5 Types of Tequila
Type 1 – This type of Tequila is its most common form. It is under 60 years old and considered to be un-aged. It can be fresh bottled from distillation, but at times is stored in stainless steel tanks for a period of time before bottling. At times this can be a harsh, bitter, young type of drink. However, it can also at times be a tastier drink than some of the more highly refined varieties. This is especially true if it is marked as being a 100% agave type of Tequila. Many distillers let their blanco type of Tequila ‘rest’ by putting it into large oak barrels. This gives it added smoothness. The maximum period allowed for this is 30 days.
Joven, Joven Abocado – translated = Young and Smoothed. It is also referred to as Gold (oro).
Type 2 – This type of Tequila is very similar to the blanco, only with flavoring and coloring ingredients added. This gives it a more aged look and smooths out some of the harshness. These types of Tequilas are known as Gold (oro) or Suave due to their coloring. The coloring for this type of Tequila is attained by adding oak essence or caramel to the mix, as much as 1% of the total weight. Within the industry this type of Tequila is referred to as ‘mixto’ (mixed blends). They are usually not as good a caliber as the 100% agave, but they’re still quite popular for export sales. Take note of the fact that Herradura calls its own 100% agave reposado ‘Gold’ as well, but it should never be confused with any type of Tequilq gold mixto.
Reposado (aged or rested)
Type 3 – This type of Tequila will be aged anywhere from 2 months to a year. It is placed into large oak casks or sometimes in smaller barrels. These oak casks can be 20,000 litres in size. That is what makes the taste so much richer and a lot more complex. The longer it ages, the darker its color will become and the more the wood will be able to affect the flavor. Even though the casks are larger, they have less wood contact. Reposado will account for over 60% of all the Tequila sales found in Mexico. It is actually the very 1st type of Tequila to be aged. Many companies will use the same barrels for their reposado and anejo Tequilas, while some favor the high capacity vats. The larger the vat being used, the less wood contact the aging Tequila will experience.
Most Tequila distillers like to age their product in French & Canadian or American oak. Asambroso, however, puts its reposado into red wine barrels for aging. This gives a pinkish tint to their type of Tequila, and also adds a very subtle sweetness.
Some companies prefer to use new barrels for aging their reposado. That’s because it gives them the ability to infuse a wood essence and smoothness into their Tequila, in less time than it would take in a barrel. Once these barrels have aged reposado just a few times, they are then used to age the anejo type of Tequila.
When reposado is aged for a longer period of time than usual, it is referred to by the unofficial term ‘Gran Reposado’.
Anejo (vintage or extra aged)
Type 4 – This type of Tequila is now referred to as ‘extra aged’ and is stored in barrels that are government sealed. They are not larger than 600 litres (usually closer to 200 litres), and aged for no less than one year. They can be aged even longer, even up to 8 or 10 years. Most of the experts will tell you that this type of Tequila is at its best when it has been aged around 4 or 5 years. After 4 years of aging, it can be removed and racked using stainless steel tanks, due to the evaporation within the barrels reaching as high as 50% and sometimes more. A lot of the anejos will become very dark and heavily influenced by the wood, making the wood taste more pronounced than that of the reposado variety.
Previously used whisky or bourbon barrels from the United States, France, or Canada, are the most common types used for aging anejos. They rarely used new barrels due to the way the Tequila acquired the woody taste so quickly.
In earlier times, after 3 years of more of aging, these types of anejos could have been referred to as ‘tres anejos’ or ‘muy anejo’ by many of the manufacturers. These are not officially recognized terms, and have now been replaced by the type 5 description below.
Extra Anejo (ultra aged, or maduro)
Asombroso extra anejo (5 years of aging) is the new Type 5 type of Tequila. As of 2006 the new type of Tequila is the NORMA. This Tequila has aged and matured in wooden oak containers for at least 3 years. The containers are the 600 litre size (but mostly come in under 200 litres). The alcohol volume has to be adjusted for commercial use by adding water (same with other Tequilas). These are known as ‘vintage’ Tequilas.
Because of the late introduction of this type of Tequila in 2006, it remains quite a rare product. However, a lot of manufacturers have stored up various Tequilas they plan to release, which means more of them are being prepared to make an appearance soon. In April of 2007, the forum tour found that a lot of producers are storing their anejos for a later release within this category. There were expected to be 5 ,7, and maybe even 10-year old Tequilas hitting the market. This extra-aged type of Tequila had an initial tasting that suggested it would be complex, delightful, and rich. It was highlighted by wood, leather, caramel, and even chocolate.
The general rule of thumb suggests that the older a type of Tequila is, the higher its price tag.
Reserva de Casa, or Reserva de la Familia:
The Reserva de la Familia anejo by Cuervo is not an officially recognized type of Tequila. However, the name does translate into a premium type of Tequila, and might even be of a limited production variety. It could even be simply a very rare single-barrel product. Many of these are also anejo, but could also be a reposado.
Some additional unofficial categories are the ‘Gran Reposado’ type of Tequila (aged longer than its normal minimum), and the Blanco Suave type of Tequila (a smoother blend of Tequila). They are all attempts made by manufacturers to give their type of Tequila a uniqueness that sets it apart from the rest, while still staying within the confines of government regulations for labeling. No matter what kind of unofficial descriptions they have, a better type of Tequila still needs to identify as being 100% agave.
All of the different Tequilas carry similar alcohol content. They are close to the same percentage carried by standard spirits like vodka, scotch, bourbon, and gin (approximately 38 to 40 percent = 76 to 80 proof). Usually the type of Tequila sold in Mexico ranges right around 38%, with the export type of Tequila hitting the 40% mark. Mezcale might have a little higher proof. It used to be a little higher, reaching around 45%. However, in the 1930’s there was a shortage that caused many distillers to drop the alcohol volume down to their current levels. They have been at that level ever since. While it is legal to produce Tequila up to 45% alcohol today, it’s just not common practice. There is a minimum Tequila percentage that has been set at 35%. It was lowered back in 2000.
Few producers today produce single-barrel Tequilas. However, there are a few who have appeared within the ultra-premium category. Single barrel translates into a greater variation between batches, which also means that consumers cannot depend on any 2 bottle being exactly alike.