Tequila is probably Mexico’s greatest gift to the world of fine spirits, and is also possibly one of the most underestimated and misunderstood drinks in the world. Widely used for shots and slammers, and more often than not associated with parties and hangovers, Tequila is in fact a wonderful drink full of subtleties and expression of terroir, that is highly rewarding for those who look into its finer points.
One of the special things about Tequila is the fact that it is capable of expressing the fine nuances and subtle notes of its raw material, far more so than other, similar spirits. That raw material is, of course, the Blue Agave - not a cactus, as is commonly believed, but rather a succulent quite like a lily, which grows in the deserts of Mexico mainly around the province of Jalisco. The Blue Agave takes a decade to mature, and during those ten years, it takes in many of the features of its surroundings, just like a grapevine would. This is why Tequila varies in flavor and aroma from region to region, from the earthier Tequilas of the lowlands, to the more delicate and floral examples from areas of a higher altitude.
The picking and peeling of the spiky Agave, and the distillation process of Tequila is a complicated one, and one which is carried out with enormous skill by the jimadors and master craftsmen who produce the spirit. Steam cooking of the body of the plant is followed by crushing, then fermentation and distillation completes the process. The end product is categorized according to whether or not it is made with pure (‘puro’) agave, or blended with other sugars, and according to how long the spirit is aged for.