20 Jul How Tequila is Made: Inside the Distillery
The Tequila City Tour was very fascinating and I got to learn the actual process of How Tequila is Made: Inside the Distillery. I am sharing the captivating process from the start; harvesting the agave plant to distilling and ageing process of the much-loved spirit. Cheers!
1. What does Tequila mean?
The word Tequila probably comes from the Nahuatl language and means “the place where plants are harvested “or the place where a lot of work is done. A plant, a place and the people who make it is what Tequila stands for.
2. Where does Tequila come from?
Tequila comes from the Agave plant which is grown for more than 7 to 10 years before it is harvested. Our first stop was the Tres Mujeres distillery which was a small but traditional one using a brick oven. We went straight into a field where a Jimadores or a skilled farmer was going to harvest a mature agave plant. Other than regular pruning and monitoring the plant does not need any other care.
He had a special tool called coa de jima, a circular blade with a long wooden handle with which he dug up the plant and laid the pineapple like fruit on the ground and started paring the leaves. We were also offered to try and we just chopped a couple of leaves and gave up. We actually tasted the raw fruit and it was bland and crunchy.
The leaves are not used in the drink but are used to make fibre and the pointed tip to make needles. I, in fact picked up a few bracelets made with the agave fibre at the town centre market.
3. How Tequila is made?
The fructose-rich centre of the pineapple or the agave succulent is roasted or steamed to release sugars for fermentation. Then we got to taste this treacle sweet fibre straight from the oven. This fibre is crushed in order to extract the plant’s sweet juices, which are then fermented and distilled.
4. How do you know its tequila?
Fernando, our guide showed us the 100 per cent agave Tequila printed on the bottle label. This means the bottle containing Tequila has no added sugars.
5. What does “anejo” mean?
I had no clue until it was pointed out to me. It means aged usually in barrels, so when you see Anejo or extra Anejo listed on the bottle, it has deeper, woodier, tannic notes like black tea and chocolate layered over the agave flavours. All in all, these tequilas have spent more time in casks.
Next, we entered the Cave of Tres Mujeres distillery where they stored their barrels. One particular area was locked and Fernando informed us that the lot belonged to a Finnish company and there was classical music playing there 24-7 which is consequently said to enhance the taste further!
6. What are 2nd and 3rd distilled?
Tequila is distilled in huge steel pots or column until it reaches around 110 proof. In this way, you get a clear spirit with a significant amount of congeners. Some tequileros re-distil the tequila to produce whiter liquor and this is called the 3rd distillation. While bottling, the distillate has water added to it to obtain the bottling strength, which typically is around 80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume.
The brown colour of tequila comes from the addition of caramel or other additives, while añejo tequilas attain their brown colour from barrel ageing. The barrels are made of white oak. Other tequilas are flavoured with small amounts of prune concentrate, coconut or like an Indian dealer, added a secret spice to it. Fernando showed me an Indian buyer’s bottle which stated that it was spiked with a spice. In contrast, the taste differs from each other.
7. What does “Blanco” mean?
Blanco or silver tequila is perhaps the most popular with aficionados and Andrea, my fellow tourist liked it the best as she tasted most of them. Blanco tequila is fresh tequila. It never touches wood but goes straight into the bottle and thus delivers the purest notes of agave.
8. How do you drink tequila?
Strangely, contrary to what I knew about Tequila, it is not taken as shots in Mexico. In Guadalajara, it is sipped and also twirled around the mouth to let the drink touch all sides of the palate. I was given a very fruity cocktail slightly spiked with a double distilled tequila and served in a terracotta glass which you can take home as a souvenir.
Finally, the strangest part of the tour was the accompaniment to the Tequila; it wasn’t just salt and lemon wedges but crispy, crunchy, fried grasshoppers which are a delicacy, known as “Chaupalines”.
How Tequila is Made: Inside the Distillery is an interesting revelation, isn’t it? Above all, if you are in this part of the world, I suggest that you should visit and experience the exotic tour.