are five grades of tequila: White or Silver, Gold, Reposado, Añejo (aged) and Extra-Añejo (very aged). White or silver tequila is normally bottled instantly after being distilled, but is occasionally aged for up to two months in steel tanks or oak barrels to create a milder taste. Nonetheless, blanco tequila will still offer you that infamous burn. Gold tequila is, well, absolute crap. It’s essentially just silver tequila with added color and flavor. Under Mexican law, tequilas must be 100% agave in order to be sold as tequila. Gold tequilas are only 51% agave and are considered mixters, best left for cheap cocktails. Reposado is the first stage of aged and rested tequila. Usually stored in barrels or tanks for 2-11 months. This tequila will have a pale gold hue that darkens with age. Most find the Reposado tequila flavor to be a good balance between woody and agave notes.
Tequila Añejo, the fourth grade of tequila, must be aged for at least one year. The Mexican government requires añejo to be stored in barrels that don’t exceed 600 liters. This type of tequila will have a more sophisticated taste containing woody base notes, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel. Needless to say, this tequila shouldn’t be mixed, but sipped and enjoyed for optimal taste. Añejo tequilas tend to be some of the most costly on the market. Extra-Añejo, the newest tequila on the block, was made in 2006. This tequila has to be aged for at least three years. The flavors in an extra-añejo are very rich, and will have hints of chocolate, wood, smoke and caramel. If you truly want to impress your friends, and empty your wallet, this tequila is your best bet.
If you were a tequila lover before all the hype, you have possibly noticed the price of your favourite brand going up. While there are still many family owned boutique tequilas, many multinational companies buy and mass distribute their acquired tequila brands. British company Diageo acquired tequila brand Don Julio after exchanging it for Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey. This concerns tequila lovers, as they worry that their favourite brand will decline in quality after being taken over. Celebrities such as Sean Combs, George Clooney and Sammy Hagar each have their own brand of tequila. Sean “Diddy” Combs and Diageo, the world’s largest producer of spirits, beer and wine, recently joined forces to buy DeLeón, a boutique brand currently distributed in 18 states. After Diddy’s success with Ciroc, it is no surprise that DeLeón became a popular player in the tequila world. As someone who appreciates tequila, whether it is silver or extra-añejo, I’m thrilled about its global success—no gold bullshit. Oh, and, you haven’t got to worry about finding worms in the bottom of your tequila bottle because you are thinking of Mezcal—which is a completely different article for next time.