Unless you’re a connoisseur, you may not realize that there are several types of tequila out there.
The most popular varieties include blanco tequila, reposado tequila, añejo tequila, extra añejo tequila, cristalino tequila, and jovan tequila.
They vary in their production methods, aging times, and flavors. Each type of tequila offers a unique drinking experience.
Let’s take a closer look at the six different tequila varieties. We’ll talk about their flavors, distilling methods, and what makes each one special.
What Is Tequila?
Tequila is a Mexican distilled spirit made from the blue agave plant. (A plant primarily grown in the Mexican state of Jalisco.)
To make tequila, manufacturers harvest the agave plant. Then, they roast, mash, and finally ferment it.
The resulting liquid is distilled and then aged in barrels. These barrels can impart different flavors and colors to the tequila.
Tequila is typically consumed as a shot or in a cocktail. It’s known for its distinctive flavor profile. This can range from sweet and fruity to earthy and smoky.
Tequila has been around since at least the 16th century.
Types of Tequila
For the longest time, there were five distinct types of tequila. However, cristalino tequila came on the scene in the early 2010s. It’s now considered by some to be the sixth tequila type.
Some people lump it in with añejo or extra añejo tequila. However, others insist it’s in a class all on its own.
Now, let’s get to the six types of tequila and what makes each one distinct.
1. Blanco Tequila
Blanco tequila is the purest expression of tequila. It captures the essence of the blue agave plant in its unadulterated form.
This type of tequila is clear and transparent, having undergone no aging. The result is a crisp and fresh taste that’s full of character.
Also known as white or silver tequila, Blanco tequila often has citrusy and peppery notes. There are also herbal undertones.
It’s a versatile spirit that you can enjoy in various ways. It’s an essential ingredient in many classic cocktails. Margaritas, Palomas, and tequila sunrises are just a few.
Its pure and unaged flavor profile also makes it an excellent choice for sipping neat or on the rocks. It’s also a great entry point for those new to tequila.
It provides an undiluted taste of the spirit’s true character. It’s also a favorite among tequila enthusiasts who appreciate the natural agave flavors.
2. Reposado Tequila
Reposado tequila is a type of tequila that has been aged in oak barrels for a minimum of 2 months. However, the aging process is never longer than a year.
This method of aging gives reposado tequila a mellow, smooth taste. It also features a lovely golden color that ranges from pale yellow to amber.
The oak barrels impart vanilla, caramel, and toasted wood flavors to the tequila. These notes complement the natural agave flavors nicely.
Like most other tequila varieties, reposado tequila is very versatile. You can enjoy it alone or in cocktails like the tequila old-fashioned.
The aging process also makes reposado tequila a great choice for pairing with food. It’s especially good with robust dishes like grilled meats and spicy Mexican fare.
It has a wonderfully balanced and nuanced taste. That’s why it’s the perfect choice for those wanting to explore the world of aged tequila.
3. Añejo Tequila
Aged in oak barrels for a minimum of one year, añejo tequila features a deep amber color. It also has a rich, complex flavor profile with notes of chocolate, caramel, and toasted wood.
It’s what’s known as a “sipping tequila” and should be savored on its own. You can add it to cocktails, but that often ruins the point of the 1- to 3-year aging process.
It’s the perfect spirit for those who appreciate the finer things in life. It provides a smooth, luxurious drinking experience and pairs well with desserts.
4. Extra Añejo Tequila
Any tequila aged over 3 years is known as extra añejo (ultra-aged) tequila. Typically, it’s aged 3 to 5 years, but sometimes, the aging time is even longer.
Prolonged aging in oak barrels gives this tequila the most intense flavor profile.
You still get notes of chocolate and caramel. However, there are also fruity notes and hints of coffee. After aging so long, its color is more like deep mahogany than amber.
It’s the rarest and usually the most expensive type of tequila. It has a smooth, silky texture and is often reserved for special occasions. Like añejo tequila, it’s typically enjoyed by itself.
Its indulgent taste makes extra añejo tequila a truly exceptional spirit. It really embodies the artistry and passion of tequila-making.
5. Cristalino Tequila
As mentioned, cristalino tequila is a new type of tequila. Despite its young age, it’s gained popularity because of its unique filtering process.
It’s an aged tequila that’s also clear. This occurs because the tequila undergoes an activated carbon or charcoal filtering process.
This process removes the color and some of the harsher flavors of aged tequilas. The resulting liquor is ultra-smooth and wonderfully refined.
Some people call it the “vodka” of tequilas.
It’s perfect for those who want to experience the nuanced flavors of aged tequilas without the color. Cristalino tequila is versatile and can be enjoyed on its own or in cocktails.
6. Joven Tequila
Joven tequila, also known as gold or young tequila, blends blanco and aged tequilas. It starts with añejo or extra añejo tequila and dilutes it.
The result is a golden-colored tequila with a nuanced flavor profile. You’ll enjoy notes of vanilla, caramel, and woodsy oak.
It’s perfect for sipping or as a base for cocktails, such as classic margaritas. It can satisfy the palate of traditionalists and the curiosity of adventurous drinkers.
Unfortunately, cheaper manufacturers dilute it with subpar ingredients instead of blanco tequila. This lowers the overall quality of the spirit.
Tequila vs. Mezcal (What’s the Difference?)
What’s the difference between tequila and mezcal? It’s simple. All tequila is a type of mezcal, but not all mezcal spirits are tequila. Instead, mezcal is a much broader category of liquor.
Let’s talk about what the two drinks have in common. Both types of liquor are made in Mexico and come from the agave plant.
However, the two also differ in several ways.
First, mezcal can be made from any agave plant. Tequila must be made specifically from the blue agave plant.
Next, the production process for mezcal involves roasting agave hearts in underground ovens. This process gives mezcal its distinctive smoky flavor.
Tequila, though, is typically made by steaming the agave hearts. This is usually done in large industrial ovens. It also results in a much milder taste.
Finally, mezcal is often produced on a smaller scale. The production methods also use traditional techniques and tools.
Tequila manufacturers use modern industrial processes and often mass-produce their products.
Overall, while both spirits are popular in Mexico and beyond, they differ significantly. This is true of their production processes, flavor profiles, and cultural significance.
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