As the national liquor, tequila has shared a deep history with Mexico. Held as a symbol of national pride, the production and quality of tequila is highly regulated by the Mexican government. Tequila production is limited by the country’s laws to only be allowed within certain areas of the country. The process by which tequila is produced takes over a decade to complete. The production of the highest quality liquors extends to almost 15 years. The result of these measures is quality liquor that is enjoyed throughout the world and remains a pride for Mexico.
The production of tequila begins with the growing of the Blue Agave plant. Those that grow this plant are called Jimadores. The Blue Agave plant that is grown for the production of tequila is limited to only 5 areas within Mexico. These areas are Jalisco, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Michoacán and Guanajuato. After sowing it takes roughly 10 years for this plant to fully mature before it may be harvested.
After the Blue Agave plant has fully matured and harvested by the Jimadore, the pina is removed from within the plant’s core. The pina are split open and cooked to extract their juices. The pina’s nectar is then allowed to ferment from several hours to several days. After fermentation is completed the final phase of distillation begins. Mexican law requires that all tequila be double distilled; the results of this distillation are Tequila of 110 proof alcohol content. This liquor is then diluted by water to reduce its alcohol content down to 40 percent or 80 proof.
Tequila varies widely based on the quality of the Blue Agave plant and the process of fermentation and distillation used in its production. To be considered Tequila, the liquor must contain at least 51% agave. Better quality tequilas will have a higher level of agave. Those that are not 100% agave are considered Mixto which use sugars and additives.
100% Agave Tequila at this point is considered Blanco or Silver because of its clear coloration. Producers give their liquors color and flavor during an additional phase of production by storing them in barrels. Gold tequila is silver tequila that is flavored and colored with caramel and sugars. Reposado or rested tequila is aged for at least 2 months in either redwood or oak barrels. Anejo or old tequila is stored in oak barrels from 1 to 4 years given them the darkest colorations and creating the most expensive variety of tequila.
Mexico places many regulations on the production of Tequila. The history and pride of a people can be seen and tasted through these great measures and detail given to this national liquor. The National Chamber for the Tequila Industry can provide more information of the history and production of tequila.