Tequila + Mezcal
Here in Australia it’s hard not to have an affinity with tequila and/or mezcal. Emblematic of ref...Read More...
Here in Australia it’s hard not to have an affinity with tequila and/or mezcal. Emblematic of refreshment, synonymous with fun, the gateway to our margarita, who hasn’t had one of these sitting in our summer-y sunshine once upon a time? But what exactly is tequila, and mezcal for that matter, and why is it so special?
To begin! Tequila is a distilled spirit made from the agave plant. Specifically, the blue agave. The liquor can only be produced in designated areas of Mexico, and for tequila this means it's confined to Jalisco. The production of tequila is divided into seven steps: harvesting, cooking, fermentation, distillation, aging and bottling. Every step is regulated by the Consejo Regulador del Tequila, ensuring that general guidelines are followed to guarantee maximum quality. Each distillery has its own source of agave, processes, quality control and techniques that will affect each tequila’s taste. You have everything from the more commercial, large scale operations, to the smaller artisans, who roast each heart individually, and macerate the agave with their donkeys and homemade clay wheels. Oh yeah, that’s a thing. On top of this, the blue agave is only able to be harvested seven to ten years after it’s planted, so if you’re making tequila, you’re in it for the long haul. And we haven’t even touched on mezcal...what IS mezcal? Well, to call it tequila’s smokey, sultry sister is just not doing it justice.
Mezcal is the name for a spirit, made from the agave plant, much like tequila. However this is where it gets confusing. Technically, tequila is a mezcal, but all mezcals are not tequila. Both have regulations on production, though mezcal can use any variety of agave (rather than tequila’s precious blue) grown in nine Mexican states, but it must be produced in those areas. The biggest difference is in how the agave is prepared. Mezcal distillers traditionally bake the agave piñas in earthen pits. This imparts a noticeable smoky flavor, much like a peated whiskey. In fact, if you are a whiskey fan, definitely hit up some of the barrel aged tequilas or mezcals; the key terms for ageing being ‘reposado’ and ‘anejo’.
Other types of agave spirits include pulque, sotol, raicilla, and baconara. All are technically mezcals, but each has its own attributes and production methods. It’s such an intricate, time consuming and specific process to Mexico, that it’s no wonder it’s so heavily protected and kept to specific regions. Even if you make a spirit from agave exactly the same way, if it’s made outside of Mexico you can’t even refer to it as tequila. Closest you’ll get is Spirit de Agave – doesn’t have quite the same ring to it if you ask us.
As such, tequila and mezcal are premium products; it’s not all just eating the worm and doing shots at the pub. They are grassy, they are smokey, they are smooth, they are rustic, they are FUN, they are complex. They can be anything and everything all at once, a truly transfixing spirit steeped in history. Here at WINONA we have sourced tequila and mezcal from a range of artisanal makers, who are invested in protecting and best representing one of Mexico’s finest cultural legacies. So get one, pop it in your glass, and chuck a big “SALUD!”.Read Less...