True tequila is made from blue agaves in Mexico’s Jalisco state and parts of four adjoining states.
Mezcal is made from other types of agaves.
Mexico’s Consejo Regulador del Tequila, or Tequila Regulatory Council, is the only agency approved by the Mexican government to certify tequila types, based on the aging and combination of tequilas used. More than 700 brands from more than 100 hundred distilleries are currently certified.
Four certified types
Blanco (silver): bottled just after distillation, so “unaged.”
Try: Patron Silver, El Tesoro Platinum, Cabo Wabo Blanco
Joven (gold): bottled just after distillation then colored and flavored to soften the flavor or silver tequila blended with aged tequilas.
Try: Jose Cuervo Gold, Margaritaville Gold, Zafarrancho Gold
Reposado (aged): tequila aged for at least two months in oak barrels or casks.
Try: Art Nouveau, Corralejo, Sauza Hornitos
Añejo (ultra-aged): tequila aged at least one year in barrels of no more than 600 liters.
Try: Don Eduardo Añejo, Patron Añejo, 1800 Añejo (Tequila Reserve)
The rise of premium tequilas
In this decade, high-end tequilas have emerged and are drawing high prices, such as “reserve” tequilas – special productions of any type of tequila that demand a higher price.
Then, there’s the new extra-añejo tequila category, referring to tequila aged at least three years. This is not a category certified by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, or Tequila Regulatory Council.
Many extra añejos are priced at $200 or more per bottle. According to Tequila Aficionado magazine, “sales of super-premium tequilas, those costing $40 a bottle or more, have increased more than 20 percent a year since 2002.”
With such a boom, a limited supply and the culture of agave production, Gourmet magazine’s James Rodewald predicts a tequila shortage in 2009 or 2010.
Top brands: 1800 Colleccion, Chinaco 30th Anniversary, Don Julio 1942, Asom Broso Añejo