If you’re new to the world of tequila, you may wonder just what goes into the process of making your new favorite liquor. On the other hand, you may have been enjoying sips of tequila for a long time already, yet still not be totally aware of the tequila aging process. Even if you know a little bit about how tequila is made, there might easily be some gaps you’re missing in your information. And if you’ve ever wanted to learn more and fill in those gaps, then you’re in the right place!
Tequila is one of the most popular liquors in the world, and especially in the United States and Mexico. Although tequila is often associated with cheap cocktails and college frat parties, there is a whole world of sophisticated tequila out there just waiting for those college kids to grow up a little and discover. Whether you’re new to this side of tequila or you’ve been here a while, you’re sure to enjoy learning everything you can about this popular potable. Once you’ve educated yourself a little, you can use this knowledge to help you pick some new tequilas to sample, too.
Facts About Tequila Aging
• First, understand that not all tequilas are aged. Blanco tequila (otherwise known as silver or white tequila) is not aged; even when it’s stored in stainless steel, this doesn’t do the same thing as actual aging of liquor, and it doesn’t change anything about the liquor either.
• Joven tequila is also not aged. This is a mix too, and it contains at least some Blanco tequila. For this reason, there is no aging process involved. This blend of tequila is also one of the most affordable types of tequila out there, partly because it isn’t aged.
• Most tequila is aged in barrels that have been used once by distilleries in other countries. Generally, these are whiskey barrels, but they may be other types of liquor barrels, too.
• Some tequila is aged in new oak barrels, but this is very rare, mostly because of the cost.
• Very rarely, the tequila may be aged in sherry barrels. This is hardly ever seen, but may occur in extremely high-end or rare tequilas now and then.
• Tequila storage is very strictly regulated. The Conesjo Regulador del Tequila, or the CRT, is in charge of checking and sealing all stored tequila. If liquor isn’t inspected and given a seal from the CRT, it can’t be sold as tequila.
• Anejo tequila is aged in used barrels so that it isn’t overpowered by the taste of the wood. The barrels used for this type of tequila are usually smaller than those used for other types. Anejo tequila is aged for anywhere from one to three years, depending on the richness, boldness, and flavor profile the distillery is hoping to impart into the liquor.
• Sometimes, an Anejo tequila is aged even longer. A tequila that is aged in barrels for over three years is labeled extra Anejo and is one of the highest quality and most sophisticated types of tequila available for purchase.
• Barrels are only good foraging for up to five years. For this reason, tequila that is going to be aged for longer than five years must be moved from one old, used barrel to a newer one throughout the process in order to get the most flavor out of the wood.
• Some tequilas that aren’t aged very long at all are still moved between barrels. This is often because aging tequila for a short time adds new flavors to the barrel, which is then moved on to age a different style or flavor of tequila.
• Reposado tequila is aged from two to twelve months. When it’s done aging, it’s stored in an old barrel that won’t give it any additional flavor, until it’s ready to be bottled and sold. The barrels used for reposado tequila are often then used for finishing extra Anejo tequila.
• It’s important to keep barrels in a cool, dark, dry place that’s free from too much humidity or too much heat. However, the barrels do need some humidity in order to work properly for the aging process. If anything is off in terms of precipitation or temperature, the wood may shrink or expand, and either one of these may cause problems for the finished product.
• Tequila also gets its color from the aging process, in most instances. A darker tequila has been aged in a newer barrel than a lighter tequila. The color of tequila doesn’t really reflect its quality since it has more to do with the age of the barrel than the age of the tequila itself. Keep in mind, however, that many blended tequilas (mixes) are colored with caramel since they are not actually aged.
Understanding the tequila aging process can make a big difference in helping you make the most of your tequila enjoyment and experience. Now that you know a little bit more about what goes into this liquor, you can think about the process, the time, and the effort the next time you take a relaxing sip. Remember, too, just how long some types of tequila are aged and how unique your own individual bottle of liquor just might be. There’s a lot to consider when drinking tequila, especially if you’re interested in expanding your horizons.
Another great way to use this knowledge of the tequila aging process is to choose new liquors to sample. You might find that you’re interested in an older or a younger tequila than the one you usually drink. On the other hand, you might discover a relative of tequila—aged in a similar way, but not the same type of liquor—that piques your interest. There are a lot of ways to put this knowledge to work for you and get something new and refreshing out of your relationship with tequila, so don’t be afraid to test the waters a little.