Why You Should Give Tequila And Mezcal A Try
I’m not saying gin is in a decline, it has been far from it, actually. What I am saying is perhaps the world is now looking at what’s next. And while there are a few potential superstars in the making, the next big thing in white spirits is, without a doubt, tequila and mezcal.
When I speak tequila, I don’t mean the industrial excuse for tequila that all of us have had in plenty just after crossing puberty. The truth is that for a lot of people, the very same tequilas are the way to go even today. Such a shame, really, because it does the image of tequila no good. Every restaurant, every bar, every retail store, and every hotel is seriously upping their tequila game as we speak, and here is why.
What they are on to, is world class, sipping tequila that will make you ache for more. Delicious and smooth with a rising number of ardent followers here in India who will not think twice before splashing big money on high quality drop. This select group of tequila connoisseurs, though small, is growing larger by the minute.
Tequila is a region-specific name for a distilled beverage made from the blue agave plant, planted on rich volcanic soils, and is made in five specific regions, the most noteworthy of which would be the region of Jalisco, which also contains the town of Tequila. Like sparkling wine from Champagne or brandy from Cognac that have the exclusive right to be called so because they are produced in the regions with the same name, Tequila has this exclusivity for its distilled spirit.
Therefore, distilled beverages made even using the same ingredients or process in another region within Mexico or any other part of the world, for that matter, have no legal right to the name, and cannot adopt it either. The Consejo Regulador del Tequila is incredibly strict, and protects the use of the name tequila fiercely.
While I’ll get into the mezcal a bit later, it is important to note that all tequila is mezcal, but not the other way around. The difference? Mezcal can be produced by any kind of agave, wherein tequila must be made from blue agave, and tends to be smokier because of the manner in which it is made.
The quality of a great tequila can be judged not by its aged expressions, which can be mind numbingly beautiful, but its humble Blanco. A Blanco has little to hide behind, and so our friends in tequila country tell me that the best way to judge the quality of any tequila house is to sample its Blanco. For tequila purists, Blanco is the true way to go.
Tequila is broken into a few categories, and understanding the categories will help you decipher the label on the bottle better. Blanco has either not been aged, or aged less than two months in wooden barrels.
Joven or Oro is unaged tequila that has been coloured and flavoured with caramel. Best avoided. Reposado or rested tequila is aged from two months to one year in oak barrels. Here, the barrel infuses the spirits, and offers additional flavours and complexity.
Similarly, Anejo is when the tequila spends a minimum of one to three years in oak, and Extra Anejo is aged for a minimum of three years. I like tequila that has spent time in oak, it takes on a smoother, creamier texture, and the aromas are out of this world. Sometimes, perhaps when overdone, it doesn’t come across as tequila at all, so the balance must be right.
Some of the best tequilas that you should get your hands on are Tequila Codigo 1530 Rosa, a unique tequila that has been aged in ex Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon barrels to give a touch of pink colour, and a beautiful floral wine note. These guys do a fantastic Blanco, and an Anejo that will bring you tears of joy. Don Julio 1942 is a cult tequila with a cult following. Calle 23, a good Blanco made with two specific yeasts to bring out the best in the agave. Arette Tequila is named after a horse, and this Blanco is another one you should have on your radar. Good value Tequila is from the 1800 Tequila portfolio. About Jose Cuervo Reserva De La Familia Extra Anejo — I have to be honest, never tried this personally, but some serious tequila aficionados like this one, so I had to include it.
Mezcal is one of those spirits that I think either you immediately love, or you ignore. Mezcal shines in its ability to make great cocktails. With all of us moving in that super cocktail direction, both tequila and mezcal play an important role in giving bartenders the ability to create something that will knock your socks off. Some mezcals to try that are available, or soon to be available here, are Pensador, Meteoro, Creyente, and Del Maguey.
If you’re in the mood to discover the next big thing in spirits, give tequila and mezcal a try.