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There are basically two types of tequila, that bottled in the U.S., and that bottled in Mexico. Generally, tequila bottled in the U.S. is not of the highest quality. It is shipped across the border in tanker trucks, contains a mixture of cane, maguey, agave, and, or other alcohols, and is sold for a cheaper price. Stated on the bottle is, "A distillate from the Mezcal plant", meaning that it is derived from a more crude process, and is thus not fine tequila. This type is called "MIXTO" tequila (MIXED), and is required by the Mexican Government to have only a minimum of 51% agave sugar ingredients, with the remainder 49% being these other, less expensive sugars. There are many Mixto tequilas on the market today(some are even bottled in Mexico); they are generally the lower priced brands.

This type is typically used for mixing in margaritas or other mixed drinks. Those who drink it straight, may experience a burning and harsh taste. Those who think it is tequila as it should be, are missing out on the true flavor of fine tequila. One can easily tell the difference by smell, and certainly by taste between this and finer tequila. However, this form of crude tequila is more commercialized due to lower pricing, and a lack of knowledge of what is good tequila.

What is fine tequila? Fine tequila is made from the Blue Agave Plant (Agave Azul Tequilana Weber), found naturally and cultivated in the plains of the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Agave is not a cactus, rather a succulent in the agaveracea (lilly) family. The name Weber is after the botanist who first classified it. If it is to be tequila, which enjoys owning the Certificate of Origin from the International Congress of Industrial Property, it must be made from this specific variety of the blue agave plant. This Certificate of Origin is a legal aspect, internationally known, designating certain products exclusively from certain countries. Tequila is exclusively a product of Mexico, and principally from its state of Jalisco and a few small, designated regions of the states of Guanajuato, Tamalpais, Michoacan, and Nayarit.

The process of making fine tequila begins with the maturation of the blue agave plant after about 8-12 years. The Jimador cares for and harvests the plant. The plant is then cooked using steam for up to 30 hours in ovens to extract the sugary juices. It is then milled to remove the juice, these juices are then fermented 3-4 days, then double distilled to seperate and refine the alcohols.

The only sugars used in the distillation process of fine tequila are agave sugars, and thus the category is marked, "100% Agave Tequila". This is how one can visually tell the difference between bottles which state on the label, "a distillate from the mezcal plant", and the decidedly finer 100% Agave beverage. People have begun to recognize the difference on a large scale. More and more tequila consumers are willing to pay a few dollars extra per bottle for the 100% agave brands, and thus there is happening an exodus from drinking what people thought was tequila to drinking the smoother, 100% Agave tequilas. Fine tequila can be sipped straight or in a premium mixed drink.

There are five types of 100% Agave tequilas...

1.) Blanco- not aged at all, bottled after distillation. Clear in color, with strong tastes of agave and a crisp alcohol tingle. A favorite for many.

2.) Joven- blanco tequila, unaged, with agave caramel or carmel coloring added for a golden color.

3.) Reposado- aged 2-11 months in white oak casks. Receives a yellowish color , as well as flavors from the oak barrels (perhaps the barrels were used for aging cognac, whisky, sherry, or are new; therefore giving a slightly different characteristic to the taste). Reposado tequilas receive their color from the tannins in the oak, not from caramel coloring as do Mixto tequilas.

4.) Añejo- aged for 1 year or more in white oak casks. Deeper in color, often extremely smooth and reflect the perfect balance between agave, oak, and alcohol flavors.

5.) Extra-Añejo- a new category (as of January 2007) for tequilas aged 3 years or more.

Mezcal is another type of beverage made from the Maguey variety of the agave plant, and created by different processes. Often the agave is cooked with flame or with hot smoke in under-ground pits creating a beverage different than tequila. Mezcal is often bottled with Worms (Tequila never has the worm).

Over the centuries people have enjoyed the unique and smooth beverage of tequila, from the Aztec and Mayan Indian civilizations to today's connoisseur. Try for yourself one of the brands imported directly from Mexico, by Pale Horse Imports Company.


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