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Forget about shots, slammers and margaritas, premium sipping tequilas offer up a unique combination of fruit and spice flavours to enjoy when sipped straight or over ice. If you’re keen to explore the world of tequilas, we’ve come up with a quick helpful guide. What the difference between mescal and tequila? Is a tequila blanco different to a resposado? And – more importantly - what are the best tequilas to try? You’ll find out below.
The blue agave plant is the key to the distinctive flavour of tequila. This spiky plant grows wild across Mexico but only spirits distilled from agave grown in the volcanic soil of Jalisco state, and some surrounding areas, can be called tequila. Spirits made from agave outside of this area are called mezcal.
It takes between eight and twelve years for an agave plant to reach maturity before it can be harvested by cutting away the leaves leaving the piña, or heart, which can weight up to 240 pounds. The fructose-rich piña is slowly oven cooked to release the sugars needed for fermentation before being crushed and the juice collected to be fermented and then distilled twice. The result is blanco tequila, a spicy spirit with bold agave taste and aroma.
This blanco tequila can then be aged in barrels where it takes on increasingly complex flavours with good reposado or añejo tequilas displaying those wood characteristics of vanilla and spice and smokiness.Resposado means ‘rested’ and this has been aged in oak for between two and twelve months and should strike a nice balance between agave and wood character. Añejo translates as ‘aged’ and these spend a minimum of one year in barrel and display smoother richer flavours.
When it comes to selecting a good tequila, make sure to look out for the term ‘100% agave’. This means the tequila has been made only from the blue agave plant, without the addition of any other juices like cane sugar, and it will show the most smoothness and agave character. If you’re looking for some quality sipping tequila and want to experience the different levels of aging and how it affects the taste of the final spirt, Patrón is an excellent range of premium tequilas to try.