If you’ve never sipped tequila from a brandy snifter or port glass then you’ve likely never truly appreciated blue agave. While the beverage has many lowbrow incarnations, the finest of tequila is made from 100 per cent blue agave. One hundred and six varieties of agave grow in Mexico today but the highest quality tequila comes from the heart of the blue agave plant. The credit goes to Don Cenobio Sauza, a Mexican tequila producer born circa 1842, who first declared that the blue agave plant was the most suitable for tequila production. While most producers followed Sauza’s proclamation, the Mexican government refused to officially define acceptable ingredients until much later on. In fact, it wasn’t until 1974 that the Mexican government declared the word ‘tequila’ the intellectual property of Mexico. As such, tequila must come from one of five states in Mexico.
Those who are interested in the finest form of the drink, know there are four types of 100 per cent agave tequila. Blanco, a variety primarily shot rather than sipped, is aged less than two months. As the name would suggest, blanco is transparent. Joven is a type of tequila made with caramel or other colouring to make it appear more aged than it is. While not the finest of tequila, Joven is the most popular type in North America. Reposado is aged in oak barrels from two months, up to a year. Reposado literally means ‘rested’ and this type tends to be mellow and pale in hue. On the top of the tequila chain, there is Anejo and Extra Anejo. These types are aged for at least a year, sometimes three years. More recently, tequila connoisseurs have demanded Super-premium—which is aged for eight or more years, using high quality bourbon or sherry barrels.
Few realize that in America tequila popularity didn’t reach its peak until Prohibition when it was regularly smuggled from Mexico to Texas. Some speculate that when the margarita was invented in the mid-20th century that it was named for Dallas socialite Margarita Sames. Others dispute this story as Jose Cuervo had previously run an ad under the tagline, “Margarita: It’s more than just a girls’ name.” Whatever the case, tequila—and tequila production for that matter—has come a long way in recent decades. If you’ve never experienced the pleasure of sipping a smooth fine Anejo from a brandy snifter, it might be time to investigate for yourself.
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