Updated: Jan 24, 2020
Earlier this year I set out to educate myself about tequila and, if you follow my Instagram or Facebook account, you’ll be aware that it’s been a labor of love! Based on my experiences, I thought I’d give some guidance to those of you who want to travel a similar path.
It’s not easy to get unbiased advice in selecting tequila’s due to the influence and vested interests of major brands and retailers. My guidance is not influenced by these factors as I’m not connected to the liquor business and have not accepted any advertising or sponsorship money for this site or social media properties. One disclaimer, the representative for Fortaleza came to my home where I held a tasting for friends and he did bring a couple of bottles of his wonderful product.
1. Visiting Tequila is a must!
If you truly want to appreciate tequila, then visiting a tequila distillery accelerates your appreciation. The town of Tequila is enveloped by the aroma of cooked agave. Once that aroma enters your senses you chase it in every tequila you drink. Visiting a tequila distillery, seeing the agave harvested, the piña baked, and witnessing the sweet agave juice being washed from the agave fiber, and then sampling the tequila straight off the still is an experience not to be missed. It gives you an appreciation for the labor involved in making a great tequila and that sweet smell will never leave you senses.
Tequila, is relatively easy to get to, in my experience very safe, and it’s very inexpensive to visit. I recommend you organize a tour with Experience Tequila and visit about three distilleries in a day. It’s important to do some research on the type of distillery you wish to visit before you contact Experience Tequila – don’t just leave it up to them to decide for you. There are also many tequila tastings in the town of tequila, but the best range and education experience, in my opinion, is offered by La Cata. There is a lot more to say about visiting tequila, but that’s a subject for another post.
2. Don’t trust your Retailer or Bar-person to guide your Tequila selection
I’m lucky enough to live in San Diego which has a wonderful selection of tequila in many liquor stores, and we have bars with extensive tequila selections. The trouble is that often staff at these establishments are either uneducated about tequila, looking to sell you their highest margin product, or have an incentive to move certain inventory. Never trust someone trying to get you to buy a certain tequila if you haven’t had a discussion with them about what you like and how you plan to enjoy your tequila. The Tequila Matchmaker site and app are going to give you better guidance that any bar-person or retailer you are likely to encounter.
Note, I have posted reviews on Tequila Matchmaker site but I’m not on their tasting panel or formally associated with them in anyway.
3. Avoid mass-produced tequila’s
Tequila is made from agave, water and yeast but the production techniques vary tremendously. If you want to appreciate a quality tequila, avoid the mass-produced tequilas. Mass produced tequila’s favor quantity over quality and accelerate the production process often harvesting agave before they are ready and using rapid cooking and fermentation techniques. Many end up having an aroma like paint thinner. I wouldn’t make a margarita out of many of them. Again, Tequila Matchmaker has an extensive database of the production processes used in the creation of every tequila you are likely to come across. The good news is that there are tequila’s made with quality production processes that aren’t nearly as expensive as some of the mass produced/brand-over-substance tequilas
4. Favor Blanco you fools!
Why pay incrementally 20% more for reposado, añejo, and then extra añejo when all you are paying for is oak and vanilla notes? I chase the agave, citrus, and earthen notes you get from tequila. I feel the purest expression of this is in blanco/silver/plata tequilas. I’m being a little harsh and I certainly do enjoy a good añejo with a cigar or dark chocolate, but if I really want to appreciate and savor the tequila then start with a quality blanco. Here are some of my favorites:
5. How to taste tequila
It’s typically recommended that you drink tequila from a smallish glass. Riedel makes a range of stemmed and non-stemmed, but there’s much cheaper glassware that does the job – see mine below. Clear glass that allows you to swirl the tequila, to savor the aroma, and observe the tears prior to sipping is all that’s required. I’ve had different advice on the best was to taste tequila, here’s the method I use:
a. Small sip to prepare the pallet
b. Take a breath
c. Take a bigger sip and swish around the inside of your mouth
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